1918 Stover Engine Restoration


| September/October 1993



Bessemer Engine

David Upham and his Bessemer at Tombstone Courthouse State Park at the third annual Antique Power Show, October 1992.

At the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park of Tombstone, Arizona, a unit of the Arizona State Park system. The park consists of the first Cochise County Courthouse and a collection of some 17,000 artifacts, among which is a mine hoist powered by a Stover engine. The park is funded through the state's general fund and other funds. However the state has a record of not very generously funding projects, such as the one described here. Thus the park may in some cases rely heavily on volunteers. This is the story of some of those volunteers.

Sometime in 1988 my boss, on an inspection tour, looked at our one cylinder engine mated to a mine hoist, rusting quietly in the shed and said, as bosses are sometimes apt to do at such moments, 'Let's start it.' Of course, I knew right away that he didn't expect to go over, turn the big flywheel and see the thing come to life in a cloud of smoke. It couldn't be that simple; what he meant was, 'Let's restore it and then start it.'

At a previous job I had rushed in where angels feared to tread and as a result had spent eight years restoring Arizona's first printing press, so I was considerably more dubious than he. 'Are you sure you want to do that?' I asked. 'Oh you can do it,' he replied, (those famous words so frequently spoken by those who don't have to do 'it'). 'But we don't even know what kind it is,' I managed to say before he launched into his standard pep talk for foot-dragging employees. (Actually I was setting him up, making certain he was prepared to make the commitment of time and resources on what promised to be a fun project for me; once he got through that pep talk he couldn't back out!)

Following a conversation which transpired more or less as outlined above, we began to seriously pursue the restoration of the engine. The first step was to get in touch with the collectors, and we soon attended the Arizona Fly wheelers show at the home of Graydon Gaudy in Cottonwood. Once these contacts were made we rather quickly determined that the engine was a Stover. It took a little more time to find that it was a model X, 8 HP. It also appears probable that the machine was purchased from Zork Hardware Company of El Paso. (The reason these items took so long to learn was that the brass name plates disappeared years ago.)

But there was more than just the engine; the engine was mated to a mine hoist. The hoist company had made a casting to fit both the engine and hoist as a base and bolted the two together to make one fairly compact unit, which could be transported to a remote mine site by a team of horses.

At about this point in the project the volunteers began to assert themselves. First, of course, came the advice you can pick up at any of the engine shows, some of it good and some of which falls into the same category a lawyer friend mentioned as he once gave me some free legal advice, 'You realize that this advice is worth every penny I'm charging you for it,' he said. But Gordon Gaudy came through with a 12 HP Stover for us to use in parts trades, and ads in GEM did the job of bringing in inquiries from all over and enough parts to make a good start.