Jordan Meeker scours mining camps in British Columbia’s backcountry for antique gas engines
A Fairbanks-Morse 12 hp hoisting engine was found at the site of this deteriorated shack. Abandoned mining camps sometimes offer a trove of relics. “Miners were transients,” Jordan says. “They just walked away from things.” Ironically, the things they left behind are now Jordan’s most cherished possessions.
Just beginning to dig an 1899 Fairbanks-Morse 22 hp compressor engine out of a tailing pile. Note the crankshaft standing at back.
The base of this 1899 Hercules 6 hp engine was located at a silver mine’s blacksmith shop, where it was used to drive a line shaft.
At 7,000 feet elevation, Jordan found a Fairbanks-Morse 12 hp sectionalized hoisting engine (at the snow line in the center of this photo). The engine’s flywheels were manufactured in sections so that no piece of the engine weighed more than 300 pounds, the weight limit for transport by mules.
The 1897 Weber 5 hp as Jordan found it when he came around a bend in the trail. “I let out a cry like a little girl who dropped her ice cream cone, dropped my trusty Winchester and proceeded to dig like a man possessed,” he recalls. “It was just like Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I had to stop myself to take pictures and document it.”
Retrieving the 1899 Hercules 6 hp at 7,500 feet elevation, Jordan had no option but to pack the cylinder about 1-1/2 miles to his truck.
Loading a 1939 Fairbanks-Morse 150 hp diesel engine. An extensive network of logging trails over southern British Columbia provides relatively easy access to the backcountry. “The trails are everywhere,” Jordan says. “It’s a curse and a blessing.”
Who needs a trailer anyway? Getting a truck and trailer up a logging trail proved impossible, so this 1912 Fairbanks-Morse 60 hp Type N was loaded directly on the fifth wheel and the truck was backed down the trail to the roadway.
Hauling out the 1897 Weber on an old trail: “I stuck a wheel and handles on the base and it made a handy wheelbarrow,” Jordan says.
The 1899 Fairbanks-Morse 22 hp, showing the crankshaft attached to the large gear wheel and remnants of governor-side flywheel. “That took three hours of backbreaking digging,” Jordan says. “My friends have given huge amounts of time and labor helping with retrievals. It really is something, the labor these guys have put in.”
It took about four hours to set this rigging, which was then used to get Jordan’s ATV across Keene Creek. Jordan’s backcountry jaunts are conducted as day trips. Bears and high altitude cold nights rule out camping. He squeezes every minute out of every day. “I’m very cautious,” he says, “but I push myself to my limit.”
Figuring if the rigging was good enough for the ATV, it was good enough for him, Jordan went airborne. “Two minutes of spine-tingling, seat-of-your-pants adventure,” he says.