Biggest of Wayne and Judi Fischers' steam traction engines
Ever float 1a 15-ton steam traction engine down a river on a makeshift barge? Or have to decide whether to keep or sell your father's and grandfather's traction engine - the machine that, in effect, fed your family for three-quarters of a century?
In Ontario, Canada, collectors have faced both scenarios as they work to preserve and enjoy their steam traction heritage. Among serious engine fanciers in this most-populated of Canada's provinces are Wayne and Judi Fischer of Puslinch; the Dalton Curran family of Creemore; Bill 'Bim' Watson of Carlisle, and Sherwood and Gladys Hume of Milton.
Wayne has four of the big engines parked in his new, specially built engine barn - and he hasn't ruled out more purchases, either. He's the 'new kid on the block,' so to speak, having only started to collect engines four years ago, but he is experienced enough to do a good deal of his own restoration work.
His framed operator's license hangs on the wall in the engine barn. An alumnus of the Pawnee Steam School in the United States, Wayne explains that to receive the document, which is issued by the Canadian Technical Standards and Safety Authority, he had to complete 120 hours of actual running time on an engine and pass a three and a half-hour written examination.
He says he enjoys the fun of collecting and restoring the old engines, and appreciates being able to play a small part in the preservation of Canada's agricultural history. He and Judi try to attend four shows a year with some of the machines, so the public can learn more about them, and on Boxing Day, (the day after Christmas), they host their own show at home, where Wayne has constructed a mile-long private road on which he can drive the big engines.
Three are Western plowing engines; one was made in Canada and the other two came from the United States. Before the barn doors even open, a freshly painted 'Old Abe' statue, positioned out front, cues visitors to expect a Case.
'From 1890 through the early 1900s,' Wayne explains, 'the Canadian government was promoting the development of western Canada - after the American West had filled up. A lot of people came north then, and that's why a lot of American engines are out in western Canada.'
Case engines in particular are representative because Case made more than half of all steam engines ever produced, Wayne adds, noting that in 1912 alone, the company reportedly made one engine every 40 minutes - 'and there was no assembly line yet.'
Wayne's biggest engine, though, is a 1912 85-hp Nichols & Shepard, made at Battle Creek, Mich. 'This one broke virgin prairie soil,' he reports, noting the son of the original owner is still living and can attest to that fact. The machine spent its work life in Dauphin, Manitoba, and then spent 15 years on display at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin, Manitoba.
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