SMALL WONDER

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Wooden dies for boiler trim
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Gauge and its parts
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Hose with nozzle and fittings
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Two steps of engraving process: routing plate and engraving.
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Hydraulic press
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Boiler construction
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Copper dome and its male and female dies
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405 N. Clinton, Wenonah, New Jersey, 08090

A. D. and I were impressed with the work we had seen so far, but
we were not prepared when Jim pulled out the dividing head he had
made himself. (Photo #7) Jim first designed and built the dividing
head to cut teeth in the wooden gears of a clock he was making. The
housing is made of hard wood with a metal dial disc, which has
holes spaced in order to select the desired divisions required for
a variety of projects. He did not have the facilities to make a
dividing head out of metal. When he needed one, though, Jim
improvised his way out of the problem by once again using available
materials and tools to accomplish the job.

By late 1980 Jim had completed the engine and pump and was ready
to tackle the boiler. He first had to locate materials. He tried to
buy copper from wholesale and retail houses, but they would not
sell him anything less than a sheet, which was ten times more than
he needed. Finally a friend of his told Jim he had some four-inch,.
109 copper pipe for sale at junk price. Jim bought the pipe, slit
it, and used it to construct the engine’s vertical, fire tube
boiler. The boiler was completely constructed using this . 109
copper, with the exception of the half-inch copper pipe used for
its twenty-two tubes. The boiler is fifteen inches high and nine
inches in diameter, and all joints and seams are silver soldered.
The engine is equipped to burn wood or coal, but in order to
protect onlookers from fly ash, Jim has outfitted it with a propane
burner. (Photos #8-13 show steps in the construction process,
including the hundreds of rivets and cap screw holes required to
fasten the boiler’s many parts.)

In order to bend the variety of different parts necessary to
construct the boiler, and later the boiler trim, Jim needed a
hydraulic press. He priced twenty-ton presses at about $1400 and
decided he could not afford one. So he made his own using two by
six inch oak for the frame and a six-ton hydraulic jack for
applying pressure. He also made all of the male and female wooden
dies needed to bend copper and brass to the exact dimensions
required for different parts of the project. (Photo #14)

At this point A. D. and I were not surprised it took Jim ten
years to complete the Idella model, and thought that was a
remarkably short time considering all the tools he had made for the
project. As Jim said to us, ‘It’d take three times as long
to make something because it would take twice as long to make some
thing to make it with. There’s what consumes the time. Of
course there’s a lot of ’em (tools and jigs) you use
’em, and then you go and scrap, tear ’em up and make
something else with ’em. But you take all of the cutters and
all of the different types of tools, and all the jigging you have
to make. That’s where the greatest amount of time is. You can
buy a certain amount of tools The rest of it you’ve got to
make.’

Jim completed the boiler in mid 1981 and for the next six years
devoted all of his free time to assembling the parts, making the
trim, building the aluminum frame, suspension, rear fire box and
decking, and the hundreds of other small jobs necessary to complete
the engine. It took Jim three attempts to finally settle on a way
to make the copper dome for the pump. When he tried to draw and
reduce the .109 copper, it began to crack. When he tried to stretch
the material, it became too thin. Finally he flattened two pieces
of metal and made a wooden die in the shape of half the sphere of
the dome. By carefully hammering the copper he was able to make two
complementary, dish-shaped halves, which he then matched to within
.001 tolerance. He silver soldered the halves together in order to
make the five-inch sphere. (Photo #15)

Once he had discovered that he could find useable scrap metal
for the boiler and dome, Jim went out to the Montgomery Metal and
Salvage Co. in search of material for the rest of the project.
After talking with the men at the junkyard, they caught the fever
and saved Jim all sorts of material. They provided him with a roll
of .010 brass and a roll of German silver, which he used for the
boiler trim, as well as the aluminum he used to build the side
frames, axles, frame support, fuel box and rear frame of the fire
engine.

There are three layers of brass trim at the top of the boiler,
then a sleeve of German silver, and two more layers of brass trim
at the top of the smokestack. From measurements and photographs of
the original, Jim first made the wooden dies to press the .010
brass. The first layer, which is made of ten pieces, he friction
fit to the boiler. The second and third layers, each made of two
pieces, were soldered together. As in the construction of the
boiler, all of the trim seams were silver soldered. The smokestack
cap, for which Jim made three dies, is also two soldered pieces.
All smokestack trim, except the ten-piece bottom layer, can be
removed when servicing or repairing the boiler. (Photos 16-17 show
some of the wooden dies made in order to press the brass smokestack
trim.) In order to make the three side bands of brass trim on the
boiler cylinder, Jim made a roller that was actually three rollers,
a male and two females, and fastened them in a frame. He then
rolled and stretched the brass through those rollers to fit the
desired circumference. The rest of the boiler trim, three strips
about five inches wide around the boiler, and the smokestack
collar, Jim made from the roll of .010 German silver, which he
found at the junkyard.

Jim also made the gauges for the engine, including the cases,
dials, stopcocks, and the unions. The Bourdon tubes, and the rack
and pinion gear assemblies he took from standard 1 inch gauges,
reworking and reducing them in size to fit inside the cases. He
then also recalibrated the gauge (Photo #18). The faces of the
gauges and the engine name plates were made with the help of
Jim’s neighbor, Joe Bradshaw, who did all the photographic work
on the project. The gauge plates were photo engraved on
dull-finished aluminum stock. The manufacture of the brass name
plates involved an even more complicated process. Jim sealed a
photographic image of each original plate to a piece of plexiglas
and cut that image into the plexiglas with a small router. He then
used an engraving machine, which he had restored, to reduce each
image and transfer it to the appropriate one-quarter scale brass
plate. (Photos #19-20 show the tools used in this two-step
process.) There are two types of hose on the Idella model. The
plastic, quick-drain discharge hose is 5/8 inch inside diameter,
which is a one-quarter reduction of the 2 inch standard. It closely
resembles the cotton braid hose the Idella carried. The
fabric-lined rubber suction hose is 1 inch inside diameter standard
water hose, also a one-quarter reduction of the original hose. Jim
purchased the hose, but made all the brass fittings, also exactly
reduced, including the drop leaf handles, couplings, and nozzles.
(Photo #21)

This description does not begin to do justice to the amount of
time, effort, and ingenuity, and patience required to build this
one-quarter scale model of the Idella. Jim measured and
photographed a complicated piece of equipment and made a copy of it
exactly to scale, and he did it primarily in brass and copper.
Whenever he needed a jig or a tool, he was able to manufacture one,
often out of materials at hand. When he encountered materials
problems, he was able to solve them with the help of friends,
relatives, and the Montgomery Metal and Salvage Co. If one method
of construction did not work, he kept working until he was able to
improvise a method that would do the job, and to the exact
tolerances necessary.

In highlighting some aspects of Jim’s impeccable workmanship
we have ignored major portions of the project, such as the
complicated piping, engine, pump, and frame assembly, and joinery
of the parts into a complete working model. The best way to examine
all the dexterity and care that went into the construction of this
model steam fire engine is to see it in person and talk with its
builder. As Jim says, in words that many modelers would agree with,
‘the joy I get out of it is just talking about it, and the joy
of trying to build it.’ Jim Lockhart and the Idella will be at
the 40th Annual Reunion of the Rough and Tumble Engineers
Historical Association in Kinzers, PA. from August 17-20, 1988. If
you wish to contact him before that event, his address is: Mr.
James H. Lockhart, 11801 Old Drovers Way, Rockville, Maryland,
20852.

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