The Webb Brothers: Alike in Many Ways

5 HP Bessemer

Ray Webb fires up his 5 HP Bessemer which he frequently takes to area shows.

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RR 1, Emlenton, PA 16373. Reprinted with permission from Central Electric Cooperative, Inc.'s publication, Penn Lines.

Clarion County (Pa.) residents Ray Webb of  Lamartine and Carl Webb of Kossuth have much in common. First, they are brothers. They have worked for the same employer. And besides being members of Central Electric Cooperative, Inc., Parker, Pennsylvania, they both enjoy tinkering with and collecting old engines and tractors.

'We've worked with engines all our lives, but we just started collecting them about three or four years ago,' says Carl.

The brothers travel to places such as Meadville, Portersville, Titusville and Lancaster, Pennsylvania to attend shows. Collectors gather at shows to display engines, as well as to buy, sell or trade.

Ray, a retired welder for National Fuel Gas, is eager to show his collection of about thirty engines to anyone who wants to see it.

He has engines which are connected to an air compressor and a 32-volt light generator. He also has some Maytag washer engines, which need to be kick started.

Ray enjoys all engines, especially the flywheel type. He says, 'Any flywheel engine is unique to work on and get running again.'

Lately, Ray has been refurbishing an old Caterpillar crawler which is special to him.

He explains, 'I ran it back in about 1948 when my dad was Richland Township (Venango County) supervisor. I was out getting some steam engines and found it along a lease road. It's almost done now. The fenders need to be put on.'

Ray adds, 'I didn't have the serial number for it. My nephew bought the old township garage and found the operating manuals while cleaning.' One of the manuals had 'bought in 1931' scribbled across the front page, he notes.

Ray is especially proud of his five horsepower Bessemer engine. He has converted it to run on propane. 'It's my prize for hauling to the engine shows, ' he says.

His next major project is restoring an Ajax steam engine which he purchased from co-op director Winston Donaldson.

Ray enjoys challenging an engine to run. 'There isn't one that I haven't started by hand,' he says.

'At a show, people come by to see them run,' he adds. 'The challenge is to shut it down and see how easy it is to start again.'

Ray, who has also collected tractors, is interested in acquiring any flywheel engine or Delco flywheel generator.

Carl, a truck driver for National Fuel Gas, specializes in collecting mainly tractors, but he does have some engines too.

He hopes to retire soon and plans on devoting time to his museum. It will be named 'Antique Display' and contain his tractors and engines. He started to erect a building last winter and hopes to have it completed soon.

Carl will also show his collection to anyone who wants to see it. He even has a register book for visitors to sign. People from Texas to New Jersey have stopped by.

He has about 30 to 40 tractors, 25 of which are operable. His tractors include John Deere, Oliver, Allis Chalmers, Massey Harris, McCormick Deering, Silver King and David Bradley.

'I'm still looking for more odd brand tractors,' Carl says. 'I look for the ones you have to start by hand; the older the better.'

One of Carl's more unique tractors is called a Flo Trak. This small riding tractor has two rubber tracks with cleats. It was made by Pitchford Manufacturing in Pittsburgh and returned to Pennsylvania via South Carolina. Although geographically close to Pittsburgh, Carl has not been able to confirm what the tractor was used for.

'As far as I know, it was used in the tobacco fields of South Carolina,' he says. 'I don't know if it sprayed or cultivated.'

Pitchford Manufacturing is no longer in business.

The Silver King tractors are of great interest to Carl. He owns two of them and is looking for more.

'One model is like a tricycle. That's the one I'm really looking for. The front wheel sticks way out front. It's just a single wheel. I have the first chance on one up in Kane when it's for sale,' he says.

Silver King tractors were built in Plymouth, Ohio for 14 years. Last year Carl attended a festival there which had a display of 80 tractors.

Besides having some engines similar to his brother's, he has a gasoline operated 1914 wooden Maytag washer.

'Maytag made an electric washer first but they couldn't sell them because there was no electricity out in the rural areas.' Carl says. 'They had to go with a gas engine.'

The Webb brothers may find their treasures in someone's home, garage or barn, along a road in tall weeds or abandoned deep in the woods.

They share a common interest which gives them many hours of enjoyment.