1906 Russell

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Above: Owner Glen Christoffersen (right) and his father, Karl, operating the 1906 Russell steam engine around the Pacific Coast Dream Machines Show, Half Moon Bay, Calif.
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Opposite page: A June 1906 advertisement from The American Thresherman for Russell & Co.
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Glen (right) and his father, Karl, on the 1906 Russell.

If you like 13,000 pounds of hot iron and steel
chugging its way down the road under its own steam power, then this
Russell is your commuter vehicle. Few people will get in your way,
but it may take you a while to get to work at a walking speed of 2
MPH. This 1906 Russell has flattened the grass a few times at the
Pacific Coast Dream Machines Show in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

This show has taken place annually for 17 years at Half Moon Bay
Airport, next to Princeton Harbor. The Russell appears at the show
on a regular basis and last year’s torrential rains forced
organizers to cancel the show. The 2006 show would have been the
centennial for the Russell. Aside from fascinating tractors and
engines, such as this fully restored and running steam engine, the
Dream Machines Show features vintage cars, trucks, motorcycles,
aircraft and a tractor/truck pulling championship along with
airplane and helicopter rides. The airport is near the water’s edge
on the Pacific Ocean and was once home to the Half Moon Bay Drag
Strip. The airport is still quite busy, accommodating small
aircraft.

At the turn of the century, the Russell company was controlled
by five members of the Russell family who filled positions from
founder to vice president, secretary and two superintendents.
Engine no. 12857 is one of a total of 17,156 machines built by
Russell & Co. in Massillion, Ohio, between 1842 and 1927.

Specifications for this Russell are 12 drawbar horsepower and 36
brake horsepower at 275 RPM. The steam engine is a single-cylinder,
double-acting with a 7-1/2-by-10-inch bore and stroke. The flywheel
alone weighs 450 pounds. When the boiler is filled to operating
level it holds 125 gallons, which adds another 935 pounds. Top
speed is 2.33 MPH. This steam engine was originally sold through a
Russell dealer in Portland, Ore.

The Russell spent its working life as a threshing engine around
the Junction City, Ore., area. Willis Smith operated the engine
during its working life through the 1920s and 1930s. After it was
retired from threshing in the mid-1970s, the Russell began a new
career at the annual Scandinavian Days in Junction City operating a
flour mill.

Dr. Charles Whitcher of Stanford University (also the owner of a
1920 Buffalo Springfield steamroller) purchased the engine in 1988
from Robert Smith, Willis’ son, of Eugene, Ore. The Christoffersen
family of Redwood City, Calif., bought the Russell in 1993.

Full restoration of the 1906 Russell has been a family affair.
Owner Glen Christoffersen along with his wife, Margaret, and
father, Karl, spent hundreds of hours getting the engine to look
and perform as new. A new piston for the crosshead pump was
fabricated and a new water tank built. An injector was found by
Alan Schurman of Ridgefield, Wash. The correct paint scheme was
furnished by Tom Diehl of Navarre, Ohio.

The Christoffersens operated the Russell around the Dream
Machines’ show grounds, displaying to thousands of spectators
scrutinizing the multitude of machinery, under the auspices of the
Early Days Gas Engine and Tractor Assn., so it could be witnessed
at the show.

For more information, contact Albert Mroz at 1460 Middle
Ave., Menio Park, CA 94025-5850.

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