After years of searching, Indiana collector finally gets his Aultman under-mounted Double Star
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.
The next day, I saw Bob again and offered to trade my Eagle for the Double Star, sight unseen. I didn't have the Eagle at the show, so Bob said he would think about it. I took that as a 'no.'
Right place, right time
One night later that fall, the telephone rang as I walked into the house from working on some project in the barn. It was Bob Lefever. We talked a few moments, then he got right to the point, telling me he had decided to trade with me. I know that many of us in this avocation of engine collecting have made a special deal that stands out in our mind, and this was mine. With one phone call, I lost one of my favorite tractors, yet I gained a steam engine I'd desired for most of my life. As soon as Bob hung up, I was on the telephone to my dad and my brother, telling them I was suddenly the owner of an under-mounted Star.
Over the next few months, we made transportation arrangements. Gene Pock, a mutual friend, picked up the Eagle and delivered it to Bob, and a long-haul trucker with a lowboy dead heading to Indiana brought the Star home.
I finally had my engine, but what a wreck! The boiler would not have held shelled corn, the crankshaft was broken, and it was missing many parts. Someone previous to Bob had started dismantling the engine to remove the broken crank, but gave up. Despite the large pile of parts I got with the engine, so many other parts were missing the restoration appeared hopeless. I pushed the engine into a shed and forgot about it for a time.
Over the next few years, whenever Bob passed through Indiana or I saw him at the Portland show, he passed along more parts for the Double Star. One year at Portland, he presented me with the pillow blocks for the two-speed gear shaft, and on another occasion he delivered the left-hand flywheel (yes, my engine has two flywheels) and a tag with the number 6780 cast into it.
Eventually, I had enough parts to begin restoration. As usual, however, priorities got in the way. In 1998, the Pioneer Engineers Club in Rushville, Ind., celebrated its 50th anniversary. The club decided that 50-plus engines should be at the 50th reunion, with Indiana-built engines given priority. Every Gaar-Scott, Keck-Gonnerman and Rumely in the area was pulled out of its barn, and we got our Kitten and Dad's 1860s Gaar-Scott portable ready to go.
At the time, all my effort was invested in finishing the Heilman. It was at B&B Boiler Restorations in Greensburg, Ind., waiting for a new crown sheet when I decided time had run out to get it ready for the show. With that, I brought the unfinished Heilman home and sent the Double Star to B&B, as I really wanted it done first.
When B&B finished the Double Star's boiler, it came home with a new boiler barrel with a riveted lap seam identical to the original, a new crown sheet, front tube sheet, partial throat sheet, stay bolts and tubes. B&B still has the crankshaft, which has turned into a difficult repair job. As soon as it's finished, I will complete the restoration of the engine.
Contact steam enthusiast Alan New at: 5389 W. 900 S., Pendleton, IN 46064.
'With one phone call, I lost one of my favorite tractors, yet I gained a steam engine I'd desired for most of my life.'