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Hometown Favorites: Charles City Engines

An Iowa man builds a collection of rare engines built in Charles City, Iowa, including those manufactured by the Armstrong Mfg. Co.

| August/September 2019

This 2hp Armstrong-Quam vertical engine (serial No. 206) was built in about 1909. This engine and Kelly Barnett's Armstrong-Quam (serial No. 255) are the only two vertical Armstrong-Quam engines known to exist.

Kelly Barnett of Plainfield, Iowa, wasn’t satisfied with collecting just the gas engines once built by Armstrong Mfg. Co., Charles City, Iowa. He also wanted to dig into the little-known company’s history.

Kelly, who has Armstrong pieces produced as early as 1909, has done extensive research on the Armstrong company and its products. His passion for the engines and their history is rooted in the fact that the engine factory the Armstrong family built in 1914 was located in what is now Kelly’s hometown.

“Because Charles City is the home of Hart-Parr and Oliver, there was always a hotbed of Hart-Parr and Oliver collectors here,” Kelly says. “As a kid, I attended area steam shows and was always fascinated with the steam engines and mechanical items.”

Swap meet find

As he got older, Kelly knew his chances of owning a steam engine were virtually nil. For that reason, he turned to hit-and-miss engines, which were smaller, more available and affordable.

Kelly's early Armstrong-Quam engine, serial no. 255.


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