Does priority count? New Year’s Day event beginning of show season


We are starting out the new year with some material on show schedules, not necessarily steam, but engines none the less.

New Year’s Day

Some years ago, a few people, mainly gas engine folks, decided that in order to have the first show of the year they would get together on New Year’s Day for a bit of a celebration.

Of course weather can be a problem but being a hearty bunch helps. I’m not sure where the idea started or who was involved at first, but there seemed to be a core of gas enthusiasts who followed a cadre of leaders who called the shots to some extent as to what shows are best and worthy of support.

One of those leaders was the late Paul Boehm of Baden, Pennsylvania, who was a friend and mentor of mine. He had a lot of old-time knowledge of engines as he drilled and pumped wells for many years.

The first such gatherings I recall attending were in Columbiana, Ohio, at a garage in the backyard of Gene Hanna.

His son and son-in-law also both lived in town and made a core group of organizers. At that time they were also active with us at Portersville.

The son-in-law was the first I knew to use the shorthand AGEE for “Antique Gas Engine Enthusiast.”

Now several have that on their personal business card.

The gathering grew a bit and soon out grew the backyard location. It was probably there five or six years, maybe more.

After that it moved out of town to the home of a Mennonite preacher who had more room, including a sawmill shed. He also had a traction engine for a time, but I don’t recall it being fired up for a New Year’s Day get together.

After three or four years and some bad weather, I didn’t know of a gathering for a few years.

Then the idea was reborn in Pennsylvania where a member had a large building and lots of room and a selection of engines and other collectibles that changed a good bit from year to year.

He tried to interest the local fire volunteers in serving some food, but that never went too far.

Later another younger collector in New Castle hosted some meetings, but I’m not sure that it was on New Year’s Day.

I was surprised by the extent of his collection which was quite large and of good variety from small to large.

None of the club’s have tried to host a New Year’s event that I am aware of but most don’t have much in the way of heated buildings or all weather entrances.

This year, for the second or third time a New Year’s event was held by an Ellwood City collector and former student of mine at his well-heated pole building in the Burnstown section of Wayne Township.

It was rather well attended by other locals and several engines were kept running outside while food and bull are traded inside. The weather was not bad this year if you could stay out of the occasional gust of wind.


The running engines were a one or two horsepower Detroit two cycle doing a nice smooth job as usual.

About a three horse associated had been running. The third engine was a three horse type M International running very well on a gas bottle which is unusual for that type, but they had tuned it up and it was popping right along.

Engines larger than five horsepower are not seen too often at these gatherings because of difficulty in hauling. But sometimes there are larger ones at the hosting location.

Some of the bigger ones have a concrete foundation to support the cast iron frame they sit on.

Many oil field engines were mounted on large timber blocks since the oil excitement happened when trees were plentiful yet. Those would include Ball, Bessemer, Reid and a number of the lesser known Butler County engines like Braden, Wise, Palm, Phillips, Etna, Evans and a couple others.

Bessemer built a wide range of sizes and types from one or two to several hundred horsepower with multiple cylinders.

They were found in the oil fields and in mills and water pump stations all over the country and likely a few in foreign lands.

The 50 horse compressor engine at Portersville is some 25 feet long and might break the frame if not on a solid concrete foundation of several yards.

Another odd one to most eyes is the Franklin Valveless built in Franklin, Pennsylvania. It is, as the name implies, a port breathing two cycle design and enjoyed a time of popularity mostly in the oil fields.

Saegertown Pioneer Show had two of them donated a couple years back, and I think one is now running.

One of the major attractions of gas engines, more properly called internal combustion engines, is the wide variety of designs of cylinders, pistons, valving, ignition, starting mechanisms and so on.


When gas engines were used for drilling they often used a rather complicated reversible clutch with planetary gears and brake parts to accomplish the reverse rotation needed to pull tools up from the well.

Other plain shoe clutches are found on many engines to allow the engine to be started free from load, then put on the belt for working.

Many reversible clutches were left on site when the engine was bought into preservation as they were large and heavy and needed an outboard bearing on the foundation to support them.

Needless to say, by the time you read this, you will have missed any New Year’s Day action, but the show season lies before us so keep working on those engine projects and many more shows will be coming along, and we hope in warmer weather.


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