Rosamond and Tropico Mine

Courtesy of Carl Bergman, 723 West Ave., ''I'' 62B, Lancaster, California 93534.

Carl Bergman

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723 West Ave. 'I' 62B Lancaster, California 93534

Reprint from Sportsman's Corner -- by Charlie Meaning. The Oildale News, Oildale, California. March 18, 1970. -- Thanks Charlie - Anna Mae.

It was the darndest thing you ever saw. Pretty girls, dressed in not much of anything were all around. There was a gold panning contest taking place; some young men, mounted on burros, were racing, and a lot of other things were going on. But off to one side, many men and boys were not paying any attention to these things. They stood or squatted and stared at 40 or 50 various sized gasoline engines.

The engines were running 'Chug-uh-chug-uh . . . Chug!' they said, over and over. The men just stood or squatted and looked at the engines and the spinning flywheels and belts, and they raised their eyes to watch the smoke come out of the stacks and turned their heads once in awhile, without taking their eyes off the engines, to spit on the ground.

This was at the Tropico Gold Mine near Rosamond. Hundreds of people were watching the other events, but as far as the little group around the engines were concerned, there might as well been nothing else to look at. Now and then the groups changed. That is, a man or two would go from one engine to another, squat or stand, depending on the size of the engine, and study it. Usually the men didn't talk to one another or to the man wearing the train engineer's cap and carrying an oil can. This man stepped forward now and then to squirt a little oil or make some adjustment.

I went up to one of the 'engineers.' He was tending a big, long engine that had two great wheels on each side. A long belt ran from the hub of the axle that held the wheels back to a smaller wheel, and just behind that was a tall plastic tube that was spouting water. The water ran down a trough and into a tub, and from there it was channeled into a sump from which it was sucked up again.

Surprised at Interest

The 'engineer' was H. Scott Rawlings of the Rawlings Construction Company at Lancaster. I yelled out over the chugging: 'I'm surprised at the interest so many people show in these engines. Do most of the men use engines like these, or something?'

Rawlings shook his head. 'No,' he said. 'Except as a hobby, a few of them.' As for the men who owned the engines, he said, well, there were even gasoline engine clubs. He belonged to one. 'Old engines like this fascinate a lot of people,' he said.

I hadn't even thought of anything like that. But I should have. I went around, squatted and studied some of the engines fascinatedly myself. I stared while the wheels spun, the belts clap-clap-clapped against the wheels, arms like those on old train engines jerked back and forth, smoke came out of the stacks, and the engines went 'Chug-uh-chug-uh . . . Chug!' over and over.

The engines appeared to be old, but they all stood out in various shades of bright new paint. Some were very small, others large. One drove a miniature tractor, a copy of an ancient awkward monster; but all the others were 'working' engines. The makes included Fairbanks, Morse, Cushman, Worthing-ton, International and Rumely. When I got around to Rawling again, I asked him what some of the engines had been used for. He pointed out that one had run a tree spray rig on the Carl Bergman

left: Rosamond and Tropico Mine, site of the Antelope Valley Gas-up during the 'World Championship Gold Panning Contests.' Held the first Saturday and Sunday of the month of March each year. Top right: Scott Rawlings in center, facing the camera is the engineer and restorer of the engine mentioned in the story. Bottom left: This small scale model of a Rumely Oil Pull Tractor is built entirely by Walter Geiser. The model is 15 inches high and about 18 inches long. Bottom left: Another view of the Oil Pull. Note the riding trailer and the extended hubs that are used for foot rests. It is always a center of interest.

Picture at left is the vertical shaft water wheel at Bomar Gardens. In center is a view of overshot wheel showing line shaft and mills. At right, the overshot water wheel operating oil well pump at Bomar Gardens, Cheraw, South Carolina.Mrs. Ritzman attended the show at Bomar Gardens this spring. Mary and Dave Egan were along and Dave took the pictures.

Ranch; the big red one over there was used on a horse-drawn wheat binder, the blue and yellow one had yanked a big saw blade back and forth, and that one in the corner had powered a mine pump. At this moment, one engine was spinning a big grinding wheel, another worked a clanking cement mixer.

Meets President

A big man with blond hair came up and Rawlings introduced him. 'This is Bill May,' he said, 'president of the Early Day Gasoline Engine and Tractor Association.' May., of El Cajon, said the association, organized last June, has about 80 members. They meet once a month, have a potluck and set up newly-acquired engines. Then they all stand around, or squat, and watch them run.

Most of the members of the Early Day Gasoline Engine and Tractor Association live in the San Diego area, handy to the meetings, but several reside at some distance. Rawlings, of Lancaster, is one of these. He makes a meeting once in awhile and gets together with other members on such occasions as the display at Tropico.

I asked him how the club got its start. 'How did you find so many people who liked to tinker with, and sit around and stare at, these old engines?' He shrugged. 'I fixed one up and used to run it in my garage,' he said. 'Pretty soon men were stopping in from two or three blocks away, and then from other towns. All of them couldn't get in the garage sometimes.' So he decided to start a club. He wrote some organizations in the San Diego area: to sportsmen's clubs, antique collector groups, horseless carriage clubs, asking whether any of the members were interested in organizing a gasoline engine association.

At left is a line-up of gas engines at Bomar Gardens. At right is a 2 cyl. horizontal opposed Advance engine made by H. F. Boc & Co. of Antioch, III. It is owned by R. R. Varner, Jr., R. D. 5, Box 386, Asheboro, North Carolina. Mr. Varner would appreciate additional information on this engine.

'I got letters from 40 people,' he said, 'and we were on our way.'

I would have asked Bill May and Scott Rawlings more questions about the Early Day Gasoline Engine and Tractor Association (such as: what about the 'tractor' part of it) -- how people here could start up such a group, and more about the fascinating rigs themselves -- but it was doggone hard work to talk against the 'Chug-uh-chug-uh .... CHUG!' If you would like to know more, write to Rawlings at 44914 Third Street, East, Lancaster, California.