Spalding's Corner

Looking for Clues to Mystery Engines


| December 2007



(Photo courtesy of George C. Crout Collection, Middletown Public Library, Middletown, Ohio.)

The mystery engine in our last issue was a fun one, and many people responded - some on the same day! Our first response came from Bob Carlson, Haddam, Conn. Bob writes:

"The engine in the Fall 2006 issue is a Holt. The engine may be in San Francisco, being used after the earthquake of 1906."

James R. Vouk, S. Stephen, Minn., wrote us on the same day: "I believe the mystery engine in the Fall 2006 issue of Steam Traction is a Holt. It looks like it is being used in the cleanup of the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906."

Charles Reiter of San Francisco was the third to write us. And for obvious reasons he thought this one was simple: "An easy one, or at least one I know the answer to. The tractor is a Holt, no. 37. It was sold in 1900 to the Union Traction Co., and was used in the construction and maintenance of cable car lines. It has a single 11-by-12-inch cylinder, rated at 60-65 HP.

"This view, which I had not seen before, shows it surrounded by the rubble of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. I would imagine it is involved in salvage work. If you look closely, rails can be seen in the ground under it but it does not look like main line cable car track, as there is no center slot. After 1906 a great number of cable lines were not restored, electric cars replacing them. The Market Street Railway had just installed a new cable on Market Street and it would be abandoned."

Irvin Baker of Ripon, Calif., was next: "It is a Holt from Stockton, Calif., cleaning up after the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. I know this because I am a Holt collector and I live only 20 miles from there."