Antique American Steam Gauge Museum

A passion for steam leads to high-pressure museum in Utah

| July/August 2005

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    Photo 1: An early example of a small 5-inch dial, American Steam Gauge Co. gauge with the 1852 Ashcroft patent and the 1859 T.W. Lane patent. It is very likely that a gauge similar to this would have been used on the early Case engines.
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    Photo 2: J.I. Case gauge has a pressure range of 0-180 pounds. Therefore, the working pressure for the engine should be around 90 pounds. This Ashcroft trademark was used from 1878 to 1897.
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    Photo 2A: J.I. Case gauge has a pressure range of 0-180 pounds. Therefore, the working pressure for the engine should be around 90 pounds. This Ashcroft trademark was used from 1878 to 1897.
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    Photo 1A: An early example of a small 5-inch dial, American Steam Gauge Co. gauge with the 1852 Ashcroft patent and the 1859 T.W. Lane patent. It is very likely that a gauge similar to this would have been used on the early Case engines.
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    Photo 3A: Working pressure for an engine using a 200-pound gauge would be around 100 pounds. An Ashcroft trademark saw use from 1898 until 1907. It also sports the 1884 Ashcroft auxiliary spring patent that was used extensively on traction engine gauges.
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    Photo 3: Working pressure for an engine using a 200-pound gauge would be around 100 pounds. An Ashcroft trademark saw use from 1898 until 1907. It also sports the 1884 Ashcroft auxiliary spring patent that was used extensively on traction engine gauges.
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    Photo 4: An unusual Ashcroft trademark used between 1902 and 1907. A 250-pound J.I. Case threshing machine gauge with an engine operating pressure around 125 pounds.
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    Photo 5: The same gauge as the 1902 but with the 1907 Ashcroft trademark. I have seen many of the 1902 J.I. Case gauges, but only one of these. It must have been the transition where J.I. Case was still using the 250-pound gauge but Ashcroft started using the 1907 trademark.
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    Photo 4A: An unusual Ashcroft trademark used between 1902 and 1907. A 250-pound J.I. Case threshing machine gauge with an engine operating pressure around 125 pounds.
  • steam-gauge-museum-5A
    Photo 5A: The same gauge as the 1902 but with the 1907 Ashcroft trademark. I have seen many of the 1902 J.I. Case gauges, but only one of these. It must have been the transition where J.I. Case was still using the 250-pound gauge but Ashcroft started using the 1907 trademark.
  • Steam Gauge Museum

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    Photo 6: Ashcroft used a trademark from 1907 until the merger in 1929 with the American Steam Gauge & Valve Mfg. Co. We don’t see any more increases in the maximum pressure of 300 pounds for Case gauges. The Case histories state that the last Case steam engine rolled off the production line in 1924.
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    Photo 6A: Ashcroft used a trademark from 1907 until the merger in 1929 with the American Steam Gauge & Valve Mfg. Co. We don’t see any more increases in the maximum pressure of 300 pounds for Case gauges. The Case histories state that the last Case steam engine rolled off the production line in 1924.
  • Caboose on crane
    The crane picking the caboose off the rail and loading it onto a trailer.
  • Steam Gauge
    An early American Steam Gauge Co. steam gauge.
  • Loaded Caboose
    The caboose loaded on the trailer ready for relocation.
  • gauges
    Traction engine and early fire engine gauges on display in the museum.
  • Price List
    An 1876 price list cover from an American catalog.
  • Unloading caboose
    A crane unloading the caboose in its new location, right on the concrete footings, Newton, Utah.
  • kerosene
    The kerosene stove on the inside of the caboose before restoration.
  • Guage Display
    Part of the railroad gauge display, which includes locomotive boiler gauges, brake gauges, heating and lighting gauges, feed and water stoker gauges.

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  • Steam Gauge Museum
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  • steam-gauge-museum-6A
  • Caboose on crane
  • Steam Gauge
  • Loaded Caboose
  • gauges
  • Price List
  • Unloading caboose
  • kerosene
  • Guage Display

After collecting steam traction engine steam gauges for many years, I begun to see interesting developments in their evolution. It was these gauge developments that started to peak my curiosity as to the technological developments of the steam engines they were used on.

Steam gauge history

The most common company name I’ve seen on traction or farm engine steam gauges is the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co., and probably the most common maker of these gauges was the Ashcroft Mfg. Co. who held the U.S. patent to the Bourdon gauge dated Aug. 3, 1852. Both companies had their start in the mid-1800s, Case in 1842 and Ashcroft later in 1851. But it wasn’t until 1869 that Case built its first portable steam engine. The first of over 36,000 may be the reason we have seen so many surviving Case gauges.

In the beginning, there wasn’t much for the traction engine makers to choose from in the way of steam gauges. When Case built its first engine (just a portable engine, not a traction engine), the choice was between a diaphragm gauge and a Bourdon gauge. Most diaphragm gauges of the time consisted of a pressure chamber with a corrugated disc of thin metal that would deflect under pressure. The deflection was transmitted to a pointer on the dial through various linkages. On the other hand, the Bourdon gauge operated with a horseshoe shaped tube that would attempt to straighten under pressure. The movement of the Bourdon tube was also transmitted to a pointer on the dial of the gauge through linkages. By 1869, when Case needed to order gauges for its engines, the Bourdon gauge had already begun to surpass the popularity of the diaphragm gauge.

For the traction engine maker, I would suspect the deciding factor was the invention of the T.W. Lane improvement on the Bourdon gauge patented on Feb. 22, 1859. In its 1876 catalog, American marketed its Lane gauge as one that “removes all objections to the original gauge for locomotives, portable engines, and other moving machinery.”



In 1869, Case was probably aware of the superior improvement that the T.W. Lane patent offered over the original Ashcroft patent. Because the addition of the user company name did not become common until the mid- to late-1870s, the early Case gauges most likely did not have the J.I. Case name on their dials.

Photos 1 and 1A (view all photos in the Image Gallery) are an early example of a small 5-inch dial, American Steam Gauge Co. gauge with the 1852 Ashcroft patent and the 1859 T.W. Lane patent. It is very likely that a gauge similar to this would have been used on the early Case engines.