With many years of traveling throughout the states in search of steam engines and being a collector of engines myself and the owner of 12, I would like to say that one of the nicest restored steam traction engine collections that I have ever seen is owned by a friend of mine, Willis R. Abel of Finleyville, Pennsylvania.
Willis bought his first engine in 1966 which was a 1920 25/75 Russell which was made in Massilon, Ohio. The Russell was purchased from Zeno Hawk of Dover, Ohio. The Russell was completely disassembled by Willis and spread out in parts until reassembling. He put in a new tube sheet, new firebox, new grates, wheel bearings, cleats, water tanks, steam pump and flues, new roof and new platform. The Russell had been shown at the annual Tri State Historical Association every year since completion at both the Dean Fullerton Farm and Hookstown Fairgrounds.
The second engine that Willis acquired was a 1912 110 Case from Dean Redd which was formerly owned by Charles Harrison in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. The Case was hauled in by two flatbed truck loads to Mt. Vernon from Fargo, North Dakota. (The story of hauling it was in the July/August 1951 issue of IMA.) After Willis became the owner of this engine, he rebuilt it with new shafts, babbitt bearings, crank pin, crosshead pin, stainless steel valve and piston rod.
In 1981 Willis bought his third engine, a 1918 50 H.P. Peerless, from Don Short of Hookstown, Pennsylvania. It had been previously owned by Martin R. Good, Jr. of Fort Defiance, Virginia. Since acquiring this engine, Willis has rivetted in a new flue sheet, new tubes, new grates and a new roof. At the Hookstown show in 1981, Don Short contributed a shiny Big T whistle to Willis to place on the little beauty. Willis then rebuilt a water wagon to be pulled by his Peerless. What a handsome rig this makes.
This is a picture of Willis and me standing along side the 1907 120 HP two cylinder 23 engine when it was at my place before Willis restored it. Submitted by Sam Osborne.
Back view of the 120 HP Z3 in action at the Hookstown Show in 1982. That's both of us under the roof! A good view of the lettering and pin striping can be seen on the back of the water tanks. Submitted by Sam Osborne.
Then in 1982, Willis acquired a 120 HP two cylinder Z3 steam traction engine which was built in 1907 in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania by the Geiser Manufacturing Company. There were only eight of the Z3 engines manufactured during one year only (1907). After extensive research, it is found that this is the only complete Z3 Geiser engine in the United States with all of its original parts. It was also known as the Plain-O Engine. I had owned the engine for approximately ten years and I had purchased it from the estate of Mr. J. B. Boston of Versailles, Kentucky. (A picture of this engine was in the September/October 1969 issue of IMA.) I had heard that this engine had been owned by two brothers prior to Mr. Boston and the engine was used by them as a thresher engine. Prior to Mr. Boston's ownership, the hand holes were taken out and the engine sat for approximately eleven years. The engine was in need of restoration and when I decided to part with it, I knew Willis would restore it as though it just rolled out of the factory. And this he has done. Willis put in a new flue sheet, new tubes, smoke box, grates, rebuilt water tanks, built a fireman platform, coal box, had castings made for the roof brackets, made a new roof of white oak, had the light redone, rebuilt new gear covers. When the flue sheet was put in, holes had to be drilled, then the holes were reamed to 7/8 of an inch, the flue sheet was bolted in, then every other bolt was removed, revetted, then remaining bolts were removed, revetted them, then the flues were rolled and beaded. There are 64 two inch 12 gauge flues10'6 and 5/16 inches long. It was necessary to remove the rear wheels, axles, and cannon bearing in order to restore the boiler around the firebox door. In replacing these parts it was necessary to repour all new lead spacing on mounting brackets. After the engine was complete, it was cleaned to bare metal for painting. This took 40 bags of black beauty sand (two tons) and two men twelve hours to sand blast the engine. The pin striping on the engine was done by Mr. Campizzi exactly the way it was done in 1907. It was possible for Willis to acquire a picture of a Z3 engine when it was new in 1907 and the pin striping on this engine was duplicated from that picture. This engine was proudly shown at the Hookstown Fairgrounds in September of 1982 for the first time, and a dream of mine became reality when I saw this engine totally restored by the hard work of its proud new owner. I was a happy man also. I had the privilege of operating it and showing it off at its grand appearance last year. No one could get me off of it! The work that has been put into this engine is unbelievable! It is a rare beauty and a show piece!
Willis also owns a 65 HP portable Frick which was acquired from John S. Mellott of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. This Frick was set up on the saw mill at the Hookstown Fairgrounds in 1982. The second portable is a 50 HP Frick acquired from R. H. Rock of King George, Virginia. Both of these engines were acquired by him in 1982 and restored to be show pieces.
The 1918 50 HP Peerless with restored water wagon. Owned by Willis R. Abel of Finleyville, Pa. A good friend to both of us, Paul Stoltzfus of Leola, Pa operating it for Willis at the 1982 show. Submitted by Sam Osborne.
This is me standing alongside my 1884 10 HP Q Peerless and a view of a few of the engines I own with Willis putting in a new front in my 1894 waterfront Peerless.
Another steam attraction that Willis owns is a 1909 Model Z 30 HP nine passenger Stanley Steamer mountain wagon. And, his collection doesn't stop there! What a treat we are in for this year! Many of us who know Willis are looking forward to the new engine he is restoring which just arrived at his home in Finleyville, Pennsylvania after a 3500 mile journey from northwestern Canada! It is a 1910 140 HP RUMELY! He has already taken it apart and is in the process of restoring it for its grand appearance at the Tri-State Historical Show at the Hookstown Fairgrounds on September 16 and 17 this year.
Another friend, John S. Mellott of Mercersburg, Pa. who uses his 65 HP Frick to saw with along with a Mellott log turner and a Mellott live deck. These pictures were taken in May 1983 and John had some logs there to saw! Submitted by Sam Osborne. Submitted by Sam Osborne, New Oxford, Pa.
Sam adds that he has the following engines in his own collection:
1894 12 HP Peerless
1884 10 HP Peerless
1910 Double U 22-60
1903 Double U Peerless 22-60
1914 Z1 25-75 Peerless
1910 Z Peerless
25-75 single geared
1891 Single T Peerless
1923 15 HP Farquhar
1880 18 HP Portable Paxton
1897 20 HP Portable Peerless
1921 9 x 10 Portable Frick