Ajax Portable Engine Restoration

After decades of neglect, a Farquhar Ajax portable engine patiently awaits an engine restoration.

| March 2005

On Sept. 11, 2004, I traveled with my cousin Scott Fitzmorris to Bethlehem, N.H., to pick up a vintage Ajax portable threshing machine manufactured by A.B. Farquhar Co. Ltd., York, Pa. I purchased the engine from Daniel Tucker and his brother George Tucker Jr., who inherited it from their late father, George Tucker Sr. The engine originally belonged to the LaFlamme family of Littleton, N.H., and was auctioned off in 1972, which is when George Tucker Sr. purchased it.

In the 40 years it sat idle, trees grew up and through its works; the Ajax portable engine had been stationary so long the surrounding forest was slowly enveloping it.

After a few hours of cutting, we removed the Ajax from the trees. While taking stock of all the parts and preparing it for transport, we discovered the main support for the front axle (the support, or pivot, was often called a "fifth wheel") had grown quite weak. The 160-mile venture to its new home in Barnstead, N.H., was taken with great care.

More Questions than Answers

The Ajax is now comfortably settled. As we embark on an engine restoration, we are asking the steam community for knowledgeable help about this particular unit. We are in need of certain details of the operational mechanics of this machine, and in fact are still trying to nail down the size and the precise year the boiler was constructed.

From my experience with boilers, the number of tubes in this boiler (36 2-inch tubes) and the size of the flywheel (4-foot 6 inches) suggest this engine could be a 50 HP or larger. This is just an educated guess; I have nothing to base it on other than prior knowledge of regular steam boilers.

We need to know what kind of gauges and what type of steam whistle was on the machine. We are missing the driver's seat, along with the action it would have had to control the rear brake mechanism. The brake mechanism that is there now can be set by hand, but an operator would have to be able to control braking when using oxen or horses to transport the machine. We would be interested in learning what type of pad actually pushed against the wheel; was it made of leather or of a man-made material of some sort along with wood?

The engine's Pickering governor was made in Portland, Conn., and shows a manufacturing date of 1907. We have little information on this particular governor, and we'd like to confirm when Pickering governors of this type were produced. To the best of our knowledge the governor is fully intact. However, a tension guide runs from the governor to the main flywheel, and we need to confirm the length of the arm and the length and size of the strap, along with the correct pulley or controlling arm that was on the side of the governor.