1918 Stover Engine Restoration

Bessemer Engine

David Upham and his Bessemer at Tombstone Courthouse State Park at the third annual Antique Power Show, October 1992.

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At the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park of Tombstone, Arizona, a unit of the Arizona State Park system. The park consists of the first Cochise County Courthouse and a collection of some 17,000 artifacts, among which is a mine hoist powered by a Stover engine. The park is funded through the state's general fund and other funds. However the state has a record of not very generously funding projects, such as the one described here. Thus the park may in some cases rely heavily on volunteers. This is the story of some of those volunteers.

Sometime in 1988 my boss, on an inspection tour, looked at our one cylinder engine mated to a mine hoist, rusting quietly in the shed and said, as bosses are sometimes apt to do at such moments, 'Let's start it.' Of course, I knew right away that he didn't expect to go over, turn the big flywheel and see the thing come to life in a cloud of smoke. It couldn't be that simple; what he meant was, 'Let's restore it and then start it.'

At a previous job I had rushed in where angels feared to tread and as a result had spent eight years restoring Arizona's first printing press, so I was considerably more dubious than he. 'Are you sure you want to do that?' I asked. 'Oh you can do it,' he replied, (those famous words so frequently spoken by those who don't have to do 'it'). 'But we don't even know what kind it is,' I managed to say before he launched into his standard pep talk for foot-dragging employees. (Actually I was setting him up, making certain he was prepared to make the commitment of time and resources on what promised to be a fun project for me; once he got through that pep talk he couldn't back out!)

Following a conversation which transpired more or less as outlined above, we began to seriously pursue the restoration of the engine. The first step was to get in touch with the collectors, and we soon attended the Arizona Fly wheelers show at the home of Graydon Gaudy in Cottonwood. Once these contacts were made we rather quickly determined that the engine was a Stover. It took a little more time to find that it was a model X, 8 HP. It also appears probable that the machine was purchased from Zork Hardware Company of El Paso. (The reason these items took so long to learn was that the brass name plates disappeared years ago.)

But there was more than just the engine; the engine was mated to a mine hoist. The hoist company had made a casting to fit both the engine and hoist as a base and bolted the two together to make one fairly compact unit, which could be transported to a remote mine site by a team of horses.

At about this point in the project the volunteers began to assert themselves. First, of course, came the advice you can pick up at any of the engine shows, some of it good and some of which falls into the same category a lawyer friend mentioned as he once gave me some free legal advice, 'You realize that this advice is worth every penny I'm charging you for it,' he said. But Gordon Gaudy came through with a 12 HP Stover for us to use in parts trades, and ads in GEM did the job of bringing in inquiries from all over and enough parts to make a good start.

Now it was time to take up local Soil Conservation Service employee and amateur machinist, Ron Bemis, on his offer of parts fabrication. We also needed photos and possible patterns for parts which were acquired from Kent Reed of Mesa, (for a look at his Stover restoration see GEM December, 1991). We asked Mr. Bemis if he could pour the bearings, to which he replied he probably knew enough about it to be dangerous. We were about to appeal in the Fly wheelers newsletter that we needed the bearings poured, when Bemis happened to mention the project and the need for bearings to a friend, Mr. John Zamar, area supervisor of operations for Phelps-Dodge Mining Company who said he thought they poured bearings in their shop.

So far P-D, as the company is locally known, is the biggest volunteer, at least in terms of resources and the ability to bring them together to bear on a problem. We know there are collectors out there who could pour the bearings, but getting equipment, materials, men etc. together can be the largest obstacle, whereas in this case all we had to do was deliver the parts to the company machine shop where foreman Jim Walker and machinist Roger McGinnis took over. A few weeks later they called to let us know that the engine was ready to be picked up. (Now that's pouring bearings the easy way, as far as we were concerned!)

Right now the engine is being reassembled and, barring really bad luck, should be running by next year's annual engine show in October. Which leads to the second part of this article. Each year the park sponsors an antique power show in conjunction with the town's annual 'Hell dorado Days' celebration. The photos accompanying this article are of last year's show. The action in Tombstone continues to be a little 'different' than most shows.

The major thrust of the 'Hell dorado Days' is celebration of Tombstone's interesting and frequently violent past as the west's rowdiest boom town. But in 1990 the park began the power show to help visitors understand that there is actually much more to that history than Wyatt Earp, outlaws and violence. There were also miners, businessmen, blacksmiths, harness makers, housewives, and hundreds of other citizens who made Tombstone, in spite of its lurid name, one of the more desirable places to live in the interior west. If you are interested in the 1993 show contact the Tombstone Courthouse, State Historic Park, Box 216, Tombstone, Arizona 85638 for information.