SMALL WONDER


| May/June 1988



Picture 1

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