The History Of An Old Model F Peerless Portable Engine


| September/October 1988



Portable Geiser Peerless steam engine

March 1987, Winchester, Virginia. This is where I bought the portable Geiser Peerless steam engine.

Submitted by A F. Harker 300 Bella Street Hollidaysburg, PA 16648

It all began in early March 1987. We were on a trip to Berryville, Virginia, to get two upright boilers that were used in a honey extracting business. We traveled in two pickup trucks, one driven by Mr. Red Helsel and the other by Ray Helsel. Passengers in Red's truck were A. F. Harker and Charley Smith, while Ray's passengers were W. T. Reese and Elmer Keith. I was with Ray and as usual we were talking show stuff and watching for old equipment along the way. For once I wasn't driving. Ray said to be on the lookout for a flatbed truck that could be used to haul a tractor to shows. Ray has a nice 1948 Allis Chalmers WC tractor. Just north of Winchester, Virginia, I spotted some trucks over on a hill. It was decided after we got the boilers loaded that on the way back we would take the lead and check out the trucks, which we did. The old cannery trucks were in pretty tough shape, but for sale. While we were talking to the fellow about the trucks, his dad, Mr. Whitacre, wanted to know what we were going to do with the boilers. One thing led to another and he said 'I have a boiler up in the country a few miles.' It was talked about for a while. After he saw Mr. Harker was interested he said get in the car and we'll take a closer look. We went up a country road past more old tired iron and an old mill. Then we turned onto a lane leading up to his homestead farm. Of course, Mr. Harker and Mr. Whitacre were talking shop. This fellow had a real nice apple orchard along the lane to his farm. Mr. Harker before retiring from the PRR as a locomotive fire man and engineer with 49 years of service also had an apple orchard that he worked.

A little farther up the lane we stopped by this old shed. Back in the weeds at the end of the shed she sat. What a sight! The old portable had no wheels. They had been taken off many years ago because they were wooden and put underneath the shed for protection. First look over it, I discovered it was a Peerless, but had no markings other than a small F on the valve cover. Most Peerless's are marked with a large R, S, T, TT, etc. It also had an S spoked flywheel. What a sight! It had sunk down to where the fire door was level with the ground and had acquired a groundhog as an occupant.

The Peerless had set for at least 30-40 years. After a general look-over, guess who left their camera in the truck? But Mr. Whitacre had his and took a picture of Art standing beside the Peerless. After this we returned to the trucks and headed home, with thoughts of how this would look restored instead of her nose in the dirt.

A couple of weeks later, arrangements were made with Mr. Henry Dull (he used to have a show at Alum Bank, PA--the Allegheny Mountaineers) to bring the Peerless home. In the process of loading the portable, a 11/2 HP International gas hit and miss, was discovered upside down behind the shed. So, it was dickered on and loaded along with an Emerson Brantingham horse-mower which had to be pulled out of where it had settled down in the dirt from many years of snow, freezing and thawing with each season putting it a little deeper down.

After the engine was delivered to Art Harker's home in Hollidaysburg, PA, the restoration (or more appropriately recycling) was begun so that it would be ready for the September show of the Nittany Antique Machinery Association at Penn's Cave.