Black Beauty


| October/November 1986



125 HP C. H. Brown engine

3 Washington Street Brattleboro, VT 05301

The setting was the 10th annual Central Massachusetts Steam & Gas Machinery Association Show at Orange, Massachusetts airport June 28 and 29, 1986. The 'star' was Doug Johnson's giant C. H. Brown engine. You couldn't miss it!!! Weighing in at 12 tons, this engine sports an eight foot flywheel, has a 13' piston, 34' stroke and packs 125 horses of power. What's the story behind this gleaming black giant that dominated the Orange show?

The engine was made in Fitchburg, Massachusetts around 1909 or 1910. It ran the machinery in the Smith and Day Furniture Company in Baldwinville, Massachusetts and as near as anyone can figure was last used in 1949 or 1950. Twenty years later when the engine was going to be scrapped, a construction man saved it, remembering that Doug Johnson of Wendell Depot, Massachusetts was a collector of old engines. Acquired by Doug in 1974, the engine sat in pieces in a field by his house and rusted for ten years more.

In the summer of 1985, assisted by his brother Don Johnson, Doug set out to restore the engine to working order. His goal? To have it ready to display at the Central Massachusetts show in 1986.

'We worked nine days a week,' quips Doug, 'after work and weekends for eleven months straight.'

The brothers built a shed to cover the engine, with a large plastic front facing south for solar heat in the winter. In freezing weather the shed would maintain a workable 40° to 50° because the huge metal parts had absorbed heat all through the day. At times condensation would be a problem and they would have to leave the flaps open whatever the outside temperature.