3390 S. Co. Road 250W North Vernon, Indiana 47265
Close on to twenty-five years ago, Otto Heffelmire, of New
Palestine, Indiana, bought a small Russell steam traction engine at
an auction. Fate, perhaps, intended Otto to have the engine,
because it sold for $310.00, the exact amount of money he had on
him. Whatever the reason, he got it, and in the fall of 1993 Otto
and B&B Steam Restoration of Greensberg started restoring the
We think Russell and Company built the engine in 1890 or
’91. The double riveted lap seam boiler has an overall length
of 10′ 3′ and a barrel diameter of 26 inches. The firebox
measures 30′ long by 33′ high by 22′ wide. The water
bottom boiler contains 33 two-inch flues.
The engine, s/n 4845, carries a 73/8 by 10
inch cylinder with a Gidding’s double ported valve. Otto had
the cylinder bored out slightly to clear some pits. B&B had to
replace the inside and outside firebox sheets and the smoke box and
front tube sheet, but otherwise the boiler looks good.
One thing makes this engine stand out, and hopefully someone who
knows Russells can shed some light on it. In the place of
Russell’s normal shifting eccentric reverse, this engine has a
modified Woolf reverse. A wrought iron frame, caps crewed to the
steam dome, carries a slide block counter shaft and the moving
parts of the valve gear.
The crankshaft shows no sign of any missing parts. The iron
frame wraps neatly around the steam dome rivet heads and has well
formed babbitt bearing boxes for the counter shaft. We think it is
either a one of a kind experiment from the factory or an extremely
good conversion in the field.
If anyone has some more information about Russell engines with a
Woolf reverse, please write to the IMA, because we would
like to hear about it.