429 W. High Street, St. Marys, Ohio 45885
Most of us who collect old engines have someone to thank for
developing our interest in the hobby. Usually you get started by
someone who told you about a piece of old iron, or one who shared
with you the stories of engines past.
I first met the late Harry Rowe when I went to work for the
village of Johnstown, Ohio, in 1961. I was 20 years old. Harry had
been the water works superintendent there for many years, and had
been retired for quite some time. The village had a Cook gas engine
that was still used for standby pumping when the power failed. I
helped operate the engine and fell in love with the old piece of
iron that first year.
I would stop by Harry’s home and he would tell me stories
about when they first installed the Cook engine, and about the time
the connecting rod came through the block. At one time Johnstown
supplied DC street lights for the village, and the old Cook engine
powered a line shaft that ran the generator. And at one time, there
were two identical Cook engines at the water works, both rebuilt by
the factory in 1917.
Harry would tell of trudging to the plant through the snow on
cold, black mornings in winter, and of starting up the Cook engine
and watching the lights come on all over town. Later the village
provided some electric service to residences, and Harry told of
reading electric meters that were installed in the attic. Johnstown
generated current until daylight, then switched the line shaft over
and pumped water into the elevated water tank using the Cook
Several years later I moved to another town’s water system.
Then the village decided to scrap the old Cook engine and I saved
it from the junk pile.
After several years of restoration, I completed my work on the 3
ton 40 HP engine and moved it to Sidney, Ohio.
One day Harry Rowe came to visit me and the Cook engine. I took
him down to the building I had constructed just for the Cook, and
there he stood, immobile, tears in his eyes, amazed that his old
Cook engine was still alive and well. He crawled all over the
engine checking every oil line, every nut and bolt. It was a great
moment for me to be able to see someone who loved old iron enjoying
his old friend again. It was worth all the work. I took Harry’s
picture that day standing by the Cook engine.
Harry’s gone now, but I will always remember him and his
love for machinery, and I will always be indebted for his teaching
me to respect and preserve old machinery. It’s a great hobby,
and it’s that way because of people like Harry Rowe.