History of a Frick Steam Engine

Tracing the lineage of a 60 HP 1926 Frick steam engine

1926 Frick

Arvid Hamilton's 1926 Frick as it appears today, a clean, well-preserved and and well-maintained engine by anyone's standards. Unlike many steam traction engines, Arvid's Frick saw active employment for almost 50 years, only really retiring from a working lifea round 1972.

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For me, this story started 34 years ago when I was 8 years old and my father, John Hamilton, took me to my first steam engine show in Kinzers, Penn. It was the Rough & Tumble Engineers Threshermen's Reunion in August at the Rough & Tumble Engineers Historical Association Museum. That first experience was all it took – the steam engine bug bit. The smell of burning coal, the sound of the whistles, the whirr, the growl and chugging of the steam engines, had taken their hold. Somehow, I knew at that young age that one day I would have my own steam engine. And here I am 34 years later, my childhood desire realized.

With the help of a generous gentleman, Ivan S. Zimmerman of Leola, Pa., and a few very kind friends, things fell together. I was able to purchase a steam traction engine in very good shape, needing very few minor, mechanical repairs. Along with the wealth of knowledge, generosity and craftsmanship of these friends, this steam engine was put in shape in short order.

Engine History

The steam engine I was fortunate enough to get is a 60 HP 1926 7 x 10 double-cylinder Frick steam engine, number 28803, boiler number 16133. This steam engine was order number 22926-B, written on May 26, 1926. The engine was shipped from the Frick Co. Inc. of Waynesboro, Pa., on June 19, 1926 to the original owner, John H. Burchard of Chestertown, Md.

George Willey of Earleville, Md., was acquainted with the first and second owners of the engine, and he was able to supply some information on this particular Frick. The first owner, John Burchard, used the engine for powering a sawmill and threshing machine until 1930. He then sold the engine to the second owner, his nephew, Roland Burchard of Odessa, Del. The engine was then used for threshing, cannery and creamery work, steaming milk lines. It was also used for moving buildings and pulling thorn hedges for the Delaware Road Department.

In 1948 the engine was sold to its third owner, Steven Zook of New Holland, Pa. Menno Hoover, who ran the engine for Zook (and one of those kind friends at Rough & Tumble I spoke about), was able to supply some further information on the Frick. According to Menno, the engine was then used for threshing, chopping/blowing silage and steaming tobacco beds until 1972.

It was then sold to the fourth owner, Willard Robinson of Harford, Pa. Robinson removed the insulating jacket from the boiler at that time and put rubber cleats on the wheels. Robinson did not use it for work, it was a hobby engine and parade piece during the time he owned it.

Some time around 1992 it was sold again, this time to William Stafford of Bear, Del. He owned the engine for about six years, and during that time he used it to run a little thresher. Then in the spring of 1998 it was sold again to Ivan Zimmerman of Leola, Pa. Ivan Zimmerman brought it back to Pennsylvania where it underwent greatly needed repairs to the boiler, roof and platform area, and then on May 13, 2000, the engine was sold once again, this time to me.

At last I have my engine. It's kind of like getting married or having a child. Anyone who has been there knows – a toast to the new family member or smoking cigars with the boys is not out of the question. (Please excuse the scribble writing. My wife, Kathy, is throwing the frying pans at me at this time).

All of this brings this engine's history up to date. I am doing minor maintenance repairs to the engine, and I'm continuing my hands-on education of the steam bug that bit me at such a young age. Thanks to my family and friends who have aided me in that education!