This Is the Story of How I Became A STEAM ENGINE OWNER


Belted to Baker Fan in summer '93 (at my home).

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Box 3100 Findley Road Farmersville Station, NY 14060

I started out collecting gas engines. In 1986 my father bought a 5 HP Hercules from my aunt for $20.00. One thing led to another and by the winter of '92 we owned over 60 gas engines. They ranged from a Maytag up to a 3-ton, 20 HP Cooper-Bessemer.

In the spring of '91 I became good friends with Brad Vosburg of Centerville, New York. He used a stationary boiler to boil sap for making maple syrup. He let me fire the boiler some. I had never even touched a boiler before this; it was a good experience that led to a lot more.

When sugaring was over in mid-April and the spring work was caught up, it was time to play. Out came the traction engines from winter storage. First a 1923 65 HP Case, and then a 1909 45 HP Case. That summer I learned a lot from Brad and his dad, 89-year-old Wellington. By fall they let me run the levers occasionally. Pretty good for not ever touching a boiler some five to six months earlier.

In the spring of '92 the thought of owning an engine was a far-off dream of mine. I guess other people thought differently. It was the first week in July when a good friend, Tom Rich, called Brad. He told him there was a 65 HP Case for sale. It would be at the Chemung Valley Old Timers Show in Horseheads, New York, the following weekend. They thought I should go look at it. On Saturday morning Brad, Gwen (his daughter) and I headed for Horseheads. Tom Rich was operating the engine, as the owner was not there. He let me run it the better part of the day. By the time we left I had decided it would be a good investment.

The first of the week I was on the phone to the owner. After a lot of talking, the owner decided he really didn't want to part with the engine. I thought my dream was gone, as there are not a lot of engines for sale.

Brad, however, was still thinking. By Friday night he had remembered another engine. It was a Farquhar that had been for sale for several years. On Saturday morning Brad drove in my yard. He ask if I wanted to go to Hemlock Fair. He had called the owner, Mike West. The engine was for sale and he would fire it if I wanted to see it.

We arrived at the Fair before noon. It was terribly muddy but we were able to drive the engine around a bit. Me not knowing much about engines, I relied on Brad to point out any problems as far as how it ran. He said everything seemed good. I told Mike I would get back to him after I thought about it.

As soon as we got home Brad was on the phone. He called Brian Harris of North Tonawanda, New York. He was glad to hear that I had found an engine. He would be able to Ultrasound it for me on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday morning Brad, Gwen, and I headed for Hemlock fairgrounds. We met Brian there about 10:00 a.m. By 11:30 we had the boiler checked out. The Ultrasound showed the boiler to be in good shape. By 12:30 a price was agreed on and a down payment was made. We pulled the whistle off, to be polished, and headed home. I was now a steam engine owner.

The New York Steam Engine Association's annual show was coming up in a couple of weeks. I had the engine hauled directly to the show grounds instead of home. When the show was over I had them haul it to Alexander, New York. Their rally is on the weekend after Labor Day. On September 17, my engine finally made it home to Freedom, New York, almost two months from the time I bought it.

In November of '92 I started taking my new toy apart. The small parts I cleaned and fixed in our shop. The larger parts had to wait for warmer days. The biggest problem I found was the intermediate gear was worn badly. I had it sleeved and the shaft turned down at a local Amish machine shop.

When I purchased the engine, Mike gave me the address of a man in Hampstead, Maryland, by the name of Jim Gemmill. Jim collects Farquhar equipment of all kinds. I wrote Jim a letter asking for any information he might have on my type of engine. Boy, did that letter pay off! After several calls and letters I was rewarded with all the diagrams for color and proper pin striping for an engine like mine. He also got me a new firebox door and a full-size picture of the water tank decal. Later he sent me the following information he had found out about my engine.

This month's cover photo shows Scott Lester's 20 HP Style K Farquhar on July 1, 1993, on the occasion of its first fire-up after restoration. For Scott's tale, see 'This is the Story of How I Became a Steam Engine Owner,'

It was manufactured in 1920, (speculated that the order was canceled). The A. B. Farquhar Company used the engine to move machinery in the plant yard and to load large machines onto railroad cars for shipment from York, Pennsylvania.

In the early 1940s it was purchased by Arthur S. Young of Kinzer, Pennsylvania. During W.W.II Mr. Young loaned many engines to the Amish to evade the 'scrap drive' by the U. S. Government. After the war, most engines were returned to Mr. Young where he started the Kinzer Steam Show approximately 1949-50.

In the mid to late 1950s it was sold to a collector in Shoreham, Vermont. In September 1969, it was purchased by Bob Marshall of East Bloomfield, New York. Bob Marshall sold the engine to Glen Orbaker, date unknown. Michael West bought the engine in 1983 which brings us up to where this story started.

This information was given to Jim by Mr. Everett Young (son of Arthur Young). In 1993 Jim compiled his information on Farquhars. With this he knows of 12 traction engines left in existence in the United States. Five of these engines are style 'K' 20-60 HP like the one I own. Six of these are style 'K' 15-45 HP, and the last one is an old style 'Pennsylvania' traction engine.

Well, enough history for now. Back to where I got sidetracked. When all the cleaning was done, it was time to start painting. During the winter Brad's wife, Fran, painted the lettering on the water tanks. We put them in her spare bedroom in their house. By May the weather was good enough to pull the engine outside to paint the boiler and frame. Fran came down and did all the pinstriping to finish up the engine.

Threshing at Brad Vosburg's on Labor Day 1993. 45 HP Case in background, Farquhar in center, 65 HP Case on right.

On July 1, 1993, it was all back together and ready to fire up. It was a very exciting moment as the needle came off the peg on the pressure gauge. There were no leaks to be found in all the new piping. The only problem we had was when the throttle was shut off, the engine kept running. A little bit of investigating and it was discovered the throttle insides were backwards. A little adjusting and we were ready to go.

The first show was on August 12, 1993, at Pageant of Steam in Canandaigua, New York. The week following the show I had it at the Wyoming County Fair. That's eleven days of show altogether.

It sure got the look-over with its shiny new paint and new wood platform. I think I said 'Thank You' more in that eleven days than I have said in my entire life (27 years), but I still have one more big 'Thank You' to all the people in the story and many more not mentioned who helped in finding, getting, and restoring my 1920 20 HP Farquhar traction engine.

I hope you have enjoyed my story of how I got and restored my Farquhar. I would enjoy hearing from other Farquhar owners, or anyone for that matter, with questions or answers.