Rare Ames Steam Engine: Ames Iron Works Design Prone to Boiler Explosion
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And it’s an ongoing process. The state of North Dakota, for instance, requires annual inspections; Minnesota requires inspections every other year. “All the plumbing is inspected, and they make sure all your apparatus is in order. That costs a lot, although often the show where I exhibit my stuff will pay for the inspection,” he says. “That’s one way they get to keep machinery at the show. If I had to pay for all of that out-of-pocket, it could get kind of rough.” Leaving the equipment on the grounds also saves him time and trouble of hauling the engines back and forth.
Mark isn’t particularly disappointed by the fact that the Ames doesn’t run. “I have so many other projects that this one gets the back-burner treatment,” he says. “But I wouldn’t rule out getting it done. Someday I’d like to fix up one of the really old ones just to take it back one step further, and see how they behaved when they were being used, because there’s a mechanical evolution in those things. Even 10 years’ time in the steam engine game meant a lot of improvement. It would be fun to see what one of those things would do.”
Particularly fun, since few Ames engines exist today. “They were prime targets for the scrap drive,” Mark says, “because they were definitely nonessential and out of service, and weren’t going to be put back in service.”
Which raises the question of how this particular model survived. “I’ve always wondered why,” Mark says. “If I had thought of it 15 years ago, I could have found out that and everything else I wanted to know about the Ames. But now it’s too late. All those guys who knew the history of this engine are gone.” FC
Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56369; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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