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.
Mr. Hunn then stepped off the platform and wrote orders for 5