McCormick Steam Engine

An Incorrect Newspaper Ad Lands a Father and Son a Great New Project


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It all started when Dad was reading the garage sale ads in the local newspaper. One of the ads read: "McCormick Steam Engine." We knew there was no such thing, so we went to check it out. As we drove in, sitting there on a trailer was a rotted out butter churn and a hit-and-miss engine. As we approached the engine, we discovered this "McCormick Steam Engine" was actually a circa-1925 1-3/4 HP Monarch engine made in Saginaw, Mich., by the Nelson Bros. Like the butter churn, it was in very bad shape. We bought the engine, serial no. TA 11733, for $100 and made our way home.

The engine needed a lot of work. The gears were worn almost to a point, which we replaced with brand new gears. The engine had also been submerged in water for about 40 years, and the piston was rusted to the cylinder. We had to break the piston out with a sledgehammer and a chunk of steel pipe, only to find it came out of an automobile. We examined the cylinder and found a crack almost the full length across. So we bored and sleeved the cylinder, which we then filled with a used, but correct, Nelson Bros. piston. We also had machinist Bob Gray turn the faces of the flywheels down because they were pitted so bad. We then re-stamped the serial number back into the face of one of them, as it was originally.

The engine was missing the gas tank, rod shield, check valve, skids and trucks. We took everything apart that could be taken apart, and sandblasted and primed everything before painting the engine our custom-mixed shade of green. After the parts were painted we reassembled it, and Dad made the cart out of some old wheels, round stock and channel iron. Now you can't even tell this newly-restored engine was ever really worked hard.

After everything was completed, we added up our expenses, which was quite a bit more than it's monetary value. I think it was worth it though, because I had the experience of restoring and saving a hit-and-miss engine with my dad.

Contact engine enthusiast Shelby Babcock at: 3491 E. Deckerville Road, Cass City, MI 48726.