To run the Erie Iron Works horizontal steam engine he’s
refurbishing. There’s no tag on the Sullivan to date it, while
the Erie, serial number 16690, is thought to be a 36 HP unit. Its
date is also unknown, and Jerry would like to know more about this
My biggest regret in life is that I didn’t start collecting
old iron 30 years ago instead of a few years ago. I’m going
through ‘mid-collecting crisis.’ I keep asking myself, will
I get enough gold to eat AND afford to fix my stuff up? Will I live
long enough to get every thing running? Who will look after all of
my neat stuff when I’m gone?
Mining was pretty lean last season. It was very cool (I had a
fire going in the wood cook stove in the cabin every night), the
ground did not thaw out as quickly as I’d hoped (permafrost)
and with ongoing breakdowns (D73T, Insley dragline) I managed to
get in 30 days sluicing, enough to make it through the winter.
I live on my claims about 20 miles southeast of Dawson City in
the hills. The road is not plowed in the winter, so I snow machine
into Dawson about once a month for supplies and mail, weather
permitting. I stay home when it’s -35 degrees F or colder. The
only things that keep me sane up here during the winter months are
my little shop, being able to work on projects and GEM. I love all
aspects of old iron – from the mining of the metals to casting,
fabrication, technology changes, history, search and recovery,
fixing things up, and fellow collectors – and just being able to
putter. If this old iron was left to the elements, it would all
eventually end up as it started, part of the ground.
I learn a few new things every time I go into my shop, and I
even try to pass on what little I know to people who visit me. My
mentor, Newt Webster, has steered me in the right direction when it
comes to babbiting, etc., and all my silly questions. There
aren’t any other knowledgeable guys like him around here, and I
can’t thank him enough. And he might even sell me one of his
‘keep sakes’ if I catch him in the right mood.
I still haven’t had a start up party for my 18 HP Mietz
& Weiss hot bulb oil engine. My machinist friend, Winston,
moved to Washington state before he could make me an injector, so
now I’m trying to match one up from some other kind of engine,
somehow. I’m also working on making a steam dome out of a large
sheet of copper I have. I have installed a fuel pump off of an
International TD series crawler, and think it may work.
I have installed two large drip oilers on the engine and will
work on the original oil pressure system later. I’ve hooked the
engine up to my air-receiving tank and have had it turning over and
pretending it was running on its own. Even this was an exciting
event. So close! I’ve got my FM 1- HP Model D (s/n 774556)
running in the shop this winter, belted to a Quincy air compressor.
I’ve also got the Ottawa 4 HP (s/n TE2703) running fairly
This engine never ceases to amaze me. I’d freed the piston
and installed new rings, counter weights (thanks, Hit & Miss
Enterprises). The mixer was missing so I put on one from an FM 3 HP
Model C (s/n 824 434). After flipping the flywheels until my hands
were raw, I discovered in my excitement to start it I’d
forgotten to turn the mag back on. I got it to fire – briefly. Now
what? I purged the cylinder after flooding it. It fired up and
backfired. Lots of excitement now. I’d forgotten to turn the
mag to the running position. By now it seemed as if there were lots
of combinations to get her running.
A Yuba Ball Tread owned by Rick Gillespie of Dawson City. It
appears to be a Model 20-35, which was produced from 1916 to 1921.
The Yuba Manufacturing Co. was based in Maryville, Calif.
Rick Gillespie also has this 5 HP FM Model B waiting its turn
for a rehab. It shows serial number 774452, which dates it to
I’d made a spring for the mixer air valve disc. I held it
open with needle nose vise grips, made sure the mag was on start
and flipped the flywheels. It fired right up. I put the mag in the
running position, and it ran. It’s a good thing I had it
strapped with tie downs to the table. The door on the mixer
reservoir was flopping up and down, spilling gas all over. I shut
the engine off, filled the reservoir up and put a heavy o-ring
around the reservoir door. Then I noticed I hadn’t turned on
the drip oiler. I turned the oil on and waited until oil dripped
out of the hole into the cylinder. Flipped the flywheels once and
it fired up and ran through two reservoir fills of gas.
Then it started knocking. Even though I had snugged everything
up, the connecting rod cap had come loose. So I went over
everything again until things were snug, but still turning freely.
What a thrill to have this engine running, with steam coming out of
the hopper, all the parts moving and sounding pretty good. The
water would boil in the hopper for a little while after I shut the
engine off. Now I wonder if it will run my Joshua Hendy 6×8 jaw
The crusher is in very good shape and has a free-wheeling pulley
beside the drive pulley. I’ll find out as soon as it warms up
outside. The Ottawa still needs a few things, like the correct
mixer and the rod to the speed changer. I also keep forgetting to
turn the drip oiler off. When I first purchased the FM 1- Model D
with Quincy compressor it was covered with tin sheets. ‘It
turns over,’ Newt said. It sure did. When I got it home I took
the three V belts off and tried starting it. It turned over too
easy. Good spark, enough gas, but not enough compression, it
seemed. I was thinking of using ether when if finally fired up –
way up. It was roaring wide open and by the time I throttled it
down it was banging loudly, so I shut it off by holding my hand
over the mixer inlet.
This was the first old engine I had ever started. Although
I’d checked the oil level before I attempted to start it, I
should have checked it over a little bit more. I pulled off the
crankcase cover and everything was coated in oil and babbit dust.
There was no babbit left in the rod caps and you could see where
the naked rod had been turning on the crank. So, thanks to Newt and
information from George Huhn I cleaned up the crank and poured my
first bearing. A couple of tries and it turned out okay. I’m
sure I’ll get better at it, as every piece of iron I have uses
babbit bearings. I replaced the rings (Hit & Miss, again), and
now she starts easily and runs well. ‘A Dandy D
I am keeping my engines as found and in their work clothes, with
the exception of the Wisconsin ABN (s/n 1725131), which once I get
running I will paint. The FM 3 HP Model C is close to running. I
have to weld the hopper, the head is missing a chunk (I’m sure
I had it) and I need to take a look at the mag. All of my gas
engines have been stuck (except the D), and it has been fun getting
them unstuck without wrecking anything.
I have some neat things to belt these engines to. There’s a
Braun pulverizer, an FM 1–inch pump, a Rex trash pump, a trip
hammer (can crusher?), a Pumps & Power 2-inch pump, and a small
two-stage rock crusher (missing the coarse stage jaw).
A reminder in keeping the load strapped down: Transporting the
Erie steam engine and Joshua Hendy crusher proved a little
problematic when the crusher decided to free itself from the
confines of Jerry’s pickup while negotiating the road to
A Briggs & Stratton Motor Wheel. Built from 1919 to 1924,
this design originated with the British Wall Auto-Wheel, which was
produced by the A.O. Smith Co. of Milwaukee, Wisc. Briggs &
Stratton bought the manufacturing rights from Smith in 1919.
This is what I’d like to have set up this summer, at the
same time trying to mine enough to get by: Use the FM D with
compressor to fill the receiving tank. Use this air to start the
Mietz & Weiss, which will be belted to the Sullivan air
compressor (as it originally was). Use this to fill the original
receiving tank. With this air, run the Erie 8 x 12-inch horizontal
steam engine (s/n 16690) and also a C & B.C. 6-inch bore
vertical steam engine (s/n 37), built 1900.
The Erie only needs two drip oilers, and the C & B.C. needs
the flyball governor and three drip oilers. I think this would make
a great display, and I hope I can pull it off. I tried to organize
an engine and machinery show last summer, but I guess we all got
too busy mining or trying to mine to get it off the ground. But
I’ll try again this summer.
Because of the mining in the Klondike there were hundreds upon
hundreds of steam engines and a lot of machinery brought in. Then,
as technology evolved, a great many gas engines made it to these
parts. It’s pretty slim pickings now, a lot having been buried
by unconcerned miners as junk, and much of the remaining equipment
relocated down south.
I feel privileged to have recovered and purchased some that have
survived, and they all have a personality of their own. If any of
you are up this way you are more than welcome to come up and visit
my humble collection. GEM is great, and I hope people keep writing
in to keep the wheels turning.
Contact engine enthusiast Jerry Bryde, Rabbit CR Mining, at:
Box 469, Dawson City, Yukon, Canada Y0B 1G0.