The Two Last Frick Traction Engines

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.’

Fortunately there is one man alive who issued the original stock
order to have this last 9 x 10 Frick traction engine built. He is
F. Oscar Rebok who spent 50 years in the employment of Frick
Company. He served as expediter of the sales department and also
was the liaison between that department and the president, who was
then Mr. D. N. Benedict.

At 81 years Mr. Rebok has a vivid memory of this engine and says
early in 1927 this 9 x 10 Frick traction was built for stock, but
since the steam engine era was drawing to a close, this large
engine was not in demand and it remained at the factory in
Waynesboro until 1929, when it was sold to Harvey King of
Greencastle, Pa. Three months later his health failed, and since he
had used it very little, Mr. King asked Frick Company if they would
accept it back.

About this time Mr. Archie Gregg of Dickerson, Md., arrived at
Frick Company to buy a traction engine, but was told that the
company had discontinued the manufacture of tractions but could
provide him with the Harvey King engine for the balance due on it.
Oscar Rebok personally escorted Archie Gregg to Greencastle to see
this engine, which he agreed to buy provided the changes he had in
mind were made back at the Frick shops at his expense. This was
agreed to and the engine was brought back and a Work Order, No.
366994-B, was made out for a Special 9 x 10 traction engine, dated
January 7, 1930.

I mentioned to Oscar the Andy Hess statement with regard to the
serial number; he confirmed this and also cleared up the great
mystery. He said the brass serial number plates were stamped 25 at
a time and no attempt was made to install them on engines in
numerical sequence. So thus we have this discrepancy in the later
engine serial numbers.

Since Mr. William S. Strayer, an old thresherman of Dillsburg,
Pa., owns all the Frick engine patterns and many records, I paid
him a visit. In his cozy office, heated with a wood burning cook
stove more than 100 years old, he showed me a Conestoga Wagon Jack
dated 1698, which must have been made in Germantown, Pa. When I
mentioned my mission he pulled from his numerous files the Work
Order for this Special 9 x 10 traction to meet the specifications
demanded by Archie Gregg.

It is too detailed to account for everything, but some of the
changes listed are as follows: ‘Standard valve rods were
deleted and the portable type installed, all piping was changed to
one inch instead of standard, and this necessitated special
injectors. A special crankshaft was forged to accommodate a second
belt wheel of 36 inches with an 8 inch face on the left hand side.
The rear axle was free floating with an extra set of cushion
springs on the right rear wheel. The axle collars, counter shaft
and spur gears were special. The rear driver wheels were the heavy
duty type as used on the ‘Contractor Special’ with 24
spokes, 70 inches in diameter, with a 7/8
inch tire, 20 inches wide. On the front axle the king post brace
was special, and there were special balls installed in the steering
chains to absorb shock.’ The jacketed boiler bears number
15478.

The engine was delivered to Archie P. Gregg on June 24, 1930. It
was the last 9 x 10 Frick traction engine made and when rebuilt was
the last traction to leave Waynesboro, although for the second
time. In later years this engine was purchased by Mr. C. W.
Thornhill, Culpepper, Va. About 1959, Mr. H. Carrick, Denton, N.C.,
became the owner. When he had public sale, the engine was purchased
by Mr. Harry Krantz of Frederick, Md. In 1968 Mr. Krantz died and
this Special 9 x 10 is at present owned by his widow Margaret E.
Krantz, Frederick, Maryland. She says she admired it very much, but
would sell it to the right person who would give it the proper
care.

Now I hope to resolve for all time the dispute as to which was
the last Frick traction engine built. In addition to Terry
Mitchell, 0. D. Good, and W. A. Hartman, Mr. Oscar Rebok today
confirms that when the Frick traction engine bearing serial number
30519, now owned by Mr. James Layton of Federalsburg, Md., puffed
off the line on September 10, 1927, the production of Frick
traction engines was at an end, AS IT WAS THE LAST TRACTION BUILT
OF ANY SIZE. On October 10, 1927, it was shipped to G. W., E. H.,
and G. D. Secrist at Foreman, West Virginia.

And so we are happy to conclude that both the last Frick
traction engines are alive and well, the 9 x 10 Special can be seen
at the home of Mrs. Krantz at Frederick, Md. The 8 x 10 is the
pride of Mr. James Layton and can be seen going through its paces
at each autumn reunion of the Eastern Shore Threshermen and
Collectors Association held at Federalsburg, Md.

ADDITIONAL FRICK NOTES

With the advent of World War II there was a spurt of demand for
portable steam engines by sawmillers. Some engines were made out of
spare parts, and sometimes the welding shop was called on for
hangers, etc. According to Frick records, the last steam engine
made by Frick Company was an 8 x 10 portable bearing serial number
30716.

It was purchased by Apply Ridge Company, Charleston, West
Virginia, April 28,1943. It would appear that 10 x 12 portable,
bearing serial number 30695, now owned by William S. Strayer, may
have been the last steam engine to leave Frick Company, thus
closing an era spanning four score and ten years.

In 1916 Frick Company entered the gasoline tractor field and
manufactured two sizes. One was a 12-20 powered by either a Yates
or an Erd motor, also a 15-28 powered by a Veaver motor. In 1924
the gasoline tractor production was discontinued.

Frick even entered the clock field when Fred Frick, one of the
three sons of the founder, invented a master impulse clock, which
was to be used in schools and offices to give a signal at any
desired time in any room of school or shop. After the manufacture
of several, Fred Frick sold it out to Mark Landis of Geiser Mfg.
Company and nothing more was heard of it. The writer owns one of
these clocks. A larger size hangs in the Directors’ Office of
Frick Company, in Waynesboro, Pa.

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