5570 Monroe-Concord Road West Milton, Ohio 45383
I was lucky enough to be born and raised in southwest Ohio (Brookville), an area that is rich with steam history. I was introduced to the steam traction engine at Golden Gate Park at a yearly get-together, where I had the privilege of meeting many real steam men.
My first ride at the age of six years was with either Homer F. Holp or Ed Troutman. There were also Harold Holp, Roscoe Shivadecker, Chester Highler, John J. Holp, Sr., Kenny Mears (who owned a nicely restored Rumely Oil Pull), Kenny Ullery, and many more. As a teen I went on to other steam shows like the Darke County Steam Threshers, Tipton, Indiana, Rushville, Indiana, and of course, Wauseon, Ohio, where I was introduced to more steam menthe likes of John Sandula, Dave and Wayne Kemler, Larry Hardwick, Bud and Steve Hienbeck, and many more people too numerous to mention here. For many years I dreamed of the day that I might find a way of owning one of these fascinating machines.
During these years of going to steam shows, I also had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with Howard Miller of Liberty Center, Ohio. Howard came to realize how badly I wanted an engine, and he had a 20 HP Keck that was in need of restoring. I saw the engine at the home of John Holp Jr., in Arcanum, and fell in love with it.
Howard offered me the Keck, and after some negotiating, a deal was struck and on January 1, 1991, the 20 HP Keck became mine!! This was truly a dream come true for me.
I made an arrangement with John to restore the engine at his shop, because, at the time, I lived in Dayton (25 miles away). Needless to say, there was going to be a lot of driving involved to work on the Keck.
What happened over the next six years was quite a learning experience for me. Of course, the first thing to do was tear the engine apart and see what had to be done to make her right. We knew that there was some boiler work to do. You know, the usual smokebox, front flue sheet, reflueing, and there was some firebox work needed. After some inspection and deliberation it was decided that there was serious firebox work needed. Decisions had to be made.
As the boiler work proceeded, I was being coached on what else to do by my old friend and neighbor, Keckologist Sam Myers of West Mil ton. Sam has a beautifully restored 20 HP Keck and knows what needs to be done to make them right. He allowed me the use of his shop to clean, repair (Sam also did all my machine work), and paint parts that I hauled there from John's. Even the front axle was dismantled and hauled there, cleaned, rebuilt and reassembled. I didn't have a sandblaster to use, so everything was burned with a torch, wire-brushed, smoothed with a grinder and then primed and painted by brush.
Meanwhile, back at John's, it was decided that the firebox needed to come out and a new one had to be built. With the help of John, his brother Scott, Kim and Casey Besecker and Sam, we wrestled the old one out.
John and Kim got the measurements needed and the steel was ordered. Kim offered the use of his shop to build the firebox since he had hoists and all the other equipment needed. We fabricated, assembled, welded and drilled all the staybolt holes at Kim's, then I hauled it to Dayton to be stress-relieved, and took it back to John's.
We put the firebox in the boiler with the help of Bobby Holp of H. R. Holp and Sons from Brookville, who brought in a forklift to do the job. Now came the job of running some 260-plus staybolts. Another good friend, Dan Gregor of Dayton, offered his knowledge and tools to ream and top the holes. This was very time-consuming and a lot of work, but with everyone's help, the job went quite smoothly. After that, all the bolts were installed. Then John had the job of seal-welding all the bolts inside and outside the firebox. I had the job of grinding all the welds. When that was done, John and Kim formed rings for the firebox and ash-pan doors and welded them in, then John finished welding the back head in. This made for a very smooth looking back head.
After I fitted in the new front flue sheet that we made at Kim's, John welded it in and we riveted in the flange. After the job of putting in new flues was tackled, and with the help of my wife, Barbara (whom I had met 20 years earlier at Wauseon, but that's another story), that job was completed.
During all this other work, the cleaned and painted parts were put back on whenever possible. It was really starting to look like a steam engine again.
Every year we have a tradition of firing up an engine on New Year's Eve and Day. It was decided by the group that 1997 would be my year. There was still a lot of work to do. The piping, steam line, grates, platform, steering, firebox door, and other tasks too numerous to remember, had to be done. The month of December saw an engine come to life again.
John and Kim had given the Keck a cold water hydro test and everything seemed to be all right, so they gave the nod to fire it up.
Finally, on Sunday, December 29, 1996, the day came to fire up my own engine. It was like a dream come true. With the help of everyone involved, we pulled the Keck out of John's shop.
I filled it full of wood and lit it off. This was something I had waited for and worked for a long time. After what seemed an eternity, the steam came up, Sam said, 'Do it.'
I crawled up on the platform, grabbed the throttle and rolled it over. I was grinning from ear to ear. My engine was running. After some adjustment, everyone took turns running it, and after a while, the time came to move her and she did just fine.
The next day Paul Klingel came and hauled the Keck to Kim's house to get ready for New Year's. As usual, a lot of people came to Kim's for the day and I was like a proud papa showing off his first born.
The day after New Year's, Paul came back and we loaded the Keck up for the ride to Sam's. We worked the rest of the winter and spring getting ready for the summer. The first show we took it to was Darke County, and she performed well. It was a very good feeling to take care of my own engine at the shows all summer.
Of course, there were things found that needed work, so during the next winter and spring, with the help of Sam and his brother John, there was some major tuning up done and the Keck performed even better.
Some cosmetic improvements were made also. My wife hand-painted the original logos on the cylinder cover, water-tank and coal bunker, and a new oak foot board was added.
Of course, an engine is never done and there are still things to do (like this year). I am very pleased with the results of all the very hard work that everyone has done up until now. There is no way that this dream could have been realized without the help of all my friends. A very big thank you to all involved!