A Family Affair

60 HP Cooper-Bessemer

W. C. Maupin

Content Tools

Route 1, Box 303, Arbuckle, California 95912.

My interest in collecting old engines and farm machinery is more than protecting them from the cutting torch and blast furnaces. I am reminiscing with the past. My father had an old iron wheel Farmall F-12. I remember him cranking, for what seemed hours to me. If he could not get it started he would take out the spark plugs, hold a match over the holes and as he turned the engine it would suck in the flame to dry out the cylinders. Sooner or later it would start. He also had a small pump engine he used to pump water with it. That was in the thirties. We later moved to California and I ended up in the farming business here. I leased a ranch and there was an old 1-1/2 H.P. John Deere engine used years ago to pump water with on the ranch. When our son, Mike, saw it, he started tinkering with it and had it running in an hour. A good friend of mine, Cliff Hardy of Woodland, told me about the EDGE & T.A. and what good fun we could have as a family, collecting and showing engines. We are now members of Branch 6 and 13 and have met many new friends.

Many hours and dollars are spent finding and bringing home these engines, but I consider it as a family affair and every penny well spent. An example is the following; Cliff Hardy has a 25 H.P. Fairbanks Morse Y diesel and a 40 H.P. F.B.M.N. That 40 horse has a 12' piston and 18' stroke. I have climbed up on the spokes and helped him start it many times. I just had to have a large engine, so one summer we started looking. We headed for the Sierra Mountains East of Sacramento where many of these large engines ran donkey winches during gold mining days. After about six trips into country unbelievably beautiful and on roads hardly passable, we met a man who bought a ball mill and engine from an old mine in Nevada. He said he only wanted the mill and I could have the engine.

Cliff Hardy of Woodland, California standing behind a 60 HP Cooper-Bessemer. His 25 HP Fairbanks Y and 40 HP Fairbanks N are in the background. Courtesy of W. C. Maupin, Route 1, Box 303, Arbuckle, California 95912

The following weekend, we collected hand drawn maps, county maps, state maps and headed 300 miles to find a small canyon in the desert hills of Nevada. After arriving in Lovelock, we located our road and started into the desert. In about two hours, we found not one, but three canyons and neither had an engine. We returned to town and that evening I talked to an old timer who knew about that mine and engine and a new map was drawn. We headed out again the next morning and by - noon as we drove up a wash, smashing in one fender with a rock and other chugger type incidents, we came upon the biggest, most beautiful engine a man could want. It was a Cooper-Bessemer 60 H.P. diesel. We spent the rest of the week there taking off small parts and getting the engine ready to bring home. Things don't work out as planned all times, so I told Cliff Hardy about it and he made two trips to look it over. He made arrangements for a large truck wrecker to move it. Cliff took his truck and they headed out to the mine to load it. It was two heavy for one trip so they brought home the 6 foot flywheels and crankshaft. Another trip was necessary for the base and other parts. With weather and other delays, it took two years to find and get the big brute home. That engine sets with his other large engines and makes a sharp blast as if it were new. How many miles were traveled and money spent finding and bringing this engine home? I don't know, but it was worth every penny. Many man hours of friends and family working together has unknown value. I am sure many 'chuggers' have been through similar experiences. This was just one of mine and I loved every minute.

Late summer of 1974 I loaded my New Holland, tent, and family into the pickup and went to the Great Oregon Steam-Up. That was our first participation in any large affair as that. I have never met any more friendly and accommodating people anywhere. In fact, Tom Graves, a member of their group saw me on the highway, waved at me to follow him and he led me right into the grounds. That is real friendliness. They had many gas engines of all makes and ages, a Rider-Erickson 8 inch hot air engine, steam engines of all descriptions and all types of separators and equipment. One of the rarest tractors was a Samson Iron Horse tractor pulling a corn binder. The operator knew how to handle it, too. He pulled on the ropes and made it act just like a team of horses prancing around. He put on quite a show with it. Many working models that took untold man hours to build were showing their 'stuff' along with the others.

Another interesting facet of collecting is the 'old timers' and their stories. Just a few words of knowledgeable encouragement to get them started and you can listen for hours. The man I got my Samson from is 91 years old and still runs a rototiller in his garden. We must have talked at least six hours before we got around to making a trade for the engine, and that took another 2 hours.

I always ask the people if they want to see the engine run again after I get it restored. Some are interested in seeing them painted up and running and others say 'Shucks no, I seen that thing all I wanted to around here, just take it and get!'

I really enjoy some of the kids in their teens, when they first see some of these engines. They know what makes a V-8 run with all the high-lift cams and other performance parts of an engine but they are somewhat stumped at how something as simple as these 'old pieces of junk' can run. The poppet value and ignitors really amuse them. But once they start tinkering with them, they are usually 'hooked.'

I always have something at home to work on. The first thing my son does, when he and his wife come to visit us, is to pull on a flywheel or grab a tractor crank. He must have plowed a two acre plot in front of my house at least six times with a McCormick 10-20 and old plow I have.

We like to paint them and restore them like original. Then we like to work them and play with them and show them. It seems to me they also have 'feelings' and like to run and perform for us.

That is why at least four things are necessary to be a collector. First and most important of all is the patience and understanding of a loving wife. (Bless mine for her endurance.) Second, is a place for the brutes, close neighbors sometimes complain when you fire them up early Sunday morning. Third, is the desire to bow your back, skin your knuckles, call for help, get grease on your Sunday overalls, drink lots of lemonade, 'let' your wife shine the brass and wipe the paint off your shoes when you finish painting. Fourth is patience; have a little heart to heart talk with your engine. Tell her you have oiled her rusty joints, cleaned the carbon from her head and throat and make her believe she is young again. Feed her a little fuel, give her some water, give her a spark to bring her to life, even some paint will cheer her up. Don't beat on her, don't swear at her, just have patience and she will perform for you.