SMALL WONDER

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Engine patterns and castings
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Engine patterns and castings
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The original Idella and Jim/model/original together.
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Wheel, showing oval taper of spokes from hub to felloes
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Engine patterns and castings
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Dividing head

405 N. Clinton Wenonah, New Jersey, 08090

A. D. Mast told me he could not believe his eyes when he first
saw the model of the 1872 steam fire engine, Idella, at the
Shenandoah Steam and Gas Engine Association show in Berryville,
Virginia, last summer. He was so impressed he asked its builder,
Mr. James Lockhart, to bring the engine to Rough and Tumble’s
Reunion in Kinzers, PA. When I arrived at Rough and Tumble that
weekend in August there was an unusually large crowd of people
gathered around one exhibit. In the center of that crowd stood the
most amazing model I had ever seen, its brass and silver sparkling
in the sunlight. There was no way to talk at length on that
occasion with Mr. Lockhart about how he had built this working
model, so A.D. and I visited him during the winter at his home and
shop in Rockville, Maryland.

According to the history Mr. Lockhart has compiled, the original
Idella, No. 169, was built in 1872 by L. Button & Sons in
Waterford, New York. (See photos #1-2) Its first owner remains
unknown, but the fire engine was purchased in August, 1885 by the
Independent Fire Company of Charles Town, West Virginia. Until that
time Charles Town relied on man-power to pump its water from the
few hydrants in the town. The purchase of the Idella enabled the
fire company to draw water from almost any available water supply.
The Idella was horse drawn until 1914, when the fire company
purchased a Republic, chain-drive, solid tire truck to pull the
fire engine. The Idella fought fires until 1925, and in 1929 was
placed in storage when the fire company replaced the Idella and its
means of transportation with a new 750 GPM Mack fire truck.

Jim Lockhart was born in 1914 and raised on a farm outside
Charles Town, est Virginia. He moved, with his mother and two
sisters, into Charles Town at the age of ten after his father was
taken ill and died. Jim first saw the Idella in action when he was
about ten years old, and the engine immediately captured his
imagination., As he recalls, ‘It was a fire at night right down
the street from where I lived, and there was as much fire coming
out of that engine as there was from the building on fire.’

In order to help the family make ends meet, Jim went to work at
age fourteen for Mr. C. P. Weller at his machine shop in Charles
Town. He would go to school during the day and work during the
evening. Jim maintained contact with the Idella during that time
because Mr. Weller’s shop did all the repair work on the
engine. Jim stayed with that machine shop after attending high
school and became a master machinist. He married Mildred Pentz in
1936, and about four or five months later his boss was stricken
with a heart attack and died. The business folded, and Jim went to
work doing the only job he could find at that time during the
Depression, digging ditches for the gas company and doing some
maintenance repair work for them. He stayed there for two and a
half years until a friend of his who worked in Baltimore with a
branch of the International Harvester Company told Jim about a job
in Washington, D.C. In 1939 Jim moved to the Washington D.C. area
to take that job with the Paving Supply and Equipment Company,
which was a supply company and distributorship for International
Harvester. In his twenty-five years with the company, Jim held
positions from mechanic through service manager. When the Paving
Supply and Equipment Co. announced its intention to move the plant
in 1964, Jim decided to take a job with the Krauser Equipment
Company, which was located just outside Washington D. C. in
Fairfax, Virginia. He began as an Assistant Parts Manager, but then
moved up to Parts Manager for thirteen years. During his tenure in
that position, Jim was responsible for computerizing the inventory
control and modernizing the parts handling and distribution
operation of the company, which was a John Deere affiliate. In
1980, at the age of sixty-seven, Jim retired from industry and
began to pursue a job even more demanding, and probably more time
consuming he began model building. Actually, he had already begun
working on the Idella model in 1978.

Before leaving Charles Town, West Virginia in 1939, Jim was a
member of the Citizen’s Fire Company, one of two fire companies
there. In 1951 he and his wife returned to Charles Town to
participate in the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of
Jefferson County. At

That time he received permission, along with another member,
Charles Coulter, to bring the Idella out of storage and restore it
to working order for the celebration. After the festivities it was
returned to storage. Then in 1978 the Independent and Citizen’s
Fire Companies of Charles Town hosted the West Virginia Fire
men’s Association Convention, and Jim returned for that event.
He was surprised that the Idella was not on display, and soon
discovered that it had been moved to another storage location and
was once again in very poor condition. Seeing his lifelong favorite
engine in scattered and neglected pieces, and realizing that he had
never seen a model of a steam fire engine at a steam show, Jim
decided at that moment to build a scale model of the original.

Later that year Jim and his neighbor, Joe Bradshaw, who helped
him throughout the ten year project, traveled to Charles Town to
photo graph and measure the Idella. Members of the fire department
must have been inspired by Jim’s decision, because when he
returned to Charles Town a year later, the Idella had been cleaned
up, painted, polished, and placed on the main floor of the Fire
Department building. The entire construction of the model is based
on those fifty or so photographs and a few pages of measurements
taken from the original. As Jim said to us, ‘You can sit down
and read all about this of how it was designed inside. But then to
get your calculations to come out correct why you couldn’t
arrive at the calculations you had to have. But by having an
original to go to and stick a rule on, you can really come up right
down to a gnat’s whisker on it.’

With photographs and measurements in hand, work could begin on
the one-quarter scale model. Between 1978 and 1980 Jim concentrated
on over twenty-five patterns for castings necessary to build the
engine and pump the model. (Photos #3 and #4) Some of the patterns
such as the maple flywheel, had to be hand carved. (See photo #5)
Jim brought his patterns to a friend of his, Edwin Hartman, who
made the sand cores for the castings in his small brass foundry in
his garage and back yard. While he waited for the castings to be
made, Jim began on an exact duplication of the Idella’s sixteen
spoke, wooden wheels. Each one of the spokes is a tapered oval that
decreases to a zero point at the hub and must meet the felloes at a
point such that each spoke is equidistant from every other spoke
around the rim. (Photo #6) To make the taper Jim made one jig for
his radial arm saw that held his unfinished spoke at the desired
angle. Then he took the tapered spoke to another jig he made for
use with his shaper. The second jig had a screw and lock in it to
enable him to pass the miniature spoke across a half radius cutter
without placing his fingers too close to the blade. After each pass
he turned the spoke one quarter turn until the oval was
complete.

Once the castings returned from the foundry, Jim began machining
them. The first part he machined was the engine cylinder. He turned
the bore and faced the ends of it on a six-inch Atlas lathe. Then
he milled the top and bottom of the cylinder on an Atlas milling
machine, which he had found junked in the back of Ed Hartman’s
shop. The slide valve, cylinder head, and cylinder spacer plate
were separate castings that were also machined on the Atlas milling
machine.

Before he could use the milling machine, though, Jim had to
repair it. When he brought it back home from Ed Hartman’s shop,
the machine was in pieces and had no shaft. A previous owner had
decided to revamp the machine by putting a chain drive in it, but
ruined it in the process. As Jim put the milling machine back
together he discovered he needed new pulleys, which he made out of
locust, using brass plates as guides on either side. Then he put in
a timing belt, and it has been running smoothly and quietly ever
since.

One of the most challenging jobs he faced with the milling
machine was manufacturing the hundreds of bolts, nuts, and screws
he needed. The original bolts were ‘blacksmith made’ in
1872, at a time when there were no automatic bolt machines,
threading machines, or equipment to machine any cap screws or
bolts. They were all hexed, and also had what is called a ‘high
crowned head.’ To duplicate them he made all of the bolts,
nuts, and screws to scale, hexed them, and crowned the heads. The
only difference is that the originals were made from black iron,
and the new ones are made from stainless steel. All the threads
were chased on a lathe, and all the hexes were done using a divided
head.

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