The Two Last Frick Traction Engines


| September/October 1971



722 East End Ave., Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17602

In the 1960 November-December issue of the Iron Men Album, appeared a short story entitled 'The Last Frick Traction' by Terry Mitchell, who was assistant advertising manager of Frick Company (now retired). On most occasions this type of article is accepted as a factual basis of authority by those who appreciate the nostalgia of the glories that once were, in the present era of mass confusion.

However, the 1960 article had the effect of the firing on Fort Sumter, and the battle of the last Frick traction engine has been raging ever since. The 9 x 10 engine quoted in the 1960 story bore serial number 29592. Mr. James Layton, President of Eastern Shore Thresherman & Collectors Association, Federalsburg, Md., fired back a salvo of strong opposition to refute the claim, since he had recently purchased a Frick 8 x 10 traction at a sawmill in Richmond, Virginia, which bore the serial number of 30519.

The chief of the Frick Parts Division, Mr. W. A. Hartman (now retired) had already confirmed the 30519 engine to me, and I later asked Terry about this, and I hereby quote his reply. 'Many thanks for your letter of November 26 (1960). The statement that the engine number 29592 was the last Frick traction engine built, was given us by Mr. Thornhill, but this seems to be in error as Mr. Good (O. D. Good of Engineering, now deceased) confirms the number 30519 as being the last one built. This was completed in the fall of 1927.'

However, this settled nothing, and old time Frick fans took sides pro and con. Mr. C. W. Thornhill, Culpepper, Virginia, who was a Frick customer for many years and knew his way around the company, claimed to have checked out the Frick records in Waynesboro, Pa., but he was never able to explain the serial number of 29592 claim over the 30519. Mr. Thornhill was very firm in his defense of the former and as the dispute continued we believe it was a contributing factor to his death.

When Andrew Hess, the former chief engineer of Frick Company, was alive I once asked him what the great mystery was concerning the serial number of this 9 x 10 traction engine. He said, 'Well, Wilmer, when the engine was finished one of the mechanics went to the cupboard and picked up a plate already stamped 29592, and it was riveted as usual on the steam chest. I am sure no one ever gave a thought of any dispute in later years.'