Sleeping Beauty

| September 2004

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the June 2004 Gas Engine Magazine.

Every now and then, an engine comes along that stops the entire old-iron community in its tracks. Charlie Inman's 20-hp Stickney is one of those engines.

Charlie seems almost embarrassed when asked to talk about the remarkable 20-hp Stickney he fished out of Montana's Milk River. Ever since he got it running last year, the Havre, Mont., resident has become something of a celebrity in the old-iron community. One of three 20-hp Stickneys known to exist, the history of Charlie's engine can be traced back to 1937. That was the year construction started on the Fresno Dam, 14 miles west of Havre in north central Montana.

Contractor's special

In 1937, the Stickney was just an old engine, a contractor's beast of burden running a pump or a light plant, just one part of a contingent of machinery employed to dam the Milk River.

Charlie's dad, Bert, was a mechanic attached to the dam project, and Charlie remembers him saying the Stickney ran almost constantly. 'Dad used to say that on a clear night you could hear that thing running, even though it was 2 miles away.'

When the dam was completed in 1939, the construction crews packed up and moved on, leaving the Stickney behind as junk. Charlie's neighbor appropriated the abandoned engine, hauling it a mile from the old dam workshops to his property on the Milk River. There, he set it up on the river bank running a pump to irrigate his crops. The years rolled by, and the Stickney stayed at its post.