Western Classics

By Staff
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David Traver, Placerville, Calif., brought this 1903 10 HP Ohio. Built by The Ohio Motor Co., Sandusky Ohio, this engine once ran a generator in a silent movie theater in Wichita, Kan.
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Chuck and Peggy Schoppe's 1895 4 HP Mery double-acting engine made by the Chico Iron Works, Chico, Calif. Note the two plugs, single-cylinder.
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Frank Ferguson's 1892 3 HP Best, built by Daniel Best in San Leandro, Calif. This is the only 3 HP Best engine extant. Originally consigned to pump water at a California ranch, it was retired in 1918 and salvaged and restored in the late 1960s.
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A beautiful, apparently original IHC 10-20 Titan. Featuring short fenders, it dates from the 1916-1919 period.
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Bill Santos (in red shirt) looks over his 1918 Big Bull prior to running it around the show ground field.

A 12 HP Fairbanks-Morse sectionalized engine of 1900, owned by
the Henningsen family of Salinas, Calif. Designed with mine work in
mind, these engines could be broken down into sections for
transport by pack animal. No piece weighs more than 300 pounds.
Note the numbered bolt and flange in the smaller photo – the entire
engine is indexed for assembly.

A 12 HP Fairbanks-Morse sectionalized engine of 1900, owned by
the Henningsen family of Salinas, Calif. Designed with mine work in
mind, these engines could be broken down into sections for
transport by pack animal. No piece weighs more than 300 pounds.
Note the numbered bolt and flange in the smaller photo – the entire
engine is indexed for assembly.

Carl Mehr, Penn Valley, Calif., brought this incredible 4 HP
Brown-Cochran, serial number 718. Built by Brown-Cochran Co.,
Lorain, Ohio, some time in the late 1890s, it was originally sold
by E.B. Beck & Co. of San Francisco, Calif., and has spent its
life on the West Coast.

Old iron varies from one region of the country to another, a
situation created by agriculture and industry adapting to different
needs and uses. The bulk of Gas Engine Magazine readers
live east of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, and as such
most of us never get a chance to see the engines built and set to
work along the West Coast of the U.S. But those lucky enough to
make the trek this past July 7-9 to the Nevada County Fairgrounds
in Grass Valley, Calif., for the EDGE & TA Southwest Regional
Show were treated to one of the most fantastic collection of
engines ever to assemble anywhere.

Gas Engines

Back in the February 2002 issue of GEM, we ran an article on
Mike Tyler’s 1905 7 HP Western, one of six known 7 HP
survivors. Of those six, three made the trip to Grass Valley,
including Mike’s 1905, Bill Peterson’s 1907 and Ed
Cooksey’s 1908.

All told, there were eight different Western engines on hand,
ranging from the three 7 HP models up to Jim Clayton’s 60 HP
Western, a single-cylinder giant that started its working life in
California’s Taft oil fields. In fact, Western engines were so
well represented you could be excused for thinking of them as
commonplace. They’re not, of course, but since few Westerns
were shipped outside of California, surviving Westerns have stayed
in a relatively close geographic area.

Bill Traill’s circa 1910 10 HP Ostenberg two-cylinder
opposed engine. The Ostenberg Manufacturing Co., San Jose, Calif.,
was in business from 1903 to 1912, when it was bought by the Bean
Spray Co. Only seven Ostenbergs are known to survive.

Not surprisingly, many of the engines on hand spent their early
life working the mines that once defined this part of the country.
Grass Valley is in the heart of the old mining territory, and many
of the engines on hand have never left the county, except to hit
the occasional show. One engine that did come in from out of state
to work the mines was the 25 HP Fairbanks-Morse Type Y gracing the
cover of this month’s issue of Gas Engine Magazine. Owned by
Mike Monroe, Georgetown, Calif., and built sometime in the 1920s,
this two-cycle diesel worked the Slate Mountain Mine near
Georgetown until 1941, powering a compressor that provided air for
running drills and water pumps. Meticulously restored, it ran
beautifully both days of the show, perfect smoke rings exiting from
its almost eight foot high exhaust stack.

And then there’s the absolutely singular 1895 Mery Explosive
Engine owned by Chuck and Peggy Schoppe of Los Gatos, Calif. The
only known survivor from the Chico Iron Works, Chico, Calif., the
Mery powered a line shaft at the Chico foundry, working away until
the company went out of business some time in the late 1930s.

The Mery eventually passed into the hands of a collector in
California, and Chuck and Peggy bought it from the owner’s
widow. Interestingly, Chuck and Peggy were the lowest bidders for
the engine, but it was sold to them because of their promise to
keep the engine in California and to show it regularly. To this
day, the Schoppe’s still keep in touch with the widow’s
family. ‘I take a picture of the engine at a show every year
and send it as a Christmas card to their family,’ Peggy

Featuring a double-acting, six-cycle cylinder with chambers at
either end of the single piston, the Mery is a rare jewel in the
old iron collective and a fantastic example of the ingenuity of
individual engine builders in the early days of engine

Scott Kretschmer, Richmond, Calif., brought this circa 1895-1896
Hercules. Built by the Hercules Gas Engine Works, San Francisco,
Calif., this approximately 4 HP engine pumped water at a family
estate in California, staying in the same location until Scott came
across it less than two years ago. Except for the water tank and
the coil and battery box, it is completely original.

Beyond Engines

This was primarily an engine show, but there were plenty of
tractors on hand, not to mention an amazing collection of rare
crawlers. Bill Santos, Newcastle, Calif., had three Best crawlers
on hand; a circa 1919 Model 25, a 1921 Model 30 and a 1919 Model
60. Add to those three the Model 40 belonging to Roy Mariel and his
son, Bill, and you have an almost unheard of exhibit of Best
crawlers. Bill also brought along his 1918 Big Bull (turn to page
25 for David Domes’ article on the Bull Tractor Co.), which he
just finished restoring. With a freshly rebuilt engine the Bull was
still tight and a bit hard to start, but with the aid of a John
Deere and a flat belt Bill had the Bull running and out on the

Jim Jensen, Paskenta, Calif., sets to firing up his 1930 40 HP
Tuxham, serial number 6150, built by Fabco in Oakland, Calif. A
hot-bulb, two-stroke diesel, the Tuxham-type engine was originally
built in Denmark, and it is assumed that Fabco built the engine
under license in the U.S.

Floyd Schmall, Fresno, Calif., brought this fantastically
prepared 1912 10 HP Otto. A transplant to California, the Otto was
originally set up pumping water in Maine. Floyd also had an equally
impressive 1902 5 HP Frisco-Standard marine engine built in San
Francisco, Calif.

Don Dougherty, Colfax, Calif., was almost a one-man museum with
his selection of machinery, ranging from a 1912 IHC Model MW
high-wheeler to a rare 1934 Caterpillar Model 70, one of only 266
made. But probably the biggest crowd-pleaser in his collection was
the 1916 Yuba Ball Tread. Made by the Yuba Manufacturing Co.,
Marysville, Calif., these crawlers feature a single front wheel
that rotates like a caster for enhanced turning capacity. Powered
by a 606-cubic-inch Wisconsin ‘T’ head engine, the
Yuba’s treads ride on 280, 2-1/4-inch steel balls. An amazing
machine, it was equally impressive to operate, displaying great
maneuverability and direct, responsive controls. The pivoting
action of the front end takes a little getting used to (the front
wheel’s axle is set behind the wheel’s vertical point of
rotation, making the wheel instantly follow any shift in
direction), but once you spend some time in the seat it becomes
almost second nature to operate.

All told, 390 engines, 78 tractors and crawlers, and 60 other
pieces of old iron (including an 1874 Clapp & Jones steam fire
engine belonging to the city of Woodland, Calif.) converged on the
Nevada County Fairgrounds for what was, arguably, one of the best
shows of the year.

Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact him at:
1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or e-mail:

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