Celebrating Steam Traction Engine Heritage

Restoration of a 1909 Lang & Button traction engine launched a new focus for a New York steam club.

| May 2015

  • Lang & Button steam traction engine
    The restored Lang & Button. The engine has two 35-gallon water tanks. The boiler draws water through steam injection from the bottom tank; the top tank is used to fill the bottom tank on the platform.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Post-restoration debut, August 2014
    During its post-restoration debut in August 2014, the Lang & Button provided power to a stationary hay press and a threshing machine, and made several runs over the parade route. Operators here are Dave and Barb Conroy, longtime club members and former owners of the Lang & Button. The Conroys are major contributors to the club's steam restoration projects and play an active role as volunteers as well.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Lang & Button steam traction engine
    Equipped with a removable platform, water tank and coal bunkers, the Lang & Button could be fired from the ground, an easier proposition for the engineer.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Barb Conroy
    Barb Conroy, one of the Lang & Button's former owners, threw the first match at the engine's post-restoration debut.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Annabelle Kelly in the firebox
    Annabelle Kelly, age 5, peeks through the engine's new firebox.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • 1909 Lang & Button engine before restoration
    The New York Steam Engine Assn.'s 1909 Lang & Button steam engine (shown here before restoration) is the only Lang & Button known to exist. Based on information found in an original owner's manual, it was a mid-sized entry in the company's line.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The Lang & Button's restoration nearly complete
    New boiler, fresh paint, partially reassembled: The Lang & Button's restoration is nearly complete.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • New York Steam Engine Association logo
    Since the New York Steam Engine Assn.'s inception in 1960, the club's logo has featured the 1909 Lang & Button steam engine.
    Image courtesy New York Steam Engine Assn.

  • Lang & Button steam traction engine
  • Post-restoration debut, August 2014
  • Lang & Button steam traction engine
  • Barb Conroy
  • Annabelle Kelly in the firebox
  • 1909 Lang & Button engine before restoration
  • The Lang & Button's restoration nearly complete
  • New York Steam Engine Association logo

When the New York Steam Engine Assn. Inc. got the opportunity to buy the steam engine that’s featured in the club’s logo, it was a no-brainer. The engine had been present at the club’s first show, in 1960, and it was a rare New York-built piece, the only Lang & Button known to exist.

Enthusiasm built quickly for restoration of the engine, which had not been run since 1976. More quickly than anyone thought possible, donations topped the $50,000 mark. “We got a lot of publicity,” says Rick Finley, association vice president. “There were a lot of people interested in that engine.”

But no one predicted the momentum the project would generate. Paint on the freshly restored Lang & Button was barely dry in August 2014, when the club took on a new project: restoration of an A.W. Stevens engine built before 1900. “The Lang & Button really got the ball rolling,” Rick says. “Restoration of these historic engines turned out to be something the club really wants to pursue.”

The Stevens engine was offered as part of a 2014 auction. The club authorized expenditure of up to $12,500 toward purchase, but as bids blew past that figure, club members and others stepped up to the plate with on-the-spot donations. When the final gavel fell, the club owned the engine, which sold for more than $29,000. Since then, the club has raised $74,500 in donations to underwrite restoration. “It’s amazing to me,” Rick marvels. “I would never have believed that possible six months ago.”



Designed for belt work

The Lang & Button was manufactured in 1909 in Ithaca, New York, about 60 miles from Canandaigua. The 12 hp traction engine was designed primarily for belt work. “You could steer and drive it,” Rick says, “and it would do some light pulling, but no plowing or heavy drawbar work.”

No definitive records exist, but the club believes the engine was used in a Pennsylvania sawmill. Certainly it was the appropriate size for that application, and Rick says the wear found on the engine is consistent with sawmill work.



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