Persistence Pays Off
308 Lind Street McMinnville, Tennessee 37110
In the summer of 1995, my good friend Jimmy Priestly stopped by
the shop to say hello. Now it was not Jimmy’s thing to stop by
often, but here lately he seemed to be stopping by more and more
often. Something must be up! Jimmy is a gas engine man and I am a
steam engine man. In fact, I have built a 1′ scale model of a
Climax steam locomotive engine which lets me run at the track of
the Mid South Live Steamers in Columbia, Tennessee, of which
I’m a member.
He said, ‘You know you need a gas engine to go with that
steam engine,’ and I replied, ‘I don’t think so because
they make a lot of noise, and they just sit still, running around
in circles and they don’t use coal.’
Well, after his persistence and many visits later, I began to
look for some kind of engine to restore.
Not knowing what brand to look for, nor where to search, I
enlisted Jimmy’s help. Should it be an Associated, Novo,
Stover, Galloway, Economy, I really didn’t have any idea. Then
one day, while visiting another friend, Novan Pedigo, the subject
of gas engines came up and he suggested we go down to the barn and
Well, sitting on the back of a wagon was a rusty piece of iron
which had two big flywheels and a cylinder housing with a big hole
in it. He said it was for water, who knows, I surely didn’t. To
make this short, we agreed on a price and I loaded it up and headed
home feeling maybe this would keep Jimmy calmed down for
Little did I know that this piece of iron would cause such an
outpouring of information from all over the area. People I
didn’t know were stopping by to give advice on how to get the
piston loose, how to fix the busted head, (‘where’s the
mag, you’re going to need one of those’), and a multitude
of other things. I didn’t have any idea what they were talking
Jimmy to rescue, with books, pictures, manuals and anything I
needed to find out what was this rusty metal that had caused so
much interest. From all this I found out I had a 2 HP Witte. After
reading and studying, I couldn’t have been more pleased to find
out the Witte was made in Kansas City, Missouri, just a few blocks
from where my father had worked. Since I had grown up in eastern
Kansas near Kansas City, this engine was a perfect match.
After countless hours of working and explaining to the
‘better-half that I really needed that gear and it won’t
run without a mag, we were ready to see if it would run. Yes it
did, at the Warren County Fair in September 1997, and along with
the steam engines, we really felt proud of our accomplishment.
With the help of Jimmy, Novan, Don and many others the Witte
sits proudly to the side of the table of steam engines awaiting
another summer for show and tell. Thanks, guys!!
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