Restoration of an Engine

Sawyer Massey

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9313 4th Line, R.R. # 5, Milton, Ontario L9T 2X9

Sawyer Massey # 3368 at the Santa Claus Parade in Milton, Ontario, November 1986. Gladys Hume driving the engine, Sherwood Hume, operator, engineer.

Engine History to 1974

Sawyer Massey Steam Traction Engine No. 3368 was manufactured by the Sawyer Massey Company of Hamilton, Ontario, in 1913, on Wellington Street North. Bill Johnson of Burford, Ontario told me there were only five 25 HP Side Mount engines ever made. The only other one I ever saw was in Saskatoon, on an earth berm around the museum there. There were lots of rear mount engines made, but not many side mount engines. A side mount engine has the rear axle mounted on the side of the firebox, as opposed to going straight across behind the firebox. Engine No. 3368 is a 25 HP single cylinder, simple slide valve, western ploughing engine. It was manufactured for the sole purpose of ploughing the western prairie. It weighed in at approximately twelve and a half tons, empty of water, had steel cleats on the rear wheels, a steel guide ring on the front. Unlike a lot of engines, this one never had a canopy. Many engines had a canopy (a roof) to keep off the sun and rain in order to protect operator and machinery alike. No. 3368 had none. It also did not have side water tanks, a tank on each side to hold an extra supply of water and no headlight. A kerosene or carbon headlight was usual in those days, but not on this engine. It can only be assumed that it was ordered this way. None of the extras; it was to be a plain Jane.

No. 3368 went west in the spring' of 1914 we can only suppose, by rail, as that was the only way in that time. It was unloaded somewhere in the province of Saskatchewan and spent all its working life there. We know it ploughed and threshed and did all the things that steam engines did in those days. Mr. Johnson told me that it was driven into the Museum in Saskatoon in 1948? still hooked to the plough. It never sat idle a whole summer and it worked all through the Second World War. With the coming of more tractors and combines, it was retired and given to the Museum. Just how Bill Johnson got it out of the Museum, he never would tell me. I suppose he traded something for it to make the swap. I'm quite sure he did not buy it using money. Bill told me he first saw the engine in the late 1940s, and after subsequent trips back there, he became the owner. Lawrence Oliver was in the trucking business at Bur-ford at the time. He went to Saskatoon with his truck and brought the engine home for Bill Johnson.

Now, Bill was in the business of cutting up engines and using the boilers only to steam tobacco greenhouses and kilns. However, No. 3368 escaped the torch and was never touched. Bill always liked that engine and he would steam it up, just to drive it around his farm. In 1961, the first steam show was held in Milton, Ontario, and Bill Johnson was one of the instigators. So, Bill had Lawrence truck the engine to the first Milton Steam Show.

By 1962, I had a low bed float of my own and I believe I trucked the engine to the 1962 show. I trucked that engine to many shows for the next few years. It was always a favourite of mine.

I remember one time, I was trucking the engine to the Ploughing Match at the Massey Ferguson Farms at Milliken. I had two engines on the float. In order to get two on, the one on the front had to have its front wheels up on the gooseneck of the trailer. I don't remember why the Sawyer was on the front, but it was. We were trucking up a storm along Number 8 Highway through Galt, Ontario. There was a railroad bridge. It looked high enough, but it wasn't. I can remember looking out the rear window, just in time to see the smokestack coming down the road beside the trailer, end over end, in a lot of pieces. I stopped and gathered up the pieces and thought, 'Oh my gosh. What am I going to do now?' I had to have the engine ready for the show the next day but I couldn't take it to the Ploughing Match in that condition.

So, I came back to Milton and went to see my friend Ernie Baty. Ernie was somewhat of a genius with a welding rod, and he spent all night piecing the smokestack back together, while I slept in the cab. Next morning, we put it back on. Ernie got some black paint and we were on our way, as good as new, or almost! I eventually told Bill Johnson about our mishap, but not for a year or two. He said he had never noticed anything.

Well, one day I was trucking the engine home from the Milton show. I was informed the engine was to go to Woodstock, as it had been bought by Winn Nichols. We took it to a barn that Winn had rented near Woodstock. Several years passed. One night at the Milton Steam Show, Winn was complaining about the fact he had to get the engine out and tested for another year, the hand holds put in, and so on. I said to him that I thought the best thing he could do with the engine was to sell it to me. Winn thought for a moment, looked at me, and said, 'Maybe.'

In 1974, the International Ploughing Match was to be held in our area, the County of Halton. I was chairman of the Antique Committee, and things were going well. I saw Winn Nichols one day about bringing the engine to the Ploughing Match. He said, 'Yes, I will bring it, but you can take it home.' So it was in this way that I became the proud owner of Sawyer Massey Engine No. 3368 in the fall of 1974.

We Enjoyed the Engine

I had never run a steam engine before. My dad never did have a steam engine on the farm. His first power after horses was an 8-16 International Tractor, bought new in 1918 (and that's another story!). I was like a big kid with a new toy. We soon learned by trial and error what to do and not to do.

I had two young sons who were eager to get at it too in their mid-teens at the time. We took the engine to steam shows and ploughing matches all around the area. We would go to five or six shows a year with it. It was easy then because we had our own trucking company and did a lot of moving in and out for general shows. So, we would take our engine, too.

After a few years, I thought it would be nice if we had a water wagon tank to go with the engine. I searched and searched for one but none were to be had that were any good. I approached a man who was excellent at wood-working and asked him to build me a new water tank from cedar. George McKinnless was his name and he lived in Walkerton, Ontario.

George was a barn framer by trade and he knew all there was to know about wood-working he had been doing it all his life. I told him what I wanted and he said he would see what he could do. I didn't hear from George then, for a year or two. One day, I saw him at a show and he said, 'Say, Sherwood, your water tank is about finished.' I couldn't believe my ears! I went to see him at his home, and lo, and behold, out behind the garage on two saw-horses, was a brand new water tank. It was made from cedar, all tongue and grooved, put together with rods around it, half round bottom, and flat on top just like the picture in the book that George had. He said, ' Sorry it took so long. I had a hard job to find enough two inch cedar with no knots.' I looked it over closely, and yes, George, there were no knots. He said, 'Oh, you couldn't have knots, because some day they might leak.'

We brought the tank home, mounted it on a wagon, and hooked it up to the engine. Now, I could take enough wood and water with me for half a day. What a joy that was!

I think the biggest and best thing we ever did was to take the engine, sawmill, shingle mill, threshing machine, and several tractors to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). The CNE celebrated its 100th birthday in 1978. I was invited to take a selection of my equipment to Toronto for the entire length of the exhibition twenty days. A deal was struck with the management and we were there. Part of the requirement was to go in the parade. The parade at that time was ten miles long. We put hard rubber tractor tires on the wheels of the steam engine and we were trucked off to the Toronto CNE grounds. The first day was parade day and we left the CNE grounds about 7:00 AM. to go to Queen's Park, the parliament buildings for the province of Ontarioa distance of about ten miles.

I was going up Spadina Avenue with the engine, water tank full of water with wood on top, and threshing machine. The reach broke in the wagon, So, there we were! What to do!! We had taken chains and binders and some jacks with us. We got it jacked up and pulled back together with the equipment we had. We arrived at Queen's Park just as the parade was pulling out at 1 PM. We were nearly out of water in the tank. Luckily, the fire department truck drove up beside us. I quickly got off the engine and went over to them to ask for water. No problem! They put about 600 gallons in the wagon in a matter of minutes. It was a very sunny day, and hot. We made it back to the CNE grounds about 4:30 PM, right on time.

The rest of the twenty days was spent right by the front door of the Coliseum. We sawmilled and cut shingles had a good time. It was hard work, but the crowds every day did love to see the engine work on the sawmill. I was glad when the twenty days were over and we had everything moved back home. It was a good time a time I will never forget.

We participated in shows and parades in the following years Santa Claus parades and so on.

Finally, in the spring of 1987, the boiler plate proved to be too thin to be safe. The engine had to be retired. We looked at doing repairs, but that was useless. One thing would be done, and then another would crop up. In the summer of the same year, we put the engine away until we could decide what to do, financially as well. It was a hard decision because we enjoyed the engine so much. The boiler inspector had said no more, so without a ticket on the boiler, we were out of business.

How and Why and What For

I went all over the country looking at engines, at boilers, talking to owners, and discussing what to do with my engine. I went to Pennsylvania to talk to Willis Abel. He said he could do boiler repairs, had done lots of them. He had several engines and did an excellent job. I never saw any better repairs made to a boiler than at Willis Abel's shop. However, the more I talked and the more questions I asked, it became more and more apparent to me that a whole new boiler was the only answer. With repairs, several thousand dollars are put into a boiler, and you still have an old boiler. No one seemed to want to build a whole new boiler. I couldn't understand why not. Well, I soon found out why. Insurance. Insurance was so heavy for liability that no one wanted to touch it. I talked to and corresponded with a man in Ireland that I had met at Willis Abel's. He would build me a new boiler, but it would be almost impossible to have it A.S.M.E. approved. I forgot the idea, quick. It had to pass in Ontario.

I found out something that not too many people know, and not many were willing to tell. To manufacture a new boiler to be used in Ontario, the blueprints must be signed by an Ontario Resident Engineer. No engineer would sign someone else's blueprints. So, we ended up in Seaforth, Ontario, to see a man by the name of Charlie Smith.

Charlie had his own company making boilers, every day of the week. He was an engineer in his own right. It just so happens that Charlie's ancestors owned the Robert Bell Engine and Thresher Company at Seaforth. This company made steam engines and threshers for many, many years. When they were through, Charlie bought the company, land, buildings, machinery, and all. A new company came out of all this called 'Boilersmith.' Charlie had built some boilers for engines before mine and has made many more since. He came and looked at my engine, made some notes, and went back home. I shortly received a quote for a new boiler.

All this took about five years. We did not move on it quickly. Now, the decision to act was on my shoulders. Should we go for a new boiler or not. My wife was very supportive of the idea because she enjoyed the engine as much as I did. She had driven the engine in many parades, gone to many shows, ploughed with it. She wanted to see it fixed as much as I did. Questions were asked and discussed if we spent all that money on the boiler, would the engine be worth it afterwards? Would it sell some day for enough to get our money back? Would there be a buyer out there somewhere? I did a lot of digging and asking, and talked to a lot of men. Strangely enough, I got the feeling that it would be worth it, that it would be a saleable commodity if it were fixed and put on the market. As it was, it was five cents a pound. So, in the summer of 1992, the decision was reached in our house that we would buy a new boiler for the steam engine for about $30,000. We would keep it and play with it. When it got to be a burden, it would go. Then someone else could play with it. I have never regretted that decision to this day.

Getting the Restoration Started

So having made that decision, how was I to get started? To install a new boiler is a mammoth undertaking. Where was I to start? What was I to do first? More importantly, who was going to do it? I decided I would not tackle this big a project in my own shop. Oh, I have a shop big enough for the job, physically, but I did not feel 1 had the expertise to complete the project. 1 talked to several people, some who had a hand in doing one before, but to no avail, they did not want to do another.

I talked to my good friend, William 'Bim' Watson. Now, Bim had put a steam engine together before, some years ago for himself. He and his brother, Peter, had done it. Bim had a shop of his own at Carlisle, Ontario, about ten miles from my place. I talked to Bim about it on several occasions, and the more I talked about it, the more of a challenge it seemed to be.

Bim is the kind of guy who loves a challenge something he can really get into, something he can sink his teeth into. So, after much thought and pondering, he agreed that, if I wanted, he would do his best. Now, Bim's 'best' does not come easy, it has to be perfect or as close to perfection as humanly possible, or it is no good at all. Being close or as good as one can do, is not good enough for Bim. It has to be better than that.

Now I must go back here a little to more of the history of the engine. When the boiler of the engine failed to pass inspection by the Ontario Pressure Vessels Branch of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations (M.C.C.R.), naturally, I thought that all I had to do was ask, what do I do to get it passed? Simple answer, I thought. Alas, no simple answer was forthcoming. Being the government bureaucrats that they were, there were no simple answers. The inspector said he thought the boiler fire box was thin and ordered an ultrasonic depth meter test. It proved he was right. He suggested we cut out the side plates on the fire box, inside the boiler. We hired a ticketed boiler welder to come to our farm and do this. New plates for each side were ordered and received and made ready for installation. Stay bolts seemed to be fine, but the inside sheet at the top of the mud ring was thin. Not much to weld to. The mud ring itself is cast iron and rivetted in, and you can not weld to it. So, the inspector looked at it again and decided that even if we did put the side plates in, it still would not pass. At this point, we should have quit. But, we did not we had the side plates put in, and all looked well. However, when we did a hydrostat test, we had leaks at the mud ring. However, as is usual after a few repairs were made, we decided to fire it up. As long as we kept lots of water in it, what could go wrong, we thought. We fired it up, not just for an hour or two, but for two days. The mud ring leaks were minimal, they pretty well took up. But, the crown sheet over the fire box leaked like Niagara Falls. What were we to do? That's why the decision was made in the summer of 1987 to put it away in the shed, for another day.

On October 10, 1992, we hired trucker Jamie McBay to take the engine to Bim's shop at Carlisle. That was the start of the physical restoration, and it also turned out to be a day when I was very sick. I remember going in my pickup, but I don't remember coming home. However, I soon got over it, whatever it was, and was eager to get at the dismantling of the engine.

Dismantling and Rebuilding

Now, I couldn't spend every day at Bim's shop. I had business to attend to and other things we still had to make a living. Also, I wanted to let Bim work at his own speed. So, when I could, I would go there and help him with the dismantling process. We took my John Deere forklift to his shop to lift the pieces that were too heavy to lift by hand. We soon realized that there were not many pieces that could be lifted by hand. Everything was heavy. The first main job was to remove the main crank shaft across the top, which we did without much trouble. However, I did break the eccentric ring doing this, but later when it was welded, it was as good as new. The castings were held to the boiler with seventy-eight studs, inch in size, with nuts. We got some of the nuts off by heating them, but never did get any one stud out of the boiler.

After we had got all the nuts off the studs, we still could not loosen the castings on the studs. They were rusted right on there. We finally had to take the torch and blow all the stud away, right down into the hole in the casting. They were on there, tight, very tight. They had been there seventy-six years, and were not about to give up very easily.

Finally, they were all off. The big back wheels weigh about a ton each, but were no trouble to handle with the forklift. The castings that hold those wheels to the boiler now that was quite another matter! They weigh five hundred to eight hundred pounds each and there are two of them on each side. This proved to be the hardest job so far. Eventually, as we persisted, they came loose and were removed. Under the big castings that held the back wheels on, there was about half an inch of scale rust. No oil had ever got down there and over the years, as water from the wheels had entered, rust had formed under the castings.

I would not have believed this if I had not seen it. There was no rust under the engine castings, as oil had got there, but under the rear wheel castings, it was a mess. We also ran into some cold weather, as this was all done outside, and we were held up for a time. Finally, in the week before Christmas of 1992, the old boiler was bare and we had no trouble picking it up and putting it onto my tag-along trailer for the trip to Seaforth, Ontario.

Boiler smith Company at Seaforth wanted the old boiler to check it out exactly for measurements on the blueprints of the new boiler. Some interesting facts came to light at this point. First of all, the old boiler at the firebox end was one inch wider at the bottom than at the top of the side of the firebox. In other words, the firebox of the boiler did not have parallel sides it was one inch wider at the bottom. This difference would have to be accommodated for when reassembly began because the new boiler was built in jigs and was exactly parallel. The old boiler is 3/8 inch smaller in the centre section than it is at the firebox end or at the smoke box end. In other words, the barrel is two pieces, one inside the other, a two-piece barrel. On the smaller piece, about three feet long, there are five castings studded to the boiler. Now, the new boiler would be perfectly straight all the way through. So these old castings were all on the wrong curvature for the new boiler. They were all 3/8 inch too small. What to do?

We loaded up all the castings in the pickup and took them to a machine shop in Stratford, Ontario. We had them put in a big radial boring machine and turn out 3/8 inch of each casting. They were more than an inch thick, so there was lots of material. They did an excellent job, because when we came to reassembly, everything fit just fine.

All the parts lay out in the snow during the winter of '92 - '93. Sometimes I would look at them and wonder if it would ever run again. They were a sorry looking sight just a bunch of junk, but I had confidence in Bim's ability to make something out of it, so I did not say much. When spring came and the sun got warmer, we had to get back to the engine and parts. We decided that all the parts should be sandblasted and painted. I inquired at several places about getting this done but nobody seemed much interested in doing the parts as parts. If we put it together again and brought them as a whole machine, lots were quite willing to sandblast and paint the whole thing. As parts, no one was much interested.

So, Bim thought he could get a guy to come there with a portable sandblaster truck and do the job. He came and looked and gave us a price on doing all the parts. About ten tons of parts! We struck a deal and on the appointed day, he came. He was there quite early one day in March. He worked all day sandblasting and priming the parts. It was a bigger job than it looked and took longer than anticipated, so I paid him more than his contracted price.