An Interesting August

Chance Meetings, Simple Exchanges Lead to Great Finds

| November/December 2002

2-1/2 HP United

The 2-1/2 HP United, ready for the trip to its new home. Four hours after getting it home, Chan had the United running.

I had an interesting August this year, and I thought I would share my experiences with GEM readers.

First Find

At the beginning of the month I took my big 22-1/2 HP Bessemer to our first parking lot antique tractor show here in Oneida, N.Y. The Bessie ran very well all day, blowing big smoke rings about 150 feet straight up. A real crowd pleaser, and besides, the tractors mostly just sit there. At one point a man came up to me, telling me about an 1860s Wood, Taber & Morse stationary steam engine in his shop. He said he might want to sell it, and wondered if I would be interested. Two days later I was at his shop looking at it, and the following week Steve Knobloch from the Camillus, N.Y., museum came over and we went and looked at it together. The engine was disassembled, but very complete, as I soon learned. In fact, it came with manuals, sketches, notes, history, just about everything you could possibly hope for. Steve and I conferred briefly and then I discussed a price with the owner. Shortly thereafter I was writing a check for the Wood, Taber & Morse.

I told Steve that since he was kind enough to help me check out this gem their museum could have first crack at it if they were interested in owning it. Silly way to put it, as I should have been able to tell from the way he was drooling over the engine that he was quite interested in it.

A day or two later he called me back and said the museum would take the engine, asking me please not to sell it to anyone else. We made a deal, and now the old girl will have a very good permanent home - and knowledgeable people to tend to it. It is nice having it stay 'home' in N.Y. where it was made, as the Wood, Taber & Morse factory was in Eaton, N.Y., not 100 yards from the house where my grandmother, my grandfather and my mom lived between 1910 and 1945! No doubt some of my relatives on that side of the family worked in the factory at some point in time, as they had lived in the Eaton area since the mid-1800s. And not only does it get to stay nearby, 1 am told it may be the only Wood, Taber & Morse steam engine in the east.

Second Find

Early in the month I placed a small 'Wanted - old gas engines' ad in a local 'PennySaver'-type paper that comes out once a week. It doesn't cost much to run an ad, and I figured maybe I'd get a bite. A few weeks later a fellow calls saying he saw my ad, and asks if I would like to come see his old 'steam engine,' which he says has been sitting forgotten in the back of a shed for 60 years.

I went over the next evening, and what I discovered was not a steam engine, but a nice, dirty, loose and complete 2-1/2 HP United. He asked what I thought it was worth. I scratched my head and named what I thought was a fair price. He said okay, and the next thing I knew I had a nice United engine. It was missing one governor weight, had a nice four-bolt crossways mag, the nameplate was there (it was under seven layers of grease), even the original starting crank was in the water hopper - they often are.