Aultman Double Star destiny

After years of searching, Indiana collector finally gets his Aultman under-mounted Double Star

| July/August 2004

My association with under-mounted Aultman engines goes back many years. When I was 5 or 6 years old, my dad was in contact with L.E. Mazilly, Starks, La., who had an under-mounted Aultman Star in running condition at the time. My dad wanted to buy the engine, and he corresponded with Mazilly for some time, finally agreeing on a deal for Dad to trade a 20 HP Advance Rumely for the Double Star. Unfortunately, the deal fell through when it was decided both engines would have to be trucked to the Missouri/Arkansas state line for the switch. At that time, my dad did not have the money for a haul bill of that magnitude. The engine, serial no. 6766, featuring a 7-inch-by-10-inch bore and stroke, is now in Minnesota.

However, another Double Star was rusting away in the woods about 50 miles from my home. Everyone in the area knew about the engine, and knew that the man who owned it would not part with it or with the three early Gaar-Scott's he owned. Dad always assured me that one day we would get the Aultman, as several close friends lived near it and kept us updated on the engine's status.

Sometime in the 1970s, we got some bad news. The man who owned the Double Star gave it to a neighbor who had helped him with farm work. The news could have been worse, for we knew the new owner, as he owned a Keck-Gonnerman that Dad once owned. Whenever we saw him at shows over the next few years, Dad always asked him to give us first chance if he decided to part with the Double Star.

Wrong place, wrong time
Well, sometime later we were once again in the wrong place at the wrong time. The engine changed hands again, this time passing to Dan Gregor of Dayton, Ohio. I knew Dan, and I also knew any chance of ever owning that engine was gone. Dan got to work on the engine right away, replacing the rusted boiler with a similar one from a different make of engine, and he soon had it restored. Dan has shown the engine at a number of shows, and I have run it on occasion.

My engine entered the scene somewhat later. For some time, I had been acquainted with Bob Lefever of Lancaster, Pa. I had heard he owned a Double Star, but I never knew much about it until pictures of it appeared in Jack Norbeck's Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines. One morning at one of the Portland, Ind., engine shows, Dan Gregor stopped by as I was getting steam up in our Kitten engine for a day of sawing. As we sat and talked, the subject of Aultman engines came up, as was usual with us. Dan wasted no time in telling me he heard that Bob Lefever was selling his engine. Great news, but I had recently bought back Dad's old 16 HP Heilman from Calvin Whitaker and had several other costly projects underway. I thought to myself, 'Why now?' I decided to talk to Bob about it anyway, as he was at the show.

Bob shot me a price I couldn't afford, but he also told me he might trade the Aultman for a good antique tractor. The only restored tractors we had at the time were a Rumely GasPull, a 20-40 Russell and a 16-30 Eagle. The GasPull and the Russell were out of the question, yet I did not want to get rid of my Eagle tractor, either.