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The air was rife with rumors about the auction of a lifetime. The town of Alden, New York, was auctioning off a 15 HP Otto and Rumsey triplex water pump, one of two units installed in 1899 to pump water for the village of Alden. The auction was the same weekend as the Fall Swap Meet at Coolspring, Pennsylvania. Everyone at the swap meet was talking and the rumors and speculations were mounting. The rumors peaked at a $40,000 bid from England! Needless to say, things were pretty quiet the night before the auction, as many folks left Coolspring to witness the event. My friend and I decided we had to check it out, since it was close to home.
We arrived around 11:30 a.m. at the site, on the day of the auction. Off in the woods, next to a small stream, was a small, unassuming brick building. Inside were the two 15 HP Otto engines, complete with oilers, clutches, triplex pumps, the works. For being installed in 1899 and last run in the early 1970s, they were in remarkable condition. The engines were fired with natural gas, and had the original regulators on the wall behind them. They were very complete. The winning bidder had the choice of the two units. The Alden Historical Society will display the other unit in the town museum. This installation was mentioned in Otto sales catalogs from the early 20th century.
Both engines sported most of the pinstriping and paint that they had from the factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were both free, and the left engine even had compression. The typical gas engine nut would have very little trouble coaxing either of these engines to life. The pumps were a bit more rusty but in similar condition. The years of use were evident by the black streaks behind the flywheels, where the oil from the mains was flung up by the flywheels. As the pictures show, the engines were connected to their pumps through a direct connected clutch.
Although we didn't stay for the auction, we found out later that the final tally was quite high, although not as much as speculated. It was purchased by Paul Stoltzfoos of Leola, Pennsylvania, who found out about it on the internet. It is said that it will either be displayed at the Rough and Tumble grounds in Kinzers, Pennsylvania, or converted to a gasoline engine and married to a Morton traction engine chassis, or both. (Eds. note: Mr. Stoltzfoos shared with us a copy of the original minutes of the town officially recording the purchase of the engine in 1899 for $1225.00.)
It is getting harder and harder to find installations like this, but they are out there. You just need to keep your eyes and ears open, and be blessed with a little luck.