Water Wagon!

Detail puts a shine on handcrafted Avery water wagon.


| June 2014



a 1916 Avery Steam engine

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

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.