Fond Memories of Kitten Engine #191

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Flywheel side of engine after restoration in 1980.
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Dave Sampson at the controls of the Kitten.
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Kitten before restoration at Dave Sampson's Ohio farm, 1979.
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123 Curry Hollow Rd. Apt. 3D Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15236

My father Dave Sampson always wanted a steam engine to take to engine shows, so when his friend Red Curtis told him of an engine that his son Bobby Curtis found sitting in a pasture in southwestern Pennsylvania, Dad and Red jumped in a truck and went to look at it. The engine was a Kitten, serial #191, produced in 1917 by the Ferdinand Iron Works of Ferdinand, Indiana, by a man named Joseph Kitten. They manufactured 246 Kitten engines.

Dave and Red fell head-over-heels for the old engine. When Dad came back home to Columbia Station, Ohio, he told me about the engine he and Red had just bought. I was so happy, for I share the same love for steam engines as my father. (I was eight years old at the time.)

Dad hired a semi and a lowboy trailer to haul the Kitten from Pennsylvania to his farm in Ohio. I rode in the semi, while Dad and my brother Rob rode in Dad’s pickup. On the way we stopped at a steam show and picked up Red.

We dug the engine out, it had sunk pretty deep after sitting for ten years. We loaded it on the lowboy and off we went, back to Ohio. When we got back to the farm, we unloaded the engine. Everybody knew it was going to be hard work to restore the Kitten, but we couldn’t wait to get started.

The engine took over a year to restore, with a lot of hard work, but nobody gave up. When Dad rolled the Kitten out for the first time it looked good as new and ready for its first show. We took the engine to the Medina Engine Show in Medina, Ohio, in 1980a dream come true for Dad and I. Dad built a fifth wheel trailer to pull behind his one-ton pickup, so that he could haul the engine to the nearby shows. Dad later purchased a 1962 Mack semi to pull the trailer to shows. The Mack needs a little work and will soon be on the road. At an engine show in Stumptown, Ohio, we ran into a fellow who knew the Kitten. He told us that the engine was found in a scrap yard many years ago, destined for the scrap pile, but he and a friend bought it, then later sold it to the fellow that Dad and Red bought it from.

Stumptown in 1986 was the last show we took the Kitten to until 1991. In 1986 Dad and I moved to Florida and put the Kitten in our cousin’s barn in Shelby, Ohio. For the next five years I dreamed of taking it out and showing it again. Then in the summer of 1991 my dream came true. After graduating from high school, I moved back to Ohio. I pulled the Kitten out of the barn and gave it a new coat of paint. I ran the Kitten all summer around Columbia Station, Ohio, then in September I took it to the Lagrange Engine Show. At the show I ran a fan and the sawmill; while running the sawmill the engine had governor problems which I soon fixed.

I started college in Pennsylvania in February of 1992, and the Kitten is back in the barn for a few more years. As soon as possible I plan on showing it again.

I would like to close by saying thanks to everyone who has helped with the engine, and I hope to see you all at the engine shows. I dedicate this article to my dad the Kitten has brought us very close. I hope some day to repay you for everything that you have done for me, Dad; thanks for being there for me!

The Kitten engine is owned by Dave Sampson, 1560 Lake Shipp Dr. N, Winter Haven, FL 33880, and Red Curtis, 916 Clifton Rd., Bethel Park, PA 15102.

Owners are Dave Sampson of 1560 Lake Shipp Dr. N, Winter Haven, Florida, and Red Curtis of 916 Clifton Rd., Bethel Park, PA 15102.

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