The Liddell Engine That Could

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Glenn Abernethy's grandfather purchased this engine in 1935.
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The Little Engine That Could is a story that steam lovers know quite well. This story is very similar because it covers the endurance of a steam engine. This engine’s birthday is not known, as it was bought used in 1935. The original owner may never be known. Like the locomotive in the story this one made it by “years.”

The Liddell Mfg. Co. was started around 1900 by Mr. W.S. Liddell. It was located on Liddell Street in Charlotte, North Carolina. Liddell is pronounced like “lid dell” with the emphasis on “dell.” The company closed its doors in the late ’30s. Most of its products were probably for the textile industry.

The engine was said to put out 50 to 60 HP. It has a 10-inch bore with 20-inch stroke. The flywheels double as belt pulleys. It is a slide valve type. The engine belongs to the Abernethy Lumber Co. They are located in Charlotte.

The engine was purchased (used) around 1935 and ran a planer and sawmill most of its life. In the late 1970s the engine was placed at a local park for the enjoyment of the park visitors. It was decided that the engine was a liability and the city asked the lumberyard if they wanted the engine back. The engine is to be set up in the near future; it ran only a few feet from where it is now.

During its life it was in a fire. The planer shed burned around it and melted the babbitt out of its bearings; they were quickly repaired at the lumberyard. The usual maintenance was all it needed for all those years.

After inspecting the engine it appears to be in excellent condition. The flyball governor was vandalized and is missing some parts. The governor is a Gardner brand (store bought). The engine was welded to prevent it from turning while at the park. The repairs there will be minimal as some thought was put into the placing of the welds.

If you are in the area, go by the lumberyard and look it over; I am sure the Abernethy family would not mind one bit. I have been by the lumberyard many times and heard the “chomp chomp chomp” sounds as it worked there. It is a tribute to a well designed and operated machine that warms many steam lovers’ hearts and it says, “I knew I could.” IMA

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
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