Brooks by the Numbers at the Great Oregon Steam-Up
By Leslie C. McManus
Dan Thompson, Winnemucca, Nev., is the third owner of this 1893 4 hp Golden Gate engine manufactured by Adam Schilling & Sons, San Francisco.
The Great Oregon Steam-Up hosted by the Antique Powerland Museum Assn. offers a stunning array of attractions in a unique setting. Composed of 15 independent organizations, the association celebrates a huge variety of early machinery, vehicles and equipment.
Each partner organization has its own area at the museum complex. Most have erected self-funded and -maintained museums that are operated independently. All work toward a shared goal: preservation of the past. The result is a small army of volunteers — 700, including exhibitors — fueled by a high-octane blend of enthusiasm and energy. APMA is justifiably proud of the fact that the entire complex is maintained — everything from mowing to painting to construction — almost entirely by volunteer labor.
The Steam-Up spans two consecutive weekends. Among the highlights: premiere display of vintage Caterpillar equipment at the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Museum; threshing, baling and binding demonstrations; displays of antique tractors, steam engines, gas engines and implements; vintage truck museum; military antique display; sawmill; blacksmith; street car, car and motorcycle museums; scale-model railroading; 1930s Texaco station; chainsaw carvers and logging equipment. FC
For more information: Grounds open for general visitation March 1-Oct. 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. $5 admission to enter the grounds; individual museums (which may or may not be open) may charge an additional admission fee.
Great Oregon Steam-Up, July 28-29 and Aug. 4-5, 2012: operating equipment, parades, demonstrations, historic trolley and miniature railroad, tractor pulls, sawmill and flea market.
Antique Powerland Museum Assn., 3995 Brooklake Rd. NE, Brooks, OR 97303; (503) 393-2424; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Engine No. 711
The Smith family’s 1880 Case 8 hp is a rare survivor. Steam engines decades newer than this one were routinely hauled off in World War II scrap drives. But none of those engines had a champion like Bess Clearwater.
In 1944, Bess made plans to donate her 1880 Case to the war effort. But when Boy Scouts showed up to dismantle the relic, Bess (the engine’s second owner) couldn’t go through with it. Instead, she gave the boys $5 for their trouble and sent them on their way. The Case stayed put on her farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Bob Smith, one of the Scouts, never forgot the Case. Eleven years later, he bought the engine and he and his father restored it to working condition. Today, his grandson, Zach Smith, Tacoma, Wash., operates the engine at Antique Powerland.
According to Zach, in 1990 the Smithsonian Institute confirmed No. 711 as the oldest working steam traction engine in the U.S. The engine was originally horse-steered (hence the seat at front) but was converted in 1909 to a self-steered unit. Zach runs the engine at about 50 psi. “We don’t need to push it,” he says. “It was originally rated at 150 psi; for a stationary power plant, that was pretty large. And there’s no clutch. It’s either in or out. It goes real fast, so it always leads the parade.”
820 combined hp
This 1978 Caterpillar DD9H is a double tractor configuration that measures 42-1/2 feet long and weighs 178,000 pounds. With 820 combined hp, the rig had no trouble gaining right of way.
Owner: Dick Colf, Woodland, Wash.
Dan Thompson, Winnemucca, Nev., is the third owner of this 1893 4 hp Golden Gate engine manufactured by Adam Schilling & Sons, San Francisco. “It was originally purchased to power a family-owned gold mine,” he says. “The man I bought it from was 79 when he sold it to me. He had never seen it run, but he remembered playing on it as a kid. I assume it was used to run a small crusher or something like that.”
When Dan got the engine it was complete except for one oiler and the muffler. “It was in fairly decent shape but it had a lot of extremely fragile parts,” he says. He did a complete restoration and built a cart.
The engine has an unusual design, with an overhead camshaft that controls the stroke of the intake valve. “It’s kind of like an early fuel injection system,” Dan says. “It has a lot of moving parts and it runs beautiful. People really like to watch it run.” Schilling engines are rare; Dan says he knows of only four or five others like his.
When Roy Thompson’s 1915 Russell 20 hp steam engine was shipped from Massillon, Ohio, to Gervais, Ore., in May 1915, it created a minor spectacle. “The buyer had ordered the engine and a railcar full of equipment,” Roy says. “Two men in their 90s told me independently that farmers came from miles around, with picnic lunches, to watch it all be unloaded.” Nearly 100 years later, the 22,000-pound behemoth still draws crowds.
Roy’s father-in-law, a steam enthusiast, bought the Russell when it was retired from active duty in 1952. After his death in 1968, the engine went to Roy by default. Today, the engine is permanently housed at Antique Powerland — where another generation has mastered its intricacies: Two of Roy’s grandchildren routinely operate the Russell. “It’s more than just a hobby,” Roy says. “It’s people meeting people; it builds a common connection.”
1 of a kind
This mini-crawler was crafted from stray parts and pieces: an old shop sander, dish drainers and a cleverly repurposed kitchen spoon.
10 cast iron seats
The first time Loretta Spegel, Brooks, saw a collection of cast iron seats, she was hooked. “A man in Great Falls had 10 seats for sale, so I bought them,” she says. “Then I read about a Cast Iron Seat Collectors Assn. convention and I went to that. I came home with 30 or 34 seats. I had never seen anything so interesting.”
Loretta is quick to admit hers is no rarified collection. “I don’t have anything expensive,” she says, “and I paint them whatever colors I like; I just use my imagination. I’m not all serious about this; it’s just for fun. But it’s addictive. Sometimes when I buy a seat, someone will ask what I’m going to do with it. ‘I’m going to look at it,’ I say. I feel sorry for people who don’t have hobbies.”
The story of B.J. Rowland’s 5 hp Weber sideshaft is the kind of tale that makes you shake your head. Dating to about 1900, the Weber is one of three known to exist. A transitional engine just predating the early 1900s, when Weber discontinued use of hot tube ignition systems, this one has both igniter and hot tube ignition. And now for the head-shaking part: It turned up at a garage sale.
“It was all in pieces,” says restorer Jack Finzel, Veronica, Ore. “All we got was the flywheel, crankshaft, head and block. There was no muffler, no tank, no oiler, no nothing. People from New York to Idaho helped us find parts to use as patterns for replacements.”
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.
Powered by a 2 hp Weber, a Weber pump jack toiled busily. A 6 hp Weber winch engine and a 6 hp Weber Model G throttle-governed ran nearby.
A Fairbanks-Morse Eclipse pumped water for a display. “We like water,” Don says. “Boys, water and mud … With water we can accomplish something and have it do something. And we can watch kids have fun.”
The three-generation hobby started with Don’s 1895 2-1/2 hp gearless Weber Junior. “It sat in the garage for 35 years,” Don says, “stuck. Back then, stuck meant ‘oh god’. Now it just takes a little longer.” Once the piece was restored, the trio needed something to use with it. That’s where the Weber pump jack came in. “That was a winter project,” Don says. An old coal stoker auger, a brass pump from eBay and a plastic tube: voila! “It has a 9-inch stroke and pumps about a gallon of water per stroke,” Frank says. “We like our engines to run something.”
The Brooks show marked the first time the Webers’ Webers were on display and running at the same time. The collectors have special appreciation for the line. “Weber engines were built to work,” Don says. “They’re heavy, strong-running engines. It’s all two of us can do to start them and get them to turn over.”
Members of three generations bring a useful blend of skills and abilities to their shared hobby. “I do the welding and fabrication,” Frank says, “and Tim and I do the cranking and heavy lifting.” “And I do all the paying,” Don says with a mock grimace.
6 cords a day
When drag saws made their market debut, prospective buyers could hardly resist the pitch. “With a crosscut saw, you could cut one cord of wood a day,” says Ken Lang, Forest Grove, Ore. “But with a drag saw, they said you could cut six cords a day. That’s a pretty good selling point!”
Drag saws are widely collected in the Pacific Northwest but Ken was slow to embrace the hobby — even though a saw that once belonged to his father-in-law had been tucked away in his garage for nearly 40 years. At some point, it clicked. “I started going to swap meets and I just got hooked,” he says. “Then people just started giving them to me.”
The relics generally need a lot of tender loving care. “Most have 2-cycle engines; some are 4-cycle. They’re usually basket cases,” he says. “They’ve been sitting in fields and leaky barns for 50 years. You just have to start from scratch. It may take four donors to make one.”
Fewer than 100 built
Production of the Scotty garden tractor never topped the century mark. “They just didn’t work out that well,” says collector Steve Johnson, Salem, Ore., who sold this one to Dennis Holmes. “But that’s what makes it collectible.” Built in Salem, the 1957 Model B4 Scotty has a 3 hp Briggs & Stratton engine. “When I found it, I had never heard of Scotty,” he says. “I had no idea where it was made. It was really cool to find out it was locally made.” Steve’s display included a 1955 E-Z Kuter, a remote-control mower built in Portland. “I really like the oddballs,” he says, “especially when they’re made locally.”
The garden tractor hobby is going strong in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, he says. “With all the gardens and truck farms here, you can still find a lot of this stuff. I think the hobby is growing. The big engines and tractors have been collected for a long time. But this (garden tractors) is still young. People who live in town can fit a couple into their garage. We have as much fun as anybody else!” FC