Ajax Portable

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Above, from left: A close up of one of the Ajax’s grease cups, eccentric and crankshaft; Pickering governor.
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Left: A close up of the smokebox shows the deteriorated condition of the flues, flue sheet and smokebox.
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Right: One of the Ajax’s spring-mounted stub axles.
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Left: Careful examination of the main casting shows the Ajax originally wore green paint and gold pinstriping.

Work on the Ajax threshing engine first
featured in the March/April 2005 issue of Steam Traction
continues. Since our first article appeared, members of the steam
community in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and New York have
contacted us, helping to supply information and answers to the many
questions I listed.

We have continued disassembling small parts from the main body,
and I have the governor broken down into pieces and ready to ship
to Joe Graziana for restoration. Further examination of the Ajax
shows that the front of the barrel at the fifth wheel is in rough
shape. The barrel is 36 inches in diameter, and we are still
looking for a front door and a driver’s seat. We have the correct
length of the tubes, 98 inches. Also, the first count on boiler
tubes was incorrect: there are 35, not 36. What was thought to be a
tube is actually a hand hole. The lower tubes need replacing, as
well as the tube sheet, but we don’t think this will be too hard.
It’s been suggested I not use stainless steel in retubing, as
stainless steel may not expand at the correct rate. I thank the
person who told me that. The firebox is in good shape, and still
has all of its grates intact. The firebox measures 49 inches long,
31 inches wide and 34 inches high.

We cleaned a section of the engine bed casting under the
flywheels and discovered the original paint colors and pinstriping.
The forest green and the odd pea green we found surprised me, but
the fully intact gold pinstriping really knocked me back. The dark
covering over the paint is pitch and old sawdust, which I think
protected Ajax’s paint as it sat outdoors all those years. I can
get the paint reproduced and have found a man who still does
pinstriping the old way.

One person asked about the picture of the piston housing shown
on page 7 in the March/April 2005 issue. The dent on the piston
housing is only on the cover, and the piston is not damaged. This
cover is lightweight metal, and easily restored.

The engine has a 9-1/4-inch bore and 12-inch stroke, and we now
know that this engine is rated at 65 HIP The shop (or serial)
number is 15544, and we are asking for help to nail down the year
of manufacture.

Also, in the first article we discussed how the rear stub-axles
are mounted with springs and locking nuts; we now have a very clear
picture of this. We also have learned that the hand brake is
correct and the brake shoe was made solely of wood. It did not have
a driver-operated front brake.

I’m still looking to find what kind of whistle and relief valve
Farquhar used on the Ajax. I don’t know if Farquhar’s name was cast
into the operator’s seat, or indeed what the seat looked like, and
I need information on the steam gauges and any other operating
parts used on the engine. Further, the tops of the grease cups for
the crankshaft are in rough shape, and I would like to know if they
had covers, and if so what they look like and how they sat on the

I received three pages of very useful material on engine
specifications. One thing that stands out is how the model name for
the Farquhar portable changed. It was variously called an Ajax
center crank engine on locomotive boiler on wheels, or a plain
portable or a locomotive rig. These three names are all

I am still asking the steam community for help in answering
questions, and if anyone has parts for this year machine, please
contact me. Again, I thank the people who have contacted me and
also Steam Traction for its help in pointing me in the right

Contact steam enthusiast Wayne Murphy at: 824 E. Road,
Tiverton, RI 02878; (401) 339-4287; w.m.murphy@att.net

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