The Engine That Was ...

| August/September 1993

  • Water and Air lines

  • The Water and Air Lines

  • Water and Air lines
  • The Water and Air Lines

Submitted by Flower Valley Gas & Steam Engine Museum 240 Church Street St. Marys, Pennsylvania 15857

The November 1991 issue of Live Steam carried the last of a three-part story, 'The Engine House' by Conrad Milster. In this last segment the author described the two 1916 Blaisdell air compressors at Windy City, Elk County. In his closing paragraphs, the author noted that pumping was stopped on August 1, 1989, but that one last run was scheduled for a group of invited visitors. Jim McCauley, who had operated these engines since 1946, agreed to come out of retirement for this last run on September 16, 1989. After running #1 engine for some time, Jim finally shut it down at about 3:30 that afternoon. The mighty engine has stopped for the last time, and another small piece of American history ended.

Or so it would seem, but the story continues. Edward Kuntz and his sons, Doug and Robert, had visited the original Windy City pumping site and had come to know Jim McCauley. They appreciated his great abilities and dedication through the years in keeping the engines working, and after the final shut down of the #1 big Blaisdell, they began to plan how to reincarnate #2 engine and somehow preserve its place in history.

After successful negotiations with lease owners to acquire the Blaisdell, the next step was to transport it to its new home in Flower City, Benzinger Township in Elk County, Pennsylvania. With the help of a couple of volunteer friends, Ed Kuntz and his two sons set to work. To be sure, a mighty task, but a task made easier because of their collective talents and determination. What seemed initially an insurmountable job soon became a labor of love.

During one of our visits to the power house with Jim McCauley, we were disappointed to learn that the cylinder on the #2 engine was defective and was shut down in 1974. At that time another cylinder was brought on site but the valve cage would not match. It was our good fortune that a matching valve cage was previously obtained from the Epstein Lease and was in storage; the first real problem was solved.

The site at Windy City then took on the look of real progress. The determined enthusiasts measured the machine, and after cutting the needed wooden timbers and transporting them to the site, began the process of lifting the Blaisdell from its original resting place for loading prior to its trip to Flower Valley. Railroad jacks were used, and with the appropriate cables and winches, the giant was soon resting on a dual axle tilt bed truck and on its way to its new home just outside St. Marys, Pennsylvania. Phase I was now complete!!


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