Spalding's Corner

Looking for Clues to Mystery Engines

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Last issue's mystery engine has generated some interesting responses, and some question as to who actually made the engine. Initial letters to Steam Traction identified it as a Canadian-built Waterloo, and a check of Waterloo photos and catalog illustrations looked to confirm this. We thought the matter was settled, but then we started receiving votes for George White, also from Canada. A little research showed that some details of the engine would support that identification, as well.

We don't have a great deal of literature on either Waterloo or George White, making any identification but us tentative, at best. Then we received a letter from Canadian reader Bert Michel - complete with photos and catalog information - that we feel puts the question to rest: It's a Waterloo. Bert sent enough material to merit an article of its own, and we've laid it all out starting on page 6.

Our first letter came from Jacob Gardner, who also had some points to make about the as yet unidentified engine shown in the Summer 2007 issue. Jacob wrote: "The steam engine in the Fall 2007 issue is a Waterloo Mfg. Co. engine built in Canada about 1908. And the steam traction carriage in the Summer 2007 issue may be an early Westinghouse, as the boiler looks like it is a water tube and the final drive is v-belt like the one used on a Westinghouse."

Next up was Canadian reader Bruce Shellinglaw, who wrote: "The mystery steam engine (Fall 2007) is a Waterloo. Three identifiable features: 1) mountings of smokebox door (we had a 12 HP portable just like it), 2) cast cleats in rear wheels and 3) way the spokes are cast into the hub on the front wheels. I would guess a late 1800s or very early 1900s, about an 18 HP."

Mark Clark, also from Canada, said the same: "My guess is it's a Canadian-built Waterloo traction engine, very early model."

Then came the first letter from reader George Caddell identifying the engine as a George White. Caddell, who liked the photo for more than just the engine, wrote: "I have always enjoyed your mystery engine photos, but this one is so much more than just the engine, which I suspect is a Waterloo engine from Canada.

"The family gathered to get their photo taken, probably in the teens, maybe earlier or later - we may wonder where and if the engine survived, and could the daughter still be living? The father - probably the owner of the outfit, appears proud of it and his family. The mother dressed in her Sunday dress will probably be upset when she discovers the big blob of axle grease on the new dress. She also appears to be thinking about having to mortgage the farm just to buy this big hot, smelly steam engine.

"The shiny belt wheel indicates the engine is earning its keep on a threshing ring. The lantern hanging on the smokebox door latch indicates some night time travel between sets. What a wonderful photograph. Thank you for sharing it with us."

Finally, we heard from Canadian John Stutzman, who lives only 30 miles from where White engines were built. John wrote: "I would say your engine is a George White, possibly late 1880s. I have owned three George White engines in years past, but only one had a similar smokebox door and wheel. It had the same wiggly pattern of cleats. I would say the rear wheels were wider, though. I was told it was built in the 1890s. The belt pulley, smokestack, cylinder, reverse link, front axle, wheels and differential gear support and brace, 2-speed gear etc., all say George White."

We invite readers to share any information they have that sheds further light on the engine.

This issue's mystery engine comes, as usual, courtesy of John Spalding, 112 Carriage Place, Hendersonville, TN 37075 (genesis645@aol.com).

As ever, the first person to correctly identify the engine, by mail, gets a free copy of Prof. P.S. Rose's Steam Engine Guide. Good steaming!