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Water Wagon!

Detail puts a shine on handcrafted Avery water wagon.

| June 2014

  • This 1916 16 hp Avery steam traction engine was pulled out of a Kansas riverbed; the Avery water wagon was handcrafted by Ted McNamara and Jody Hicks.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • A view showing detail on the wagon. Note the line of rivets just below the Avery company name.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • The seat, footboards and sideboards were the result of custom woodworking by Ted and Jody.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • The wheels were among the only parts that could be salvaged for this project from an old Standard Oil wagon.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • The restorers used white oak in constructing the wagon.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • The Avery engine’s tools are carried on the side of the water wagon. These are used to remove ashes.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Authentic detailing accentuates the quality of this project.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • The Avery bulldog logo is painted in bright yellow on the end cap of the water wagon.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • On original Avery wagons, this red water pump was used to pump water by hand to fill the more than 400-gallon tank. On this restoration, the pump is just for looks, as mechanical pumps are used to do the work much faster today.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Ted working with his Avery steam traction engine and Avery water wagon.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • View of the finished water wagon.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala
  • Jody and Ted with the 1916 16 hp Avery steam engine they and others restored.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • “Before” photo of the old Standard Oil Co. trucks used to support the newly constructed Avery water wagon.
    Photo by Ted McNamara
  • Nowthen club member Art Job built rear axles for the Avery, perhaps the most difficult part of the restoration.
    Photo by Nikki Rajala

When Ted McNamara and Jody Hicks decided to find an Avery water wagon to pair with a 1916 Avery steam engine salvaged from the Republican River in Kansas, they knew it’d be a major undertaking. What they hadn’t figured on was building the piece from the ground up. Using a black-and-white 1916 Avery catalog, that’s exactly what they did — and the finished product is stunning.

Members of the Nowthen (Minn.) Historical Power Assn. — including Ted and Jody — recovered the 1916 16 hp steam engine from Kansas in 2000; a handsome and thorough restoration was completed in 2007 (see Rescuing a 1916 16 hp Avery Steam Engine from the Republican River). Later, Ted became captivated by the idea of a matching water wagon.

First he found a 1916 Avery catalog on the Internet. “Then,” he says, “as luck would have it, I saw a Standard Oil fuel tank on wooden supports on trucks with steel wheels sold during an auction at the Nowthen show.”

The buyer, who wanted only the tank, left the trucks. Ted gathered up the pile and took it home. “It just lay there, all rotted,” he says. “The information in the Avery booklet said you could just buy the tank to put on your own trucks, or you could buy one complete with Avery trucks and everything. So I thought, what chance is there of finding the bottom part with a buckboard seat and everything? That’s how the whole thing got started.”

“Just like the restoration of the 16 hp Avery, the wagon was a labor of love,” Jody admits. “It was our desire to have something we could pull through a parade with the Avery steam engine. When Ted ran across that really bad set of axles laying out at the threshing show grounds after the consignment auction, the idea of building an Avery water wagon came to life.”

One major rule

The restorers had the illustration from the 1916 catalog, but that’s all they had. And even that document told only part of the story: The illustration showed one side of the “Avery Full Water Front Steel Tank.” The restoration process built up steam slowly.


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