The Story of a Pump

A 1? Fairbanks Morse

Engine is a 1? Fairbanks Morse at 500 rpm. The engine is in running condition.

Content Tools

Rt. 5, Box 6361 Issaquah, Washington 98027 AND Tom Shelnutt Rt. 4, Box 6125 Issaquah, Washington 98027

The economy of the Pacific North-west today is very diversified; varying from the aircraft industry to tourism. But the building of this economy was largely made possible by the rough and tumble logging industry Washington and Oregon were famous for during the first half of the twentieth century.

Logging, as it was known between 1910 and 1950 would have been impossible without the steam donkey, for only this machine could yard the logs to the rail spur as fast as they could be cut. In order to supply the bigger and more powerful donkeys with water many logging companies used heavy Bull Dog piston pumps to pump from the nearest stream or lake to the yarding site. These were usually powered by a big six horse Fairbanks Morse like the one I have.

The engine on the left is a 6 horse Stover. The Flywheels are 40' with a 51/2 bore with a 10' stroke. It is rated at 340 RPM.

The engine on the right is a 6 horse Fairbanks Morse Z type. It has a 6' bore with about a 6' stroke with 30' flywheels. The picture shows about a 15 year gap in gas engine design in size and efficiency. The Stover I think was built in 1901 and the Fairbanks Morse was built around 1917. Both engines are in operating order. If any one has any information on the Stover please let me know.

The engine in the background is a 3 horse Fairbanks Morse Z type. It is driving a 3 cylinder Bull Dog Pump. The second engine has no name plate so I do not know the make but it is about 2 horse. If anyone can give me the name please do.

The pump and engine I have are typical of the sets once all over the woods of Washington and Oregon. The pump is a three cylinder single acting machine and as it is positive displacement can pump pressures ranging from 200 to 400 pounds per square inch. These pumps have a tremendous suction and were used on delivery lines as long as one half mile. The engine is a 6 horse Fairbanks Morse Z type and it was a common mate for these pumps. The set, including the wooden sled, is heavy and weighs nearly a ton. It usually took a separate yarding operation just to get them down to the creek at a new setting. But these machines were slow speed rigs and virtually never wore out and needed little attention day by day.

The pump and engine I have restored, although of the typical variety, were put together for a different use. As they are the original mates to each other they will tell the same story. The area where I live, 10 miles east of Seattle, has a very active history of logging and coal mining. Much of this activity was centered around Lake Sammanish, the second biggest lake east of Seattle, and the little town of Issaquah at the south end of this lake. Prior to 1900 a large sawmill was built on the east side of Lake Sammamish near the railroad; directly across the lake from where I live. This mill cut logs that were hauled out of the hills by oxen, and later railroads for 10 miles up and down the big lake. Growing with the fast jumping lumber demand the mill became quite large and in 1917 the mill company bought two Bull Dog water pump sets with gas engines to supplement their fire protection system. One of these sets contained the engine and pump I now have. The big mill jumped into the 'roaring twenties' with the rest of the lumber industry and did its part to sustain the most frenzied decade of logging in history.

The two 1917 pump sets did their job during this time but not good enough evidently, because the whole works burned to the ground in either 1927 or 1928. By this time the lumber demand was off and the great depression started shortly thereafter so the mill was never rebuilt in its former glory. The mill company no longer needed both of the 1917 pump sets so the set I now have was sold to the Harris Coal Mine Company up the lake just south of Issaquah. Coal mining was Issaquah's largest industry from about 1890 to 1923 when the last big mine shut down. However, several smaller concerns kept digging coal out of the hills around Issaquah for many years afterward. The Harris firm was one of these and they had a small mine directly over a ridge from Issaquah.

They set up the old mill's 1917 pump set and a smaller one down the ridge on the Issaquah side and pumped from a small creek up and over the ridge to the mine's washing plant. This must have been quite some distance because the operator told us that there was a pin hole in the delivery pipe a short ways from the hard working engine and the water shot out of this hole higher than his two story house.

The engine on the left is a Witte 1? hp. I have completely restored this engine to running condition. Engine in the middle is a 1? air cooled 'The Busy Boy.' It has a make and break ignition and is the oldest engine I have. Engine on the right is a 1?-2? hp. International harvester with mag and spark plug. It is in running condition. The tractor in the background is a 1923 Fordson in running condition.

The engine on the left is a 3 hp. Fairbanks Morse. It was originally a make and break but was later changed to a spark plug. The engine in the background is a 4? hp. model E type C 'New Way' upright. It is frozen up and is missing the timing gear with cam. Anyone that has parts or information I would like to hear from them.

The old 1917 pump set worked steadily for Harris until the mine was closed in 1940. The two pump sets were left up in the woods at the mercy of the weather and vandals until 1950, when the man who ran the pumps for the mine company got a truck and hauled them home. He kept the big Fairbanks Morse engine and gave the Bull Dog pump to his brother who tied it to an electric motor and used it for his water system. Although the pump was put in a nice dry pump house the engine sat out in the weather continuously until 1966 when I acquired it. It was completely frozen and for many years sat on its haunches with its head pointing at the stars. The cylinder eventually filled with water and condensate and during one severe winter this froze. As the half buried flywheels were frozen in the ground and the crank was on back center either the cylinder or the rod had to give. In this case the rod took on a severe bend and twist that would not allow the engine to turn a full revolution when the workings were freed because the rod struck the top cylinder wall. It took 15 tons on a hydraulic press to straighten the rod back to its original shape which says much for the power of ice. As soon as I had the rod straightened, restoring the engine was mainly a matter of perseverance in loosening frozen parts. In 1967 my brother and 1 dug up about 150 feet of water pipe in exchange for the old Bulldog pump and the old engine and pump were together again after 17 years. As the pump had been in use and under cover it was in good shape. I had a missing valve and sleeve machined for it and hunted up an old bull gear and pinion to tie it to the engine with and was all set to go. I feel very fortunate to have this pump set as most of them went the way of the steam donkey in the early 1950's.

Although this pump set is the only one I have a complete history on, my neighbor, Tom Shelnutt and I, both 18 years of age, have collected quite a few old gas engines. My collection includes a six horse Stover, the six horse Fairbanks Morse (the pump engine), the Bulldog pump, a 3 horse Fairbanks Morse, a 2 horse nameless (do not know name), 2 Model T engines, and a 5 ton steam winch off a ship. Tom's collection contains a 3 horse Fairbanks Morse, a 1? horse Fairbanks Morse, a 1? horse Witte, a 2 horse International, a 4)4 horse New Way, upright, a 1? Busy Boy and a 1923 Fordson Tractor; and we are still looking for more additions to our collections.