Riverbend Gets a Water Tower

Permanent Water Tower Supplies Club's Steamers

| March/April 2003

After seven years of owning a steam tractor, I've come to realize the amount of work that goes into restoring and maintaining these machines. I've also come to appreciate the appetite for water and fuel these things have, even in their retirement.

My 1912 15 HP Buffalo-Pitts, until recently the lone steam tractor attending the annual Riverbend Steam and Gas Association Show in Allendale, Mich., has taught me a lot about running a steam tractor. One thing that quickly became apparent is the amount of water the engine goes through when hard at work. Access to this simple element, however, has sometimes made life a little difficult at the show.

Our water source for steamers and our dust-controlling water wagon has historically been a ditch/creek (not sure which it really is) running through our grounds. In the past few years, this ditch/creek has been less than cooperative in supplying enough water for making steam, and I had wondered about the quality of the water, running as it does through a lot of farms in the area. Not being sure about what pollutants could be detracting from the quality of the water up stream, I started looking for another source of water after our summer show in 2001.

Our show grounds has a well, where a simple reciprocating piston pump driven by a one-lung engine draws water from the ground, supplying a drinking fountain system for attendees at the show. When the owner of the pump decided it wasn't performing properly, he tore it down, replaced the worn out u-cups, ground the check valves, repacked the packing gland and gave it a new coat of badly needed paint. After the overhaul, the pump seemed able to put out more water than we could use, and with this in mind, I decided I had found my water source.


My Buffalo-Pitts has a forward mounted make-up water tank, the top of which is about eight feet off the ground. Not wanting to have to pump water up to it, I decided to target gravity to fill my tank. Plus, any other engine's tank would be easy to fill from a high mounted storage tank.

Discussions within the club centered on using a large plastic holding tank like you'd find at the local farm supply store. It would make a nice 'sanitary' vessel, but it would look very contemporary something would have to be done to camouflage it. Another idea was a real wood holding tank, but the complexity of construction, the need for clear wood and issues of getting it and keeping it watertight each year presented major drawbacks to the idea.