Western Classics

EDGE & TA 2002 Southwest Regional Show Brings Out

Hercules engine

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A 12 HP Fairbanks-Morse sectionalized engine of 1900, owned by the Henningsen family of Salinas, Calif. Designed with mine work in mind, these engines could be broken down into sections for transport by pack animal. No piece weighs more than 300 pounds. Note the numbered bolt and flange in the smaller photo - the entire engine is indexed for assembly.

A 12 HP Fairbanks-Morse sectionalized engine of 1900, owned by the Henningsen family of Salinas, Calif. Designed with mine work in mind, these engines could be broken down into sections for transport by pack animal. No piece weighs more than 300 pounds. Note the numbered bolt and flange in the smaller photo - the entire engine is indexed for assembly.

Carl Mehr, Penn Valley, Calif., brought this incredible 4 HP Brown-Cochran, serial number 718. Built by Brown-Cochran Co., Lorain, Ohio, some time in the late 1890s, it was originally sold by E.B. Beck & Co. of San Francisco, Calif., and has spent its life on the West Coast.

Old iron varies from one region of the country to another, a situation created by agriculture and industry adapting to different needs and uses. The bulk of Gas Engine Magazine readers live east of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, and as such most of us never get a chance to see the engines built and set to work along the West Coast of the U.S. But those lucky enough to make the trek this past July 7-9 to the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, Calif., for the EDGE & TA Southwest Regional Show were treated to one of the most fantastic collection of engines ever to assemble anywhere.

Gas Engines

Back in the February 2002 issue of GEM, we ran an article on Mike Tyler's 1905 7 HP Western, one of six known 7 HP survivors. Of those six, three made the trip to Grass Valley, including Mike's 1905, Bill Peterson's 1907 and Ed Cooksey's 1908.

All told, there were eight different Western engines on hand, ranging from the three 7 HP models up to Jim Clayton's 60 HP Western, a single-cylinder giant that started its working life in California's Taft oil fields. In fact, Western engines were so well represented you could be excused for thinking of them as commonplace. They're not, of course, but since few Westerns were shipped outside of California, surviving Westerns have stayed in a relatively close geographic area.

Bill Traill's circa 1910 10 HP Ostenberg two-cylinder opposed engine. The Ostenberg Manufacturing Co., San Jose, Calif., was in business from 1903 to 1912, when it was bought by the Bean Spray Co. Only seven Ostenbergs are known to survive.

Not surprisingly, many of the engines on hand spent their early life working the mines that once defined this part of the country. Grass Valley is in the heart of the old mining territory, and many of the engines on hand have never left the county, except to hit the occasional show. One engine that did come in from out of state to work the mines was the 25 HP Fairbanks-Morse Type Y gracing the cover of this month's issue of Gas Engine Magazine. Owned by Mike Monroe, Georgetown, Calif., and built sometime in the 1920s, this two-cycle diesel worked the Slate Mountain Mine near Georgetown until 1941, powering a compressor that provided air for running drills and water pumps. Meticulously restored, it ran beautifully both days of the show, perfect smoke rings exiting from its almost eight foot high exhaust stack.

And then there's the absolutely singular 1895 Mery Explosive Engine owned by Chuck and Peggy Schoppe of Los Gatos, Calif. The only known survivor from the Chico Iron Works, Chico, Calif., the Mery powered a line shaft at the Chico foundry, working away until the company went out of business some time in the late 1930s.

The Mery eventually passed into the hands of a collector in California, and Chuck and Peggy bought it from the owner's widow. Interestingly, Chuck and Peggy were the lowest bidders for the engine, but it was sold to them because of their promise to keep the engine in California and to show it regularly. To this day, the Schoppe's still keep in touch with the widow's family. 'I take a picture of the engine at a show every year and send it as a Christmas card to their family,' Peggy says.

Featuring a double-acting, six-cycle cylinder with chambers at either end of the single piston, the Mery is a rare jewel in the old iron collective and a fantastic example of the ingenuity of individual engine builders in the early days of engine manufacturing.

Scott Kretschmer, Richmond, Calif., brought this circa 1895-1896 Hercules. Built by the Hercules Gas Engine Works, San Francisco, Calif., this approximately 4 HP engine pumped water at a family estate in California, staying in the same location until Scott came across it less than two years ago. Except for the water tank and the coil and battery box, it is completely original.

Beyond Engines

This was primarily an engine show, but there were plenty of tractors on hand, not to mention an amazing collection of rare crawlers. Bill Santos, Newcastle, Calif., had three Best crawlers on hand; a circa 1919 Model 25, a 1921 Model 30 and a 1919 Model 60. Add to those three the Model 40 belonging to Roy Mariel and his son, Bill, and you have an almost unheard of exhibit of Best crawlers. Bill also brought along his 1918 Big Bull (turn to page 25 for David Domes' article on the Bull Tractor Co.), which he just finished restoring. With a freshly rebuilt engine the Bull was still tight and a bit hard to start, but with the aid of a John Deere and a flat belt Bill had the Bull running and out on the grounds.

Jim Jensen, Paskenta, Calif., sets to firing up his 1930 40 HP Tuxham, serial number 6150, built by Fabco in Oakland, Calif. A hot-bulb, two-stroke diesel, the Tuxham-type engine was originally built in Denmark, and it is assumed that Fabco built the engine under license in the U.S.

Floyd Schmall, Fresno, Calif., brought this fantastically prepared 1912 10 HP Otto. A transplant to California, the Otto was originally set up pumping water in Maine. Floyd also had an equally impressive 1902 5 HP Frisco-Standard marine engine built in San Francisco, Calif.

Don Dougherty, Colfax, Calif., was almost a one-man museum with his selection of machinery, ranging from a 1912 IHC Model MW high-wheeler to a rare 1934 Caterpillar Model 70, one of only 266 made. But probably the biggest crowd-pleaser in his collection was the 1916 Yuba Ball Tread. Made by the Yuba Manufacturing Co., Marysville, Calif., these crawlers feature a single front wheel that rotates like a caster for enhanced turning capacity. Powered by a 606-cubic-inch Wisconsin 'T' head engine, the Yuba's treads ride on 280, 2-1/4-inch steel balls. An amazing machine, it was equally impressive to operate, displaying great maneuverability and direct, responsive controls. The pivoting action of the front end takes a little getting used to (the front wheel's axle is set behind the wheel's vertical point of rotation, making the wheel instantly follow any shift in direction), but once you spend some time in the seat it becomes almost second nature to operate.

All told, 390 engines, 78 tractors and crawlers, and 60 other pieces of old iron (including an 1874 Clapp & Jones steam fire engine belonging to the city of Woodland, Calif.) converged on the Nevada County Fairgrounds for what was, arguably, one of the best shows of the year.

Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact him at: 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or e-mail: rbackus@ogdenpubs.com