The Story Of The Wishram Engine

By Staff
article image
Glenn Shoop

3935 Cooley Drive N.E., Salem, Oregon 97303

This engine was purchased by Burlington Northern Railway during
the summer of 1912 from Fairbanks-Morse Co. They installed it in a
house on top of a railroad bridge located at Wishram, Washington.
This bridge crosses the Columbia River at Celilo, Oregon (About 12
miles upstream from the Dalles, Or.) Its purpose was to operate the
turning section of the bridge so as to let the boats on the river
continue upstream. It saw continuous service up till 1957 at which
time the railroad built a new section that was electrical powered.
At this time the swing section was welded shut.

We had heard stories about a large engine on the Columbia, but
couldn’t seem to find anyone that could lead us on the right
track. We finally talked with Ivan Donaldson of Stevenson, WN and
he told us of the engine. So we went and had a good look. After
seeing the engine we were like a couple of kids wanting a new toy.
However it took us awhile to actually acquire it. We made a bid to
the railroad, and were successful. Now we’ve got the engine.
How do we get it out of the bridge; after all the railroad used a
crane and set it in the superstructure and built a house around it,
plus being 80′ above the water and about 150 yards from shore.
We discussed it for awhile and decided that the best approach was
to dismantle it and take alongside the rails to shore where we
could load it on our equipment trailer. The first order of removal
was to remove 17 years accumulation of pigeon manure, now we can
actually see what we’ve got. It was all complete except the
base of the oiler was missing. The rest of the engine was complete
down to the last nut and bolt. Now the hard work starts, tear it
all apart and lower it over the side. Five (5) weekends later we
have it all home and ready to clean and get it back together. This
engine weighs 8800 lbs., fires four times a minute and runs at a
very high speed of 200 RPM. It can be started either on air or by
the Torch Ignitor. This torch ignitor is a small tube which you
insert a stick match, prime the engine, turn it backwards onto
compression and when the piston is just a little past dead center,
strike the plunger with the match in it, which in turn hits an
anvil in the plunger and produces the fire needed to start it. From
there on the make & break, battery powered ignition takes

Enclosed is a picture that was recently  published in my
local paper The Sandusky Register, Sandusky, Ohio. One thing
puzzles me regarding the picture, the belt doesn’t appear to be
crossed, therefore the flopping.

We thank James R. Brown, Managing   Editor of The
Sandusky Register for   permission to reprint above
picture and information. Courtesy of Glenn Shoop, Collins,
Ohio 44826.

I am sending you this article as you might like to put it into
GEM and your readers should enjoy it. Keep up the good articles and
pictures. Anyone visiting the West Coast this summer might like to
stop by the Antique Powerland Farm Fair and see this engine
operating. The dates for their show is July 31, Aug. 1, 7 &

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