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
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
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
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
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
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!