1914 Russell Steam Engine


| November/December 1993



Russell engine

Randy Sawyers with his 20 HP Russell engine, #14897. It will never look this clean again!

602 Valley View Drive Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503

Here are pictures of our 1914 Russell steam engine, 20 HP, Serial #14897, owned by our family located in Council Bluffs, Iowa. I purchased it from Roy Cole of Plattsmouth, Nebraska in 1968 for $1000.00. My dad, H. W. Sawyers, had a 20 HP Russell just like this one with the serial number only seven numbers later. He passed away when I was only four years old. The last time my engine operated was in 1941 on a sorghum mill. This engine was purchased new from the Clark Implement Company of Council Bluffs so when I purchased the engine it came back to Council Bluffs.

My sons, Tim and Dennis Sawyers, and I started restoring the Russell in September of 1991. We completed the project on August 30, 1992. The first thing we did was cut out all the old flues. This Russell is a Universal boiler with 36 two and a half inch flues. On a Russell Universal boiler there is a five inch flue with a damper on it on the back of the boiler to let air into the upper combustion chamber. This flue had a hole in it, so Tim made a five inch flue roller at work. It took eight hours to make the flue roller and ten minutes to roll the new flue. Tim and Dennis are tool and die makers, so they were good help on this project. We replaced all the plumbing with Schedule 80 pipe and fittings. A two inch elbow cost $45.00, so the plumbing was not cheap to do.

This engine had two side water tanks, a back water tank and a coal bunker. The only parts of the tanks that weren't rusted out were the tops. I had new sides made up at a sheet metal company in Omaha. The sides of the tanks, the sheet metal for the smoke stack, and the red and white valance around the canopy were the only work we did not do ourselves.

After the flues and plumbing were completed, we gave the boiler a 200 PSI cold water test (double our 100 PSI operating pressure). We wanted to feel comfortable working around this engine.

We made up new bottoms for the tanks, and then we started riveting them together. There are over 1100 inch rivets in the tanks and coal bunker. Making the tanks took the most time of anything we did. It took a three man crew to rivet the tanks: one person heating with the torch, one man bucking, and one man with the rivet gun. By working fast we could put in a little over 100 rivets an hour.