Flight of the Flywheels

| August/September 1997

1340 W. Glenn Street, Tucson, Arizona 85705-4030

Rumors of a large engine in the hills of southern Arizona came my way a few years ago. When a friend and I canceled plans to go look at the engine, he said he had seen it years earlier and was willing to lead me there.

After searching around for a few hours, we spotted the Fairbanks-Morse engine in a deep ravine, 200 feet from the nearest washed-out, 4-wheel drive road. After talking to the owner of the mining claim, we struck a deal. He laughed as he took my money, thinking I could not move the 10,000+ pound F-M.

First of all, the mountains are very rugged in this area of Arizona and a large 4-wheel drive truck would be required to even get near the recovery site.

The F-M engine was 30 HP with a date of October 12,1903 and serial number 54QK1, head number 31696. The F-M sat perched on a small ledge of built-up rubble about mid-point on the side of a rock mountain. Several mining tunnels at the top of the hill fed an ore bin made of wood that sat next to the F-M. The powerful engine turned a ball mill, which made short work of the rich ores. A little Hercules engine of 3 HP pumped water from the stream 150 feet below to cool the F-M and mix with the ore during crushing.

Some parts had been removed from the old work-horse and pushed into the canyon for sport. The belt wheel was found about a mile down the canyon, crushed and rusting in a bend in a stream. The nameplates, connecting rod bearing and cap were probably taken by souvenir hunters.