Sunday, September 15, 2019

Copar Panzer Model A

There are a lot of Copar Panzers still in existence. It's not unusual to see one or more examples at any show. By 1955 the factory was producing a Panzer every thirty minutes when it was running at full capacity. Nailing down hard facts about production of specific models is not always easy, however. In this post we’ll take a look at what might be one of the rarest of the rare.

The Panzer Tractor Owner’s Club’s website: is the go-to source for information about all things Panzer since they probably have more original  documents in their collection than anybody. According to their posted history of the Model A, only about 350 were built in 1954 before production was moved to a new facility in Laurel, Md. Of that 350, they know of 50 tractors that have survived. 

James Clark was an engineer employed by Ahrendt Instrument Co. of College Park Maryland when he designed his first garden tractor, and approached his employers about building and marketing it. Ahrendt was one of the thousands of war time defense contractors who were looking for a transition to a civilian market and Clark’s tractor must have looked like a good option. 

The Panzers that were built in 1954 at the College Park Ahrendt factory were called Model A’s and were marked on the jack shaft casting with that designation and College Park cast into the iron part, as on this one. After the Laurel, Md. plant opened in January, 1955, Copar started calling them Model T 102 and the Model A was officially relegated to the dustbin of Panzer history. 

But wait, it's not that simple ( it never is ).  There might be some Laurel T 102s out there with the College Park jackshaft casting because of an existing stock of production and repair parts. If so, the casting could say College Park and the only way to know would be by checking the serial number against a reliable registry. 

With that in mind, I cranked up my computer and started looking for a serial number. On the casting along with “Model A” and “ College Park” cast into the metal is “ Serial Number” cast into the part. I ran the magnification slider up to about 75% and there it was, a blank space. It looked like at one time there had been a metal tag attached to the cast iron, but that had been a long time ago. Now there was only a rusty patch of iron. 

Soooo! All that and I can’t say for sure that this is one of the few, the proud Model A’s. Oh well, onto more definite material. Model A tractors were powered by an eight and one half horsepower model 23 Briggs and Stratton engines and came from the factory equipped with cast iron pulleys. The entire tractor was painted red. The yellow wheel accent was added after the move to Laurel, Md.  

Copar was sold to Virginia Metalcrafters located in Waynesboro, Va. in 1960 and tractors were then sold using the name Pennsylvania Lawn Products until the mid sixties, when a company called Jackson Manufacturing Co. bought them out. Production of Panzer tractors ended sometime in the early 1970’s. 

The Panzer shown in these photos was exhibited at the Steam Expo in Cumming, Ga. last November. No information about it was displayed. For information about the 2019 show visit: .

Sources:  The Panzer Tractor Through the Years by Sam Moore, May 2013 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Norfolk and Western 611

If you’ve ever taken a ride on a steam excursion train you know that rail fans will wait beside the tracks, sometimes for hours, just to watch a steam locomotive go by. A better way is to be at the North Carolina Transportation Museum at Spencer when they’re having one of their “At the Throttle Steam” events, that way you can watch all day long if you want to. When I learned that the 611 was returning last September, I knew I had to be there.

Big, powerful and streamlined sleek, the N&W J Class 4-8-4’s were the crest of the last wave of the steam age. By 1941 when the first of the class was built, the technology had evolved to its highest stage of development and the craftsmen at N&W’s Roanoke, Va. Shops were among the best in the world. Norfolk and Western built 14 engines of the J Class to pull their crack passenger trains like the “Cavalier, the Tennessean, Pocahontas, and the Birmingham Special. 

At a time when most of the nation's railroads were eagerly embracing dieselization N&W chose to embark on a program to build state of the art steam locomotives at their Roanoke Shops. The first 5, numbered 600 to 604 rolled out the door between 1941 and 42. Six J-1 class engines, numbered 605 to 610 followed between 43 and 1944. The final three, 611 to 613 were built in 1950.

With a boiler operating at 300 psi to power cylinders with a bore of 27”  X stroke of 32”  that produced 80,000 # tractive effort, the J’s were the most powerful 4-8-4 engines ever built. They were designed to be capable of reaching 140 mph, that is if you could find a section of track that could accommodate a train at that speed. In actual service they did pull up to 15 passenger cars at speeds up to 110 mph.

The 611 rolled out the door at the Roanoke Shops on May 29, 1950 and onto N&W’s engine roster. It cost Norfolk and Western $251,544 to build the engine in house, which might have been a factor in the management’s decision process. The Roanoke Machine Works was founded in 1881 for the purpose of building and maintaining steam locomotives for the N&W and the Shenandoah Valley Railroad. The 60 acre facility  accommodated a foundry, machine shops, smith’s shops, erecting shops, a planing mill, lumber drying sheds, warehouses and a roundhouse. Everything necessary to maintain and build steam locomotives.

That the 611 was one of the last of the J class built, gave it an advantage as a survivor over engines with higher mileage and more hours in service. By 1958 N&W’s passenger service had completed the transition to diesel power and the remaining Js were transferred to freight service or sold as scrap. In 1959 it was chosen to pull the last of the steam railfan excursions that N&W would offer. Today it is the only surviving example of the J class engines and the star of the collection at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. 

This fall the 611 will travel north to the Strasburg Rail Road in Pennsylvania for a series of events that will run from Sept. 27 to Oct. 27 2019. You can learn more about the planned activities by visiting: 


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Allis-Chalmers D 14 Rough Terrain Forklift

Here’s one for all you industrial equipment fans.
There is no shortage of rough terrain forklifts. Almost every major manufacturer has at one time or another, produced an entry for the market. Allis - Chalmers was no exception. The D 14 series of tractors aren’t particularly scarce either, so why is it so hard to find any mention of this machine online?

The D 14s were the first of the  D series that Allis built between 1957 and 1969. This run included : D 15, D 17, D 10, D12, D 19 and D 21 tractors. The D 14’s were manufactured from 1957 to 1960. Production numbers vary according to the source, from 17,474 to 23,050 according to the site you visit. The  D 14, came from the factory with a sticker that read $2,900 in 1960. 

A gasoline version of the D 14 was shipped from the West  Allis, Wisconsin plant to the University of Nebraska Lincoln for evaluation  from June 1, 1957 to June 7 and the results were published  as Test # 623. The rated load belt horsepower was recorded as 30.75, drawbar at 24.5 hp.

The test tractor was powered by an Allis built 4 cylinder, 149 cubic inch,  liquid cooled, vertical I head engine with a bore of 3 ½” and stroke of 3 ⅞”.  It was also available as an LP version. The transmission provided four forward speeds plus reverse. Advertised speeds were: 1st, 2 ⅕ mph, 2nd, 3 ¾ , 3rd, 4 ¾ , and 4th, 12 mph.    

I had just about decided that the machine I had photographed at the W.N.C. Fall Harvest  Days Show back in 2016 was some kind of an aftermarket conversion when I found an ad on an auction house website offering an A-C 160 Rough Terrain Forklift for sale. There were differences in sheet metal but overall the appearance was quite similar. The 160 tractors were distributed by Allis but built by Renault from 1970 to 1975. Based on this family resemblance, I’ve concluded that the D 14 is an all but forgotten earlier version of the rough terrain forklift line.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Holmes Sawmill Boiler

From time to time I get an email from a visitor requesting information about a piece of machinery, and all too often there’s not much that I can offer in the way of help. Such was the case recently when I was contacted by Mark and Sally Holmes about the steam power used at their great grandfather’s sawmill. As you can see from the photos, there isn’t much to go on. No identifying numbers or other markings that might be helpful. That said, it’s an interesting project so I suggested putting out a request for information on the Mule, on the off chance that someone might see it who could provide some help. If that someone is you, leave a comment or send Sally an email at : . Now I’ll let them continue the story in their own words.

Can anyone help provide information on this 100+ year-old steam sawmill boiler?

My great grandfather, Russell Holmes, ran a logging/milling operation in Bleecker, Fulton County, New York, from 1890 until his death in 1918. After a brief stint of ownership by another lumber company, the land was reclaimed circa 1921 by the State of New York. Today, now part of the rugged Adirondack Park, the forest has reclaimed most of the evidence of the Holmes logging/milling operation. One behemoth exception is this steam boiler.

The steam sawmill was situated at the base of a mountain, receiving the timber from the higher elevations by team (vs. water). The logs were then hauled out, again by team, about five or six miles to the nearest public road.

In early May 2018, I photographed the boiler. Although I examined the boiler closely, to my amateur eye, I couldn’t spot a manufacturer’s name or any such identifying markings.

I've been told by the Bleecker Town Historian that the boiler was initially "dragged in through the woods.” This would definitely have occurred pre-1918. The historian added that, during WWII when scrap metal was in demand, men went to the old steam sawmill site. Whether or not some pieces were retrieved is not clear. But, as told by the historian and evidenced by the photos, the bulky remains of the boiler were not retrievable and thus it lies today.  

Related or not, is a "Wanted" advertisement in a 1913 New York newspaper - "Second-hand boiler about 65 horse-power (R.E. Holmes)" -- Would the boiler pictured be in that range? 

Any information – the manufacturer, possible date range of manufacture, HP capacity – any thoughts -- would be greatly appreciated.

Mark Holmes

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Spotless Engine

Well, maybe just a smudge here and there. I know that this is a Spotless Engine because it says so, right on the brass badge that’s fastened to the water hopper. “ The Spotless Co. Inc. The South’s Mail Order House, Richmond, Va.” It also list the horsepower as 4 ½ hp. And the engine number as 7724.

So it’s the company, not the engine that’s spotless, or so they would like their customers to believe. Spotless was a regional competitor to Sears and Roebuck that served the greater southeast. One advertisement features a map that shows shipping available to Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Like Sears, they sold almost anything that could be packed up and hauled to your location. The list of their inventory included such diverse items as: farm implements and buggies, barbed wire fence and rubber roofing material, stoves, ranges, sewing machines and organs. 

And engines. In 1912 they offered: 1 ½ hp, 2 ½ , 3 ½ , 4 ½ , 5, 7, 9, 12, 13 and 16 hp. Models. The 5 hp model sold for $115, the 7 hp version brought $146.50. Every engine came with a 5 year guarantee. You had a 30 day trial period to return the engine if you were not satisfied. 

Spotless sold engines but they didn’t make them, like Sears they contracted with a manufacturer to build engines for their house brand. Spotless engines were produced by the Jacobson Machine Manufacturing Co. located in Warren, Pa. They also made engines that were sold under the trade names: Bullseye, Maynard, Moody, Unito and Sturdy Jack Jr. 

An advertisement that ran in a 1914 issue of Tractor and Gas Engine Review boasted that Jacobson made an engine of every type and for every service. Air cooled, oil cooled and water cooled. Hit and miss, throttling and automatic. Stationary and portable engines. Jacobson had you covered no matter what your power needs. 

The 1912 Jacobson / Spotless engine shown here was exhibited at the Western North Carolina Fall Harvest Days Antique Engine and Tractor Show 2018. For information about the 2019 event visit: . 

Sources: Tractor and Gas Engine Review 1914 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Rumely 25-45 Type R

The early 1920’s saw a shift in the tractor market, away from the big heavy models to smaller, lighter and most importantly, more economical versions. Rumely had offered lightweights since 1916, but 1924 saw the introduction of four new lightweight models, the L at 15-25 hp , the Type M at 20-35 hp , the Type R at 25-45 hp and the Type S at 30-60 hp.  These models would remain in production into 1927.

In this post we’ll take a look at the Type R, like this example that the Shealy Family brought to the Richland Creek Antique Fall Festival at Saluda, South Carolina in Nov. 2016.

Kerosene was the preferred tractor fuel in the early years of the twentieth century because it was cheaper and more commonly available than refined gasoline but it had its drawbacks. A higher operating temperature was needed to properly vaporize the kerosene but the higher temperature created cooling problems as well. The boiling point of water was too low to be a suitable coolant for a kerosene burning tractor as many a Fordson owner could attest. Rumely solved the problem by using oil as a cooling medium since it boils at 400 degrees F. Think maybe that’s where the name “Oil Pull” came from? 

Rumely shipped a Type R to the University of Nebraska in 1925 where it was evaluated from July 7 to July 14 in test number 116. The following observations were recorded. Brake horsepower for the rated load test was listed as 45.55, drawbar rated at 27.42 hp. Advertised speeds were: low, 2 mph, second, 2 ½ mph, high, 3 mph. Total weight as tested, with operator, 11,900 pounds. 

The R was powered by a Rumely built 2 cylinder, horizontal, valve in head engine with a bore of 7 13/16 inches and a stroke of 9 ½ “. Engine speed was listed at 540 rpm.  The engine speed was controlled by a Rumely built flyball governor. Rumely advertisements claimed it could pull 5 or 6 14” plows or a 10 foot road grader. It came from the factory equipped with a price tag that read, $3200. 

Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors  by C.H. Wendel 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

1924 Crossley Brothers Type 1065 Engine

Imported engines, like this Type 1065 Crossley Brothers, that was exhibited at the 2019 Foothills Antique Power Association of North Carolina Spring show, aren’t something you see very often around here. Judging by the fit and finish shown by this example, they were not inexpensive, even back in 1924. There were dozens of domestically produced engines available that could do exactly the same thing,  that almost certainly cost less.

In 1867 Francis and William Crossley bought a factory that manufactured steam engines, pumps and presses from a man named John M. Dunlop and set up shop under the name of Crossley Brothers. Frank was in charge of factory operations while William  managed the business. It always helps to have a Daddy Warbucks in the family and with considerable help from a rich uncle they acquired the rights to the Otto and Lang atmospheric gas engine for the entire world with the single exception of Germany in 1869. Those privileges expanded in 1876 to include the famous Otto four stroke engine.

Crossley contributed improvements to the engines they manufactured that included poppet valves and hot tube ignition and in 1888 an improved carburettor for using liquid fuels. In 1896 they bought the rights to the Diesel system and by 1901 they were manufacturing gasoline engines for automobiles and buses. In 1906 they expanded again and began building automobiles under the name of Crossley Motors Ltd. During World War 1 Crossley built aircraft for the war effort.. 

The spending spree continued after the war ended with the purchase of the Premier Gas Engine Co. in 1919. Premier specialized in large power plants for ships, railroad locomotives and stationary engines. All good benders must eventually come to an end and Crossley woke up with a serious financial hangover. Now it was Crossley’s turn to be bought out by a company called Bellis and Morcum, who used the Crossley - Premier trademark into the late 60’s. 

The corporate Pac Man game continued as Crossley - Premier merged into Amalgamated Power Engineering, also known as the A.P.E. Group, in 1968. This created A.P.E. - Crossley LTD. Honest, I didn’t make this up. By 1988 Crossley Engines had become a division of Rolls - Royce Engineering who retained ownership up until 2009 when they moved production and closed the Crossley factory in Manchester for good. 


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Russell Super Special Grader

Back in February 2018 I did a post about a Russell Junior Grader. Last Summer I spotted this all grown up Russell Super Special, parked in front of the East Suber Road Storage located in Greer, South Carolina. Whenever I stumble across one of these roadside attractions, time permitting, I stop and take a look. I’ve learned a bit more about Russell Manufacturing since that first post, but big gaps of information about the company and its products remain.

Richard Russell and C.K. Stockland set up shop in Stephen, Minn. in 1903 under the name of Russell Grader Manufacturing Co. to build a horse drawn, elevating road grader that they had designed. This machine took the dirt scraped by the blade and conveyed it by belt to a dump wagon or other convenient location. This early product sold well and  Russell continued to expand. 

By 1915 Russell was running front cover advertisements on The Contractor, a trade magazine for contractors that specialized in infrastructure construction. This publication, available courtesy of, provides some interesting insights about Russell Manufacturing during that period.

Russell had relocated their general office and factory to 2207 - 2229 University Ave. S.E. Minneapolis, Minn. and had established dealerships in 27 cities in the United States and Canada.  The overseas market for Russell products was developing nicely as well. Graders were being shipped to: Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America, the West Indies, Africa and India.

World War 1 opened up a new market for grading machines. An article that reads like a typical trade publication press release, describes how Russell Vice President, M.T. Nagel had recently sold a “ car load of machines” to the Russian Government, to be used for digging trenches . A photograph shows a Mogul Grader excavating a shallow trench. The accompanying text claims that a mile of trench 4 foot deep can be completed in one hour. The shallow trench produced would no doubt provide protection from rifle fire, but none from airburst artillery shells. The troops who would occupy the sector, had their work cut out for them.   

“For big work, be sure to investigate the Russell Mogul”. The advertisement described the Mogul as, “The largest, heaviest, and greatest capacity road machine made.” The Mogul’s blade was 12 feet long and 20 inches wide and supported by a frame that weighed 6750 pounds. It was intended to be pulled by a 60 horsepower tractor. 

In  descending order of capacity, the Russell lineup included: the Russell Special at eight ft., Russell Standard seven ft., Russell Hi-Way Patrol 6 foot. Russell Jr. at 6 foot and the Russell Kid. 

Russell’s product line also included: dump wagons and the ever popular elevating graders, scarifiers, disc plows, road drags, road plows, railroad plows, snow plows, corrugated galvanized metal culverts and steel beam bridges to name but a few. They also built self propelled motor graders before Russell merged with Caterpillar. 

So where does the Super Special fit into this story? That, I haven’t been able to determine. About all I’ve seen online are a few brief threads on chatroom sites. What made it “Super”? Judging by the other Russell models, my guess would be the size of the blade. With that in mind, I measured the blade on this grader and found it to be nine feet long by 18 inches wide. Since the blade on the Special was given as eight feet, the extra foot would make this one “Super” sized. Of course, I could be wrong.  Any information you, our readers can contribute is always welcome.