Far East Meets Old West

Rare California-made Oriental engines

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Ron Ludford’s Oriental engine. By word of mouth, he has learned this engine was pulled out of a pump house after it had been knocked over in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

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The following is excerpted from a letter Bill Prine, an Oriental engine authority and owner, sent to Ron Ludford in June 2003.

"Congratulations on acquiring such a nice, rare California engine! To my knowledge, there are only about eight Oriental engines in captivity, so that makes them pretty special.

"The pictures of my engine were taken when I got the engine in 1993. It doesn't look like this now, it has been cleaned up and primed, but it is disassembled. The engine was in Snake River for more than 50 years, so many of the steel parts are rusted away. But the cast iron is good and I have re-made all of the steel parts.

"What research I have done on Oriental consists of searching libraries for old catalogs or advertisements. I can also tell you that I searched old San Francisco city directories back into the 1800s. The earliest listing I came up with for the Oriental Gas Engine Co. was 1896. It said Marcellus Graham was the proprietor and Edward Corliss was the manager. In 1898, it lists Corliss as the proprietor and the address as 227 Folsom St. By 1909, the company name changes to the Corliss Gas Engine Co. and the address is still 227 Folsom. So it would appear that the Oriental engine was the forerunner to the Corliss gas engine, which is another rare California engine."

Contact Ron Ludford at: 100 Mountain?Ave., Auburn, CA 95603; (530) 885-0171; rludford@pacbell.net

For more information on Oriental engine history, contact Bill Prine at: 7301 Eola Hills Road S.E., Amity,?OR 97101; (503) 835-7301.