The Story Of The Wishram Engine

The belt doesn't appear to be crossed

Glenn Shoop

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3935 Cooley Drive N.E., Salem, Oregon 97303

This engine was purchased by Burlington Northern Railway during the summer of 1912 from Fairbanks-Morse Co. They installed it in a house on top of a railroad bridge located at Wishram, Washington. This bridge crosses the Columbia River at Celilo, Oregon (About 12 miles upstream from the Dalles, Or.) Its purpose was to operate the turning section of the bridge so as to let the boats on the river continue upstream. It saw continuous service up till 1957 at which time the railroad built a new section that was electrical powered. At this time the swing section was welded shut.

We had heard stories about a large engine on the Columbia, but couldn't seem to find anyone that could lead us on the right track. We finally talked with Ivan Donaldson of Stevenson, WN and he told us of the engine. So we went and had a good look. After seeing the engine we were like a couple of kids wanting a new toy. However it took us awhile to actually acquire it. We made a bid to the railroad, and were successful. Now we've got the engine. How do we get it out of the bridge; after all the railroad used a crane and set it in the superstructure and built a house around it, plus being 80' above the water and about 150 yards from shore. We discussed it for awhile and decided that the best approach was to dismantle it and take alongside the rails to shore where we could load it on our equipment trailer. The first order of removal was to remove 17 years accumulation of pigeon manure, now we can actually see what we've got. It was all complete except the base of the oiler was missing. The rest of the engine was complete down to the last nut and bolt. Now the hard work starts, tear it all apart and lower it over the side. Five (5) weekends later we have it all home and ready to clean and get it back together. This engine weighs 8800 lbs., fires four times a minute and runs at a very high speed of 200 RPM. It can be started either on air or by the Torch Ignitor. This torch ignitor is a small tube which you insert a stick match, prime the engine, turn it backwards onto compression and when the piston is just a little past dead center, strike the plunger with the match in it, which in turn hits an anvil in the plunger and produces the fire needed to start it. From there on the make & break, battery powered ignition takes over.

Enclosed is a picture that was recently  published in my local paper The Sandusky Register, Sandusky, Ohio. One thing puzzles me regarding the picture, the belt doesn't appear to be crossed, therefore the flopping.

We thank James R. Brown, Managing   Editor of The Sandusky Register for   permission to reprint above picture and information. Courtesy of Glenn Shoop, Collins, Ohio 44826.

I am sending you this article as you might like to put it into GEM and your readers should enjoy it. Keep up the good articles and pictures. Anyone visiting the West Coast this summer might like to stop by the Antique Powerland Farm Fair and see this engine operating. The dates for their show is July 31, Aug. 1, 7 & 8.