Ira E. Lawton in his blacksmith and buggy shop.
308 Center Avenue, North Charleroi, Pennsylvania 15022
When looking at an antique gas engine, most people see just that, an engine. But not so for Jay Clark of North Charleroi, Pennsylvania. When Jay and his wife, Sis Clark, look at one of their many exhibits they take to steam shows and antique shows, they see an entire legacy of friendship, caring, and generosity. The engine that brings this to mind is an 1896 Springfield six horsepower engine.
To start at the beginning you would have to go to West Middletown, Pennsylvania, where Ira E. Lawton ran a forge and blacksmith shop. He originally purchased the engine new to run his blacksmith shop. He was the largest buggy-maker in western Pennsylvania. There the engine stayed long after the blacksmith shop closed. When his daughter, a teacher of many years in the Chartiers Houston School District, passed away and the estate was being settled, her nephew gave the engine to Thomas L. Weaver of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, knowing he was involved with several organizations that restore and preserve antique equipment. He and three of his children had been students of Miss Lawton's. Fran Smith of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, hauled the engine to Weaver's, where it was stored in pieces for several years.
Then Thomas L. Weaver gave the engine to Jay Clark, with the stipulation that he restore it. Jay took the challenge to heart and immediately started restoration. He had restored many pieces before but shortly discovered just how special this engine was. Seeing pictures of the engine, Norman Colbey of Claysville, Pennsylvania, was able to identify it as a rare Springfield engine. This is the oldest of just 34 known Springfield engines left.
While restoration progressed, Jay ran into the generosity of the people wanting to be a part of this rare and unique engine. Donations started to come: bolts donated by Dave Vincenty, of Canonsburg; a belt for the governor donated by Clark Colby of Irwin, Pennsylvania; new gas tank, an exact replica, offered by Dale Minor of Fairfield, Ohio; a cart for the engine built by Ron Westfall of Washington, Pennsylvania; wheels from Jim Lacy of Centerville, Pennsylvania; the trailer originally used to haul it to Tom Weaver's was donated by Tom; and the engine was put together in New Carlisle, Ohio, by Junior Christian, Chester Luckenbaugh and Pee Wee Luckenbaugh.
The restoration took 1? years to complete. Original books and manuals for the engine were given to Jay by Norman Anderson, Canfield, Ohio, and the brass (a solid piece of brass 12' x 6' x 4') was donated by an anonymous donor. When seeing the engine being painted, Bruce Eggleston of New Carlisle volunteered and did the pinstriping.
Left to right: sitting, Tom Weaver and C. E. Christian; standing, Chester Luckenbaugh, Sr., Jay Clark, Sr., Chester Luckenbaugh, Jr.
Left to right: Chester Luckenbaugh Sr., C. E. Christian, Chester Luckenbaugh, Jr., Jay Clark Sr. at the first showing of the Springfield engine.
This unique engine built by Springfield Gas Engine Company in Dayton, Ohio, has many of the features we think of as modern. The overhead cam and fuel injection mechanisms are both original on this 1896 engine, but the biggest asset the engine has is its legacy of generosity. Many just want to be a small part of this story which has just one more chapter to date.
On visiting this area from New Castle, Pennsylvania, Robert Lawton, the grandson of the original owner, visited the National Pike Steam, Gas and Horse Association's fairgrounds near Brownsville, Pennsylvania, to take a look at the engine that spent so many years in his grandfather's shop. And as everyone else who came in contact with this special engine, Robert Lawton too was touched, and sent pictures to Jay of his grandfather, Ira E. Lawton, and the shop where the legacy started.
Today, the engine runs as smoothly as when it was first built and waits patiently for its next chapter to be written.