Some men only dream dreams. Others, such as Don Bradley of Forsyth, Montana, make dreams become reality.
Don has realized his dream of eleven years of resurrecting the old 18 ton giant Avery thirty horsepower steam engine from its resting place at the 7000 foot level in the quiet forest at the foot of majestic Mt. Ellis. The steam engine has slept for fifty years surrounded by winter's deep snows and summer's meadow of bluebells.
Bradley has been an engine lover since he was a small boy on the home ranch in the Lee community near Ashland, Montana where he first fired up an Avery steam engine one size smaller than this one at age 11.
Since 1961, Don has dreamed of bringing the old Avery, built in the early 1900's, out of the mountains above Bear Canyon near Bozeman. It is one of only three large undermounted Avery engines left in the United States, after he gets this one built with his boiler on it. The other stands in a museum in Michigan and one in Iowa.
After years of checking records, getting permission from Forest Service officials, and purchasing parts from all over the U.S. and Canada, and many trips into New World Gulch above Bear Canyon to look the engine over, Don Bradley was ready, along with fifteen friends and relatives who came along to help him; to take on the perilous task of getting the engine out to civilization again.
Bradley, and two buddies, LeRoy Mickell and George Bradley, had built a stone boat in Bradley's shop to bring the engine out on. On March 2, all was in readiness and Bradley and his volunteers arrived in Bozeman. On March 3, an HD7 with back hoe was rented to prepare a pathway thru the steep, narrow, rocky gorge leading to the meadow in Park Camp where the old Avery rested. The first cat clipped off the embankment and a second cat was brought from Maudlow to pull it out and also to follow it up the mountain preparing the trail. March 4, the engine was reached at the foot of Mt. Ellis, and on March 5 the men began the arduous task of digging the engine out of the deep snow and soil where it had rested for fifty years since being used by Ike and Phil Aldritt at their sawmill and lumber camp.
The engine was buried nearly to the tops of its seven foot tall wheels. Parts were found buried in the hillside, and timbers from the old shed that once housed the giant had disintegrated and were found in the soil around the engine leaving it standing alone and unsheltered, exposed to the elements through the years.
The two huge 2000 pound rear wheels were removed to lighten the load and placed aside to be brought out separately. Meanwhile the massive bulk of the engine was jacked onto huge wooden planks to hold it off the ground so the stone boat could be placed under its massive frame. This procedure was a very delicate one where a single mistake could have been disastrous.
The crew who brought the old Avery down the mountain to Bear Canyon to be shipped to Forsyth, Montana where it will be restored after being in the mountains South of Bozeman, Montana for over fifty years all smiles just after reaching the canyon L. to R.: Front row - Chuck Hodge, Jr., Chris Biery, Walt Tadsen and Mike Bradley. Back row - l. to r.: Parks Moore, Jr., Al Falcon, George Bradley, The Boss-Don Bradley, Jack Ferguson, Bob Bradley and Doug Lovely. Courtesy of Margaret Lovely, Route 2 Bear Canyon, Bozeman, Montana 59715
Monday morning, March 6, one of the Cats was hitched onto the front of the engine and another onto the rear of the giant to serve as a brake holding its 18 tons back in steep areas coming down the narrow gulch to civilization.
Several stops were made to hitch and unhitch the Cats from the engine in order to clear and fill the trail down the mountain. It was a most awe inspiring sight to see the huge giant returning to the valley again down the same narrow path it trod fifty years before. This time with the use of modern equipment and many volunteers taking only four hours to complete the task that had taken ten days to accomplish in 1922 when it was laborously pulled up the mountain hitched to a team of horses on the front end to keep the engine from rearing up and rolling backwards down the steep incline. At that time huge logs were laid for a short distance, then pulled up and laid in sections ahead of the engine again all the way up the steep inclines until park Camp was reached with John Carlous who took on the rigorous task of driving the horses pulling the massive engine up to the camp for a sum of one hundred dollars.
Monday afternoon, March 6, the massive long sleeping giant reached Bear Canyon and shortly afterwards its wheels were brought out on the same sled it had traveled on during its journey out to civilization.
The engine as she looked at the foot of New World Gulch in Bear Canyon near Bozeman after her rear wheels had been attached to her body again so she could be loaded onto a waiting lowboy to take her to Forsyth, Montana to be restored as a forty horse engine. Courtesy of Margaret Lovely, Route §2 Bear Canyon, Bozeman, Montana 59715
Tuesday morning, March 7, the wheels were mounted on the Avery engine, and it was lovingly inched up onto heavy planking by the two Cats who brought if off the mountain. One Cat at the front of the engine and one at the side to balance the load placed it on a lowboy waiting to take it to its new home in Forsyth where it will be completely restored to its original beauty by Don Bradley. He also plans on placing a 40 horse boiler in it. Don's dreams will then be completely realized, but only because he was unafraid to dream of such a feat, and having dreamed, even when things seemed unsurmountable, he went on dreaming of a beautiful shining giant of an Avery engine that someday would stand before him, a finished product of his own hands. All because he dared to make his , dreams a reality.