3390 S. Co. Road 250W North Vernon, Indiana 47265
Close on to twenty-five years ago, Otto Heffelmire, of New Palestine, Indiana, bought a small Russell steam traction engine at an auction. Fate, perhaps, intended Otto to have the engine, because it sold for $310.00, the exact amount of money he had on him. Whatever the reason, he got it, and in the fall of 1993 Otto and B&B Steam Restoration of Greensberg started restoring the engine.
We think Russell and Company built the engine in 1890 or '91. The double riveted lap seam boiler has an overall length of 10' 3' and a barrel diameter of 26 inches. The firebox measures 30' long by 33' high by 22' wide. The water bottom boiler contains 33 two-inch flues.
The engine, s/n 4845, carries a 73/8 by 10 inch cylinder with a Gidding's double ported valve. Otto had the cylinder bored out slightly to clear some pits. B&B had to replace the inside and outside firebox sheets and the smoke box and front tube sheet, but otherwise the boiler looks good.
One thing makes this engine stand out, and hopefully someone who knows Russells can shed some light on it. In the place of Russell's normal shifting eccentric reverse, this engine has a modified Woolf reverse. A wrought iron frame, caps crewed to the steam dome, carries a slide block counter shaft and the moving parts of the valve gear.
The crankshaft shows no sign of any missing parts. The iron frame wraps neatly around the steam dome rivet heads and has well formed babbitt bearing boxes for the counter shaft. We think it is either a one of a kind experiment from the factory or an extremely good conversion in the field.
If anyone has some more information about Russell engines with a Woolf reverse, please write to the IMA, because we would like to hear about it.