Picture 1

Content Tools

405 N. Clinton Wenonah, New Jersey, 08090

A. D. Mast told me he could not believe his eyes when he first saw the model of the 1872 steam fire engine, Idella, at the Shenandoah Steam and Gas Engine Association show in Berryville, Virginia, last summer. He was so impressed he asked its builder, Mr. James Lockhart, to bring the engine to Rough and Tumble's Reunion in Kinzers, PA. When I arrived at Rough and Tumble that weekend in August there was an unusually large crowd of people gathered around one exhibit. In the center of that crowd stood the most amazing model I had ever seen, its brass and silver sparkling in the sunlight. There was no way to talk at length on that occasion with Mr. Lockhart about how he had built this working model, so A.D. and I visited him during the winter at his home and shop in Rockville, Maryland.

According to the history Mr. Lockhart has compiled, the original Idella, No. 169, was built in 1872 by L. Button & Sons in Waterford, New York. (See photos #1-2) Its first owner remains unknown, but the fire engine was purchased in August, 1885 by the Independent Fire Company of Charles Town, West Virginia. Until that time Charles Town relied on man-power to pump its water from the few hydrants in the town. The purchase of the Idella enabled the fire company to draw water from almost any available water supply. The Idella was horse drawn until 1914, when the fire company purchased a Republic, chain-drive, solid tire truck to pull the fire engine. The Idella fought fires until 1925, and in 1929 was placed in storage when the fire company replaced the Idella and its means of transportation with a new 750 GPM Mack fire truck.

Jim Lockhart was born in 1914 and raised on a farm outside Charles Town, est Virginia. He moved, with his mother and two sisters, into Charles Town at the age of ten after his father was taken ill and died. Jim first saw the Idella in action when he was about ten years old, and the engine immediately captured his imagination., As he recalls, 'It was a fire at night right down the street from where I lived, and there was as much fire coming out of that engine as there was from the building on fire.'

In order to help the family make ends meet, Jim went to work at age fourteen for Mr. C. P. Weller at his machine shop in Charles Town. He would go to school during the day and work during the evening. Jim maintained contact with the Idella during that time because Mr. Weller's shop did all the repair work on the engine. Jim stayed with that machine shop after attending high school and became a master machinist. He married Mildred Pentz in 1936, and about four or five months later his boss was stricken with a heart attack and died. The business folded, and Jim went to work doing the only job he could find at that time during the Depression, digging ditches for the gas company and doing some maintenance repair work for them. He stayed there for two and a half years until a friend of his who worked in Baltimore with a branch of the International Harvester Company told Jim about a job in Washington, D.C. In 1939 Jim moved to the Washington D.C. area to take that job with the Paving Supply and Equipment Company, which was a supply company and distributorship for International Harvester. In his twenty-five years with the company, Jim held positions from mechanic through service manager. When the Paving Supply and Equipment Co. announced its intention to move the plant in 1964, Jim decided to take a job with the Krauser Equipment Company, which was located just outside Washington D. C. in Fairfax, Virginia. He began as an Assistant Parts Manager, but then moved up to Parts Manager for thirteen years. During his tenure in that position, Jim was responsible for computerizing the inventory control and modernizing the parts handling and distribution operation of the company, which was a John Deere affiliate. In 1980, at the age of sixty-seven, Jim retired from industry and began to pursue a job even more demanding, and probably more time consuming he began model building. Actually, he had already begun working on the Idella model in 1978.

Before leaving Charles Town, West Virginia in 1939, Jim was a member of the Citizen's Fire Company, one of two fire companies there. In 1951 he and his wife returned to Charles Town to participate in the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Jefferson County. At

That time he received permission, along with another member, Charles Coulter, to bring the Idella out of storage and restore it to working order for the celebration. After the festivities it was returned to storage. Then in 1978 the Independent and Citizen's Fire Companies of Charles Town hosted the West Virginia Fire men's Association Convention, and Jim returned for that event. He was surprised that the Idella was not on display, and soon discovered that it had been moved to another storage location and was once again in very poor condition. Seeing his lifelong favorite engine in scattered and neglected pieces, and realizing that he had never seen a model of a steam fire engine at a steam show, Jim decided at that moment to build a scale model of the original.

Later that year Jim and his neighbor, Joe Bradshaw, who helped him throughout the ten year project, traveled to Charles Town to photo graph and measure the Idella. Members of the fire department must have been inspired by Jim's decision, because when he returned to Charles Town a year later, the Idella had been cleaned up, painted, polished, and placed on the main floor of the Fire Department building. The entire construction of the model is based on those fifty or so photographs and a few pages of measurements taken from the original. As Jim said to us, 'You can sit down and read all about this of how it was designed inside. But then to get your calculations to come out correct why you couldn't arrive at the calculations you had to have. But by having an original to go to and stick a rule on, you can really come up right down to a gnat's whisker on it.'

With photographs and measurements in hand, work could begin on the one-quarter scale model. Between 1978 and 1980 Jim concentrated on over twenty-five patterns for castings necessary to build the engine and pump the model. (Photos #3 and #4) Some of the patterns such as the maple flywheel, had to be hand carved. (See photo #5) Jim brought his patterns to a friend of his, Edwin Hartman, who made the sand cores for the castings in his small brass foundry in his garage and back yard. While he waited for the castings to be made, Jim began on an exact duplication of the Idella's sixteen spoke, wooden wheels. Each one of the spokes is a tapered oval that decreases to a zero point at the hub and must meet the felloes at a point such that each spoke is equidistant from every other spoke around the rim. (Photo #6) To make the taper Jim made one jig for his radial arm saw that held his unfinished spoke at the desired angle. Then he took the tapered spoke to another jig he made for use with his shaper. The second jig had a screw and lock in it to enable him to pass the miniature spoke across a half radius cutter without placing his fingers too close to the blade. After each pass he turned the spoke one quarter turn until the oval was complete.

Once the castings returned from the foundry, Jim began machining them. The first part he machined was the engine cylinder. He turned the bore and faced the ends of it on a six-inch Atlas lathe. Then he milled the top and bottom of the cylinder on an Atlas milling machine, which he had found junked in the back of Ed Hartman's shop. The slide valve, cylinder head, and cylinder spacer plate were separate castings that were also machined on the Atlas milling machine.

Before he could use the milling machine, though, Jim had to repair it. When he brought it back home from Ed Hartman's shop, the machine was in pieces and had no shaft. A previous owner had decided to revamp the machine by putting a chain drive in it, but ruined it in the process. As Jim put the milling machine back together he discovered he needed new pulleys, which he made out of locust, using brass plates as guides on either side. Then he put in a timing belt, and it has been running smoothly and quietly ever since.

One of the most challenging jobs he faced with the milling machine was manufacturing the hundreds of bolts, nuts, and screws he needed. The original bolts were 'blacksmith made' in 1872, at a time when there were no automatic bolt machines, threading machines, or equipment to machine any cap screws or bolts. They were all hexed, and also had what is called a 'high crowned head.' To duplicate them he made all of the bolts, nuts, and screws to scale, hexed them, and crowned the heads. The only difference is that the originals were made from black iron, and the new ones are made from stainless steel. All the threads were chased on a lathe, and all the hexes were done using a divided head.