A Mother of a Show

Don't Forget Pawnee, Okla., for Some Springtime Gas Engine Goodness

The four-cycle Atkinson engine

The four-cycle Atkinson engine that started it all for Leroy Mayfield. Once he built this little beauty, Leroy knew he'd just started down the road of making models and scales.

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International Representation

John Burgoyne, who immigrated from England in 1965, brought a beautiful British-made 4 HP 1919 Petter Jr. The engine runs at 400 rpm, John says, and is from the first production batch following World War I. Because of this, 'Victory' is cast in the cylinder, making it a very special and unique model.

Now a resident of Fort Worth, Texas, John says this year's show was his third visit to Pawnee and is the biggest show he travels to each year.

John also brought a 1/3-scale Monitor vertical built from plans furnished by Pacific Model Designs of Bend, Ore. As a mechanical engineer, John has plenty of access to his own CNC machinery, which he uses to create computer-exact scale models based on kits. This little Monitor looked about as sturdy as any scale model can be; no doubt it's the result of a great model builder and some quality machinery.

The Monitor's plans came courtesy of John's buddy Bill Keen, who brought his own fleet of full-sized Monitor engines to Pawnee. Bill and John (and three or four others at the Pawnee event) are members of the Granbury Flywheelers, located in Granbury, Texas.

Another treasure in John's trove is his 4 HP Reeves Pulley Co. gas engine. Most known for its huge prairie-breaking steam-traction engines, the firm concentrated on the pulley business but also produced farm-type stationary engines from about 1910 to 1916. Today, these farm engines are very rare to come by, but John and Bill both own some great examples of the short-lived but quality Reeves Co. engines.

John says his Reeves engine was damaged when he got it, and it required some 'innovative thinking' to repair it. The cylinder was completely broken off from the base, so he shaved off the bottom of the cylinder and attached a flange that now is attached to the base. Luckily, that damage occurred early in the engine's life, and other than a minor problem with the cylinder head, the Reeves was in great condition when John purchased it.

Birds of a Feather

Walking along the rows of engines at Pawnee, a sense of community and familiarity pervaded the atmosphere. Nowhere was this more evident than along the scale-model engine area informally led by veteran model builder Leroy Mayfield of Sand Springs, Okla. Known by many of the scale engine guys as the most talented builder among them, most of his models are the result of his creativity and his drive to do things differently.

'These ideas just start in my mind,' he admits. 'I just start drawing them, not in very detailed form, then I refine them as I go. They're not scale models, either. They're just ideas.'

One of these ideas included building engine cylinders from Lunkenheimer valves. He says for all practical purposes the valve engine is just like any other engine, but it's his own personal stamp on a four cycle engine. 'It's not difficult to understand, just difficult to get everything in the right spot,' he says.

Leroy was joined by his longtime friends Chris Yates, Sand Springs; Darrell King, Jenks, Okla.; Charlie Ripslager, Catoosa, Okla.; and Glen Stevens of Kellyville, Okla. They all set up their tables near each other, often commenting on the others' collections. A few engines on Leroy's table were the result of ideas and challenges from his friends. One of them is a four-cycle Atkinson engine that another friend, Charlie Kirker, insisted Leroy build. The Atkinson, in fact, was the engine that hooked him on the scale model-building hobby. Another engine is a Corliss engine kit that includes a three-phase electric generator Leroy modeled after the real thing in Pawnee's power house.

'Darrell came up with the idea to base it off the power house engine,' Leroy says. 'That generator took more time to build than the engine, six months. To get something to turn that slowly and make electricity was extremely hard.'

Leroy doesn't keep all the engines he makes, nor does he sell them. Instead, he's given many away to his friends at Pawnee because they all work together on these projects and challenge each other in one way or another. These days, however, Leroy's hesitant to do too much.

'I know why these surrogate mothers hate to give up their kids,' he admits. 'These guys want me to make a compressor engine, but I tell them to do it themselves. I just can't go through all that heartache just to give it up. They keep coming up with these ideas, but I don't want to do it. But I probably will end up doing it after all.'

Speaking of compressor-engine conversions, Leroy's buddy Glen displayed a stunning conversion of his own. Made this last winter after he was inspired by the February 2004 Gas Engine Magazine article about Robert Best's Au-To air compressor, Glen's compressor reflected the bright sun light off its polished brass, demanding the attention of most anyone who happened by. Glen cast the flywheels and fabricated the head with the help of Leroy and Chris, and the results are pleasing.

Chris exhibited his own spit-polished brass beauty as well. It's a 1/2 HP Standard Cream Separator engine that he fabricated many parts for, including the flyball governor, gears and latch-out mechanism. The original engine was throttle-governed, Chris says, but he and Leroy couldn't find a picture of the engine's governing system, so the pair decided to make it their own version of a hit-and-miss engine. Another buddy, Ron Meyers, did the engine's pin striping based on experience from his years working on street hot rods. The finished product is nothing short of eye-popping.

'All the real fancy work came from Leroy,' Chris admits. 'Leroy can build anything and everything.'

The two friends have known each other for 15 years, and the elder engine statesman admits he's preparing his younger proteges to replace him some day.

'I've built some stuff for these guys,' Leroy says. 'In the beginning, I had the knowledge and the other guys had the strength. But I showed them how to do it. I've done a bunch of teaching for the other guys.'

Leroy, who says he's been coming to Pawnee for 16 or 17 years, worries the day is coming when he'll be too old to make the annual trip. His interest in teaching his Pawnee friends partially stems from the realization he's getting older, and he wants to pass on what he knows so the next generation retains his knowledge.

'Leroy keeps saying every year will be his last, but every year when show season starts he gets antsy, just like we all do,' Chris jokes.

Maybe it's the beautiful spring weather and the festive Mother's Day attitude that makes this event such a joy to attend, or maybe it's the great variety of steam and gas that draws people each year. In any case, if it can continue to draw the likes of master model builder Leroy, an English engineer and rare oil field engine collectors such as Dale, Steve and Jim to this event each year, Pawnee will continue to be a 'Mother of a Show' for many years to come.

Paween by the Numbers

1968 -The Waukomis Steam Threshering Association held its first show at Waukomis, Okla.

1974 -The club reorganized as the Oklahoma Steam Threshers and Gas Engine Association, moving its show grounds to Pawnee, Okla.

1987 -The club held its first Case Expo, expanding its grounds to the south to give the tractors and steam engines more room. Chaddy Atteberry started the steam engine incline, which became the event's signature event and has been held every year since.

2005 - Pawnee will host the 'Gathering of the Orange - West' during its spring show, May 6-8.

Contact the Oklahoma Steam & Gas Engine Association at: P.O. Box 472, Pawnee, OK 74058; (918) 762-3881; pawneesteamshow@sbcglobal.net  . On the Web at: www.oklahomathreshers.org/index.html