| July/August 1964

  • Engine with open drive wheels
    This engine ran every day at the New York State Fair in a circle without going out of its original tracks.
  • Steering Arrangement
    Showing the Steering Arrangement

  • Engine with open drive wheels
  • Steering Arrangement

An engine with several unusual features is the one that was made by The Birdsall Company of Auburn, N. Y. I have always liked the looks of this engine and owned one which was built in 1904.

Take a look at the unusual features. First the steering apparatus. This is what we call an automobile steer. However, it was made before the Auto. Perhaps in the late 1880's. I have been told that the early Autos paid a royalty to this company for the steering patent. This is just hear say, no fact, but it could be. It did work easily and was tightno wabble unless it was very badly worn. Because of this arrangement the water tank was placed under the barrell of the boiler. This was bad if you got stuck in soft ground. Of course that was always bad anyway.

Now note the open drive wheels. In New York they were known as the lattice wheel. This open wheel allowed it to cut through soft ground or mud to solid road. A very good theory at least. I have never heard of any complaints. This is the only engine with open drive wheels that I know about.

I am listing the shaft drive as an unusual feature. Several Companies used this method; especially on their smaller engines. This Company used it exclusively. The Co., also made chain steer and solid drive wheels.

Mr. Fay C. Hunn of Colden, N. Y. (now deceased) was the general agent for the Company and told me this story

At the N. Y. State Fair, Syracuse, N. Y., there were several engines on display. Competition was keen in the early days and they would go to extreme methods to demonstrate the virtues of their engines, The Fair Association devised this demonstration. A drag with 500 lbs., of old iron on it was to be pulled by the engines. They drew straws to determine the turn each man would have. Mr. Hunn said he was lucky enough to be the last to try to pull the drag. He watched very carefully the men trying to pull the drag. All took a long hitch with a chain. Only one man of the six was able to move it a few inches. When Mr. Hunn backed up to the drag he made the shortest hitch possible. When he pulled on the drag it lifted the drag slightly in front, (this no one noticed) and he pulled the drag some distance. He then stopped and called, 'More Iron'. He told me he knew they had no more. He also said any engine there would have done the same had it been hitched short. In other words it was the man not the engine.


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