Brooks by the Numbers at the Great Oregon Steam-Up
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But it did have an original serial number tag. “When I saw that, I perked up,” Jack recalls. “That made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.” With a 230-hour restoration finished just a week before the Brooks show, the engine was running well at its debut. “We hadn’t even fine-tuned it when we got here,” Jack admits. “It really came down to the wire.”
49 years under water
This 1913 20 hp Stickney looks factory-fresh today but it wasn’t always that way. Parked on the edge of the Milk River near Havre, Mont., in the late 1930s, the engine tumbled into the river when the bank collapsed in a 1952 flood. The Stickney was eventually covered by silt, but not before the farmer who owned the engine tied a cable to the flywheel and staked the other end on high ground.
As a boy, Charlie Inman was utterly captivated by the buried treasure. Having seen the cable while on hunting trips with his dad, he recalls, “I had dreams about getting that engine out.” In 2000, the dream came true as he exhumed the engine. Then the work started.
The Stickney’s restoration — an intensive three-year process — was a uniquely challenging project. The good part? “It was a complete engine,” Charlie says. “I didn’t have to guess what it looked like originally.” The bad part? “It had been in the river for 49 years,” he says. “Anything that was made of steel was in bad shape.” A thick coat of lime had built up over the entire engine. “It took about a year just to get it all apart,” Charlie says. Every part of the engine gave him fits, he says, even the hardware — none of which was standard.
Salvage and restoration of the Stickney was a full-fledged obsession. On March 8, 2003, when Charlie started the engine for the first time, a dream conceived in childhood came to life. “I had to go stand in the corner for a while,” he says, recalling the emotions of the moment. One of three 20 hp Stickneys known to exist, Charlie’s is correctly outfitted with a seat for a teamster. He also has the rig’s original tongue.
Read more about Charlie's sleeping beauty in Circa 1913 20 HP Stickney Gas Engine.
3 generations of collectors
When Branch 15, Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Assn., selected the Weber engine (built by Weber Gas Engine Co., Kansas City, Mo.) as its feature at the Brooks show, three generations of a member family pitched in to create a show-stopping exhibit. Don, Frank and Tim Weber (no relation to the engine manufacturer) presided over a display that was in perpetual motion.
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