Persistence Pays Off

| June/July 1998

  • 2 HP Witte engine

  • 2 HP Witte engine

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 look around.

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 awhile.

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 about.

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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