The Rescue of an Otto No. 6033

The rescue of Otto No. 6033, a 9-1/2 HP engine hidden away in a Philadelphia basement.

| October/November 2014

Where Otto No. 6033 was found.

Tiny and crowded Church Street in Philadelphia. The Otto has to come out of the area in front of the second car on the left.

Photo by Jonathan Triebner

Our story is set in October 1999. A Philadelphia woman posts an ad on Smokstak looking for info on an Otto engine she found in her basement. Naturally, she is overrun with offers to take it off her hands, and she ends up running a blind auction (one bid per person, no knowledge of other bids).

We came in fifth. Dad didn’t think much about it until the woman called and said bidders one, two and three had backed out for reasons we did not learn until later, and if bidder four didn’t come up with the money in 24 hours it was ours AT OUR PRICE. All of a sudden the engine that was lost was a very real possibility, and Dad started preparing the truck and trailer for an adventure.

At the time I was just getting settled into my first semester at college. It was the Wednesday afternoon before the Coolspring Fall Swap that Dad called me and asked how soon I could be ready to leave, because we got the engine. The only catch was we had to have it out before Friday. I had class all day and hockey that night, so I told him to pick me up at the hockey arena at 11:30 p.m.

We left Toronto around 12:00 a.m. Thursday and arrived at Brookville, Pennsylvania, around 6:30 a.m. There we met up with Phil and Connie Klausz, who had left their home in Ohio a few hours earlier with additional tools and supplies we had forgotten in our haste to leave. The four of us headed east toward Philadelphia. After a brief (and accidental) visit to New Jersey, we arrived at 109 Church Street in Philadelphia. Just over 663 miles (1,065km) for Dad, who started from Kippen, Ontario, on Wednesday night.

To say that Church was a narrow street doesn’t do it justice. It is a one-lane, one-way cobblestone street with cars parked down one side. It narrows to accommodate a parking lot, which didn’t help our 1-ton truck and tandem axle trailer. We actually had to block the street and drivers had to drive through the parking lot to avoid us.

Once we arrived, we saw part of the problem that had made the other prospective owners nervous: A storm door that led to an eight-step stairwell that went 11 feet down into the basement at a very sharp angle.