Friday, May 1, 2015

Frick Portable Steam Engine

About seven years ago I was traveling to a job related training class when I spotted this Frick portable steam engine  serving as an applique flag pole, a few miles from Harrells, NC.  I was familiar with Frick as a manufacturer of refrigeration equipment but production of steam engines came as a surprise. I stopped to snap some pictures but no one was in sight and time was pressing so I didn't learn any details about this engine.

Looking at an illustration from a 1925 Frick catalog in Jack Norbeck's Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines this is almost certainly a 50 / 65 hp center crank engine with a 150 psi working pressure boiler. The boiler was designed to be fired with readily available fuel like sawmill scraps which would be a likely use for this engine in the area where it was located. Although this engine is largely intact, it clearly has been a long time since it was operational.

George Frick founded his company at Waynesboro,Pa. in 1853 and began producing farm machinery. Sawmills were added in 1875 followed by portable and stationary steam engines about 1876 and traction engines in 1877. In 1883 A.O. Frick, George's son developed the first Frick ammonia compressor which launched the refrigeration business for which Frick is known today. Steam engine sales peaked around 1900 and gradually declined through the depression years until traction engine production ended in 1927 but portable engines continued to be manufactured until 1945. 

If you're interested in reading more about the history of Frick Manufacturing a visit to won't disappoint. In addition to a brief history of the company the site has a number of interesting period photos including a shot of an engine like this one taken at the Frick factory. Click on the club projects tab and look for "Frick's 150 years of history".

The Connecticut Antique Machinery Association website is also worth a look. Under photo essays they have posted a number of interesting photos that show the re tubing of the boiler of a 1902 Frick traction engine as a club project. It gives a rare look at the inner workings of one of these beast.

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