Frick Engine

Mr. Banks Smith on right and his father on the left, showing their ''Mystery'' Frick Engine. No date is given but Mr. Smith says it was early in the 1900s.

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R.D. 1, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania 17019

At one of the early steam shows held at the Williams Grove Park, a man approached me while I was operating a Frick portable engine and told me that he had run Frick portable engine while he was a young man.

Now this was a common story, but then he told me it was built rather unusual with the engine bed or frame in two parts connected by two heavy rods which served as the cross-head guides as well as hold the crankcase and cylinder castings together.

Never having heard of such an engine, I naturally became quite curious because the Frick engines were quite common in my section and yours truly spent many hours studying Frick catalogs even when a small boy.

After some conversation, he told me his name was Banks Smith of McAllisterville, Pennsylvania and that he presently owned a Frick traction so he was not feeding me a line. Mr. Smith told me the old portable was scrapped but he saved the two heavy rods and at present had one which he used as a garage door prop.

He also told me he had a photograph of his Dad and the engine, but it was the only one he had of his Dad and therefore did not want to lose it, which was understandable. After we had a nice visit he gave me good-by and left, but yours truly had a suspicion that he thought he had failed to convince me that there ever was such a Frick engine.

During the following months many inquiries were directed at all the older men I chanced to meet concerning this old portable but always drew a blank and the engine was more or less forgotten until the following year when Mr. Smith again showed up at Williams Grove with his photograph to prove his story. Now here was proof and yours truly decided to put more effort into finding the history of this type of engine.

After writing and studying the photo Mr. Smith agreed to loan me the picture to have it copied which was promptly done with the original and one copy returned to Mr. Smith.

The picture with this story is a copy and I have shown it to many men, none of which remember such an engine. In all the drawings and literature we have concerning the Frick Company, there is no mention of such an arrangement in even their very early ones built shortly after the Civil War.

In 1969 while visiting Mr. William Hovetter he told me what may be the answer but could not be sure. His story went something like this. When the Frick factory was small it could not keep up with the demand for Frick engines and in order to take care of their customers, Frick Company sold some engines of another make with their threshers.

Now it seems possible that this Mystery Engine' could have had a name-plate saying 'Made for Frick' or 'Sold by Frick' or even had Frick door castings with their name. Now if anyone has any information concerning such an engine it surely would be interesting reading.

Mr. Hovetter started as a young man with the Frick Company in 1910 and this past winter when we had a nice visit he told me of passing his 90th birthday. Time surely flies as it seems only yesterday when Mr. Hovetter was selling yours truly machinery from the Harrisburg Frick Branch Office, although it was in the early 1930' s.

It seems too, only a short time ago when we saved the Frick blueprints, patterns, etc. from the scrap pile, but it was over ten years ago and now one of our group is gone and we have sold everything to a new owner who we hope will continue with the parts business as in the days of yore.