FARQUHAR ENGINE at Califon Basket Factory

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Forward end of Titusville boiler.
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A. B. Farquhar engine. Open fire-door of Titusville boiler on left.
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Cylinder of A. B. Farquhar engine, with Pickering governor.
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Farquhar engine from cylinder end, showing replacement cylinder head.
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Veneering lathe showing spurcenters.
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Cylinder, steamchest, crosshead guide bars and valve rod guide of A. B. Farquhar engine, with governor drive belt and idler.
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Firebox, smokebox, and uptake of Titusville boiler.

248 Deans Rhode Hall Road Jamesburg, New Jersey 08831-3003

This is a sad story for me to have to tell. I enjoyed reading
Mr. Jack Bucklyn’s account, ‘B. F. Clyde’s Cider Mill
Declared Engineering Landmark’ in the November /December 1995
IMA, and decided to try to write (and brag!) about another
steam-powered operation here in New Jersey which was also on the
engineering landmark list, the Califon Basket Company. This company
was started in 1889, when Califon was the center of a big
peach-growing area, to supply the orchards and farms with the
baskets to ship their produce in. In recent years, they also made
decorative baskets as well as the original styles. In 1993, prices
ranged from $1.00 to $4.00 apiece.

The baskets were made from poplar logs, cut into 42′
lengths, then mounted between spur centers on flat-belt-driven
lathes which peeled off sheets of veneer to make the slats for the
baskets. I’ve got a hunch some of the machinery would give an
OSHA inspector conniptions! The lathes and slat-trimming machines
were all driven by a Farquhar engine, shop number 16249maybe some
reader could date it from the number?

The engine, in addition to the A. B. Farquhar nameplate, also
had a tag from the Good Roads Machinery Company with the same
number; I would guess they were the supplier. It looked to be about
8′ bore by 12′ stroke and was, except for flat mounts
instead of curved for boiler-mounting, pretty close to identical to
the ‘improved’ Ajax portable threshing engine shown in the
1899 A. B. Farquhar catalog reprint I got from Iron Men
Stemgas Publishing.

Though one difference was a cylinder-head torch cut out of ‘
steel plate! Guess somebody forgot to open the cylinder drains one
time and blew the original head.

Steam for the engine came from a Titusville return-flue boiler,
fired by scrap wood from the basket-making operation, so it was
pretty economical.

Now, for the part that hurts: I last visited the basket works
four or five years ago. When I went back this year, something
didn’t look right, and sure enough, when I got closer there was
a real estate agent’s for-sale sign on the front of the
building. Asking around, it seems the factory shutdown about two
years ago, in 1994.

The engine and boiler are still there. I’d guess the boiler
would be in poor condition, as I know a man who welded a patch on
it about eight years ago. But the A. B. Farquhar engine might be
salable, although I don’t know if it could be bought without
buying the whole ‘shooting match,’ as I’m no real
estate expert.

So ends the 105-year history of what I’d bet was the last
steam engine-driven basket factory in the United States of

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