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September 2016


By Paul Harvey

This article about John Wilcox was made possible by Pat Wilcox, who loaned a portion of John's photo collection to Clark Colby.  Diligently, Clark converted about 100 of the photos to digital media and shared them with me.  Enjoying all, I finally chose 20 photos to share with our readers for this article.  I had not seen the photos before, and they were all unlabeled.  However, I could recognize the identity of many of them.

I'm sure that almost all the black and white photos were taken with John's trusty Brownie camera.  He used it for many years. Several of the color images were taken by me and given to John.  I do not know who took the others.  The photos probably range from the mid 1960s to the mid 1990s.  I hope the reader enjoys this jaunt down memory lane and appreciates some glimpses of the past.  And so, the adventure starts!

Photo 1 shows a smiling John Wilcox posed with two sets of well-greased flywheels in his big building at Trail Run.  He is in his normal work attire of jeans, black tee shirt and cap.  Trail Run, located in eastern Ohio, was the old Buckeye Pipe Line Company's station that John purchased to preserve.  He built a large building there in the late 1960s to house the many engines he was saving.  Soon that building was full and the yard housed many well-tarped engines. Trail Run included the original station, the office building, as well as a large water cooling tank.  He hosted many pleasant "Flywheel Rolls" there in days gone by.

The Witte mine hoist and engine, now at the museum, was found in the structure shown in Photo 2.  It came from the west, but no other information exists.  Note the skiff of snow and the flat land beyond.  It apparently pulled an ore bucket from a mine.  The identity of the person in the photo is not known.

Photo 3 shows John's inverted Struthers Wells engine at its original location.  It pumped an oil well near the Kinzua Dam and belonged to the legendary oil producer, J.L. Billstone of Warren, Pennsylvania.  He was famous for patching things together to keep them running.  J.L. also had some very unusual engines pumping wells including the Struthers Wells, an Otto that he called the Philadelphia engine, a Fairchilds Betts, and a disc crank Bessemer half breed.  You can see the chain around the cylinder on the Struthers Wells, used to hold the pieces together!  Note, this engine is not the one on display at the Museum.

Perhaps John's last big, single-handed, rigging job was saving this huge Miehle newspaper printing press.  It was an immense job to get it out of the building and up timbers onto the truck bed.  See Photo 4.  John bought the 1957 Dodge truck in 1990 from Clark Colby and Clark's dad.  This truck, with a 354 cubic inch A series hemi engine, was able to haul heavier loads than his faithful 1952 International could handle.  John displayed the press at his later home in Delaware, Ohio.

Photo 5 jumps to 1994, when the museum removed the huge, 400 hp Busch-Sulzer air injection diesel engine from the Greenport, New York, municipal light plant.  John is in mid-center of the photo and smiling as the week-long job nears completion.  The engine is being winched onto the trailer by Gene Shepherd's huge chain drive, F model Mack.  Soon it would be in Coolspring.  This part weighed 40 tons.

In the early 1980s, we heard rumors of a large engine in the basement of an old mill in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania.  After some searching, we found the Climax engine in the basement of the Widman Drug Store, which originally had been a mill.  Note Photo 6.  The only access to the engine was through a trapdoor and ladder.  The ladder is  seen in the left of the photo.  It was hibernating for so many years with all the cobwebs and a sea of line shafting.  Only after the building changed hands were we permitted to make a large hole in the floor and remove the engine piece by piece.

John always had a love for printing equipment and, in the mid 1980s, he learned that the old "Punxsutawney News" was closing its doors.  Although the shop once printed the newspaper, the elderly gent running the place at the time, a Mr. Miller, was then only printing funeral cards.  Photo 7 shows loading an ancient paper cutter onto my 1965 International pickup truck.  John obtained many fine items from the shop.

Photo 8 depicts a happy John and Pat standing on his B140 International truck.  They are smiling at an early platen type printing press obtained from the Punxsutawney News.  This was probably the last item that Mr. Miller used.  All the items were in very good condition.

This undated black and white image, Photo 9,  shows John standing behind his beloved 15 hp Otto.  It was taken in the Power House of the museum many years ago.  This engine and its twin powered the water pumping plant at the Roebling country estate in Pickpay, New Jersey.  Built entirely to the Roeblings' request, it featured special heavy, electric lighting flywheels and a glass fuel overflow bulb.  It is still at the museum in what is now known as the John P. Wilcox Power House, and it runs superbly.

Another unmarked picture, Photo 10,  is a very complete, 10 x 18 Model 4 Klein loaded on John's 1952 International truck.  This would be a five-ton load for a two-ton truck - not an unusual situation for John!  John was very instrumental in saving so many of these fine engines in the 1960s.  At that time, both Buckeye Pipe Line Company of Ohio and the Eureka Pipe Line Company of West Virginia were either closing the stations or updating.  Without his efforts, these engines might only be memories.

Photo 11 is a 1970s picture of the museum's 300 hp Miller engine in Spring Creek Station.  It was still in daily service.  Note the belt over the flywheel, and all the metal shields. Its engineer, Manley Irons of Kane, Pennsylvania, kept the engine running despite its many problems.  It operated a huge Ingersoll-Rand air compressor to pump oil wells; the most distant well was eleven miles away!   Finally a compressor failure caused the rig to shut down, and it came to the museum in 1976.

A very nice 12 x 24 Model 1 Klein engine is seen in Photo 12.  The photo is not labeled, but it appears to be in its original location.  Only three of these magnificent engines still exist.  Does anyone recognize this engine?

John brought the first English engine to the museum in the mid-1970s   Dennis McCormick imported two National engines and sold one to John.  They had operated a water pumping plant in England and were fresh out of service.  In Photo 13, we see John adjusting the controls on his engine. Only the top of the National is seen in front of John on this old photo.

The Big Barn, as it was called then, was erected in 1971 and soon became the location of the growing collection.  Note Photo 14.  In those days many engines were becoming available and I was hauling home one engine a week in addition to working a full-time job.  So after the building was full, the outside yard served as the collection area.  If you notice closely, there is even an engine still loaded on the tilt bed truck.   It appears in the doorway.  But back then, the price was right and we had to get the machines before the scrap dealer did.  The structure is now named the Power Technology Building

Photo 15 shows one of the two existing 90 hp twin Kleins as it was being removed from Joy Station in Ohio.  This probably was in the mid 1960s.  They are both in collections and run again.  The identity of the person in the photo is not known.

A small, single flywheel engine was found in John's old pictures, see Photo 16.  There is no identity and I never saw the engine.  It has a side shaft and a Schebler carburetor. It looks very interesting; any ideas on what it is or where it could be?

Photo 17 is a picture of John on top of an engine during the night.  John and I frequently continued exploring long after nightfall, and with his flashlight he had to see everything.  I was content to stand on the ground and explore from there.  The engine is noted to be a Worthington diesel, and the building appearing to be very large.  My guess is that it's a station of the old Tidewater Pipe Line Company located in eastern Pennsylvania.  The Tidewater pumped crude oil from Rixford, Pennsylvania, to a refinery in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania.  The original Tidewater used the Snow diesels and pumped to the Susquehanna River;  a later extension used the Worthingtons and continued the entire way to Marcus Hook.

Another little unknown is seen in Photo 18.  The picture is an old black and white and has is unidentified.  Another photo shows a set of five-spoke flywheels mounted on a crankshaft.  I have no idea; any thoughts?

Photo 19 is indeed a heavy load for this little truck.  Before John had his own truck, he would either rent one or borrow one from a friend; whatever he could do to save another Klein.  This engine appears to be a 10 x 18 Model 3 Klein, weighing about five tons!  The pipeline station is not identified, but one can see the large oil tank.  Note the space under the front wheels of the truck, and the two huge rope blocks used to manually pull in on.  Now this is determination!

In conclusion,  Photo 20 shows John on his Speedster.  Built by Dick Vincent of Gap, Pennsylvania, this unit was a modified American LaFrance fire truck.  With the huge "T" head, six-cylinder engine, and overdrive sprockets to the rear wheels, its top speed was never tried.  Pat and her two daughters, Sandy to the left and Laura to the right, are in the back seat.  The apple tree is starting to blossom, and all looks right in Coolspring - so many years ago.  And so our adventure closes.

Next month I will share some photos of my August trip to EnglandLondon has some great engines and I think you will like them.

John and Flywheels

Photo 1:  John and flywheels at Trail Run

Witte Mine Hoist

Photo 2: Witte mine hoist and engine

Struthers Wells Engine

Photo 3: John's inverted Struthers Wells engine

Printing Press

Photo 4: Miehle newspaper printing press

Busch Sulzer Engine

Photo 5: John and 40 tons of Busch-Sulzer engine

Climax Engine

Photo 6: Climax engine in the basement of the Widman Drug Store in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania

Paper Cutter

Photo 7: Paper cutter on Paul's '65 International pickup

John and Pat

Photo 8: John and Pat with a printing press

John and Otto Engine

Photo 9: John and his 15 hp Otto engine

Another Klein Engine

Photo 10: 10 x 18 Model 4 Klein

The 300 hp Miller Engine

Photo 11: The 300 hp Miller engine at Spring Creek Station

March 1966

Photo 12: 12 x 24 Model 1 Klein

John and National Engine

Photo 13: John and his National engine

The Big Barn

Photo 14: The Big Barn now known as the Power Technology Building

90 hp Twin Klein Engine

Photo 15: 90 hp twin Klein engine

Unknown Engine

Photo 16: An "unknown" engine

John on Top

Photo 17: John climbing a Worthington diesel engine

Another Unknown Engine

Photo 18: Another "unknown" engine

Heavy Load

Photo 19: 10 x 18 Model 3 Klein

John and Speedster

Photo 20: John, Pat and family on the Speedster

John and Pat also shared a passion for cave exploration.  Be sure to watch this excerpt from National Geographic's "Mysteries Underground" to learn about the important contribution they made to the field of caving.


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