On Top of Old Kentucky


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P.O. Box 83 Center, Missouri 63436

This 10 x 12 portable Frick, engine #26591, boiler #15997, is a double butt strapped boiler, made in April, 1925. It has 62 boiler tubes, two inches in diameter and 96 inches long. The firebox is 29 inches wide by 62 inches long by 54 inches in height. The smoke stack is 10 feet long.

The engine was shipped to North River Electric Company of Bridge-water, Virginia on September 11, 1925. There it was used to power an electric generator for the power company.

The engine was sold in 1937 to Floyd Wells of Wooten, Kentucky. He used the engine to power a sawmill, which helped him raise twenty-one children! Mr. Wells liked running his sawmill with the engine separated from the boiler, but he shut the engine down in 1969.

The engine and boiler were purchased by Victor Shepardson in 1985. The steam engine was way on top of a mountain in Kentucky. The picture at bottom right shows how the boiler looked when purchased, with the engine separated from it.

Victor Shepardson spent approximately 2 years restoring the engine. Before restoration began, he was told by many steam engine experts to call the junk man to cut it up for scrap.

The engine cylinder had to be bored out, and a new piston sleeve had to be machined and installed, new piston rings put on, and the piston shaft was machined and polished. Other parts were completely missing. Patterns were made, as well as parts borrowed, from similar Frick engines. Parts were taken to the foundry to be copied and poured, then installed.;

The boiler itself was a real mess. Inside the firebox the sides had to be cut out. About 24 inches of scale was inside. The sides were replaced as well as 115 stay bolts. New tubes were put in. A new smokestack had to be rolled and riveted. New axle bolsters were built with white oak. All work on the boiler was done according to ASME codes.

The engine, boiler and wheels were gone over with a hand grinder, then sandblasted. The boiler was painted with heat resistant paint. The engine wheels and bolsters were painted the appropriate colors. We found the color scheme in an old Frick catalog.

The steam engine was once again brought up to steam pressure of 85 pounds in June of 1987. After minor adjustments, it runs like a Singer sewing machine, very quiet and smooth.

It attracts a lot of attention from different age groups. It's safely preserved for future generations. Victor Shepardson has kept a piece of American history from being cut up by the junk man, unlike many other steam engines which met their end by cutting torch.

The engine has recently been donated to Grand Junction Steam Museum of Perry, Missouri.