Clay vertical sideshaft engines


| March/April 1981



Brass Water Pump

6152 Sutter Loop West, Owensboro, Kentucky 42301

The Clay vertical sideshaft engine was built by the Clay Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The tag reads 'Honest Clay', heavy duty engine, serial #3115.

This engine was used to power a small tugboat on Green River and Rough Creek, running from Livermore to Hartford, Kentucky, delivering supplies before and during the Depression when water travel was one of the best modes of transportation of goods for this area. After the Depression, roads got better as well as everything else. Trucks took over most of the cargo the tug once hauled and with it went the living the little tug had made for its owner.

As the towing slowly died away, the tug was run as a ferry coupling Ohio County to Livermore, Kentucky, the closest town, just a stones throw across the river or some 20 miles by land. As time went by some of the residents using the ferry moved away and others had begun to use the roads more frequently. With faster cars and larger trucks that could haul heavier loads than the ferry was capable of floating, it finally ceased operation completely. After it was tied and sat for a number of years without being used for much more than a good fishing spot for local residents.

With time slowly deteriorating the hull, the little tug finally sank to the bottom of the river. The owner, determined to salvage the sunken tug, did not get discouraged with everyone telling him it could not be done. So single-handed he raised it onto the bank where it was dismantled and the engine removed, thus ending several decades of river travel for the vanished tug, a familiar sight for the residents of Livermore, Kentucky.

After its removal from the tug, the engine was cleaned, oiled and stored in the garage of its owner. There it sat for an unknown number of years, during which time the loving owner passed away. I found out about it through a friend telling me of some gasoline engines he had seen sitting beside an old garage near his home. Upon finding this out, my wife went and checked to make sure they were still there-sure enough they were. After supper we went to check to see if they could be bought. I spoke to the elderly lady who lived there and she informed me that they had belonged to her late husband. Upon questioning her about the old engines, she told me that there was still a larger one in the garage and that I was welcome to look at it, but would have to talk to her son about purchasing them. As you may have guessed, the big engine turned out to be the Clay. After talking with her son, he told me that he did not want to sell them at that time, but for me to check back with him later. That started the long wait and several phone calls. A year later I bought the two engines sitting outside the garage, but he still would not part with the big Clay. Then with even more pursuit and yet another year passing, I finally acquired the side-shaft Clay engine, which I had dreamed of owning since first casting my eyes on it two years earlier.