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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Russell Engine No. 12563

It's hard to believe that another year has flown by since the last Dacusville Farm Show. I'm hoping there will be more steam power on display in 2015 so this seems like as good a time as any to look back at the other engine that was making smoke last year.

One of the operators at the show that I talked to described this engine as a 10 hp made in 1895 but a visit to the National Russell Collectors Association seems to contradict that statement. The list of serial numbers they have posted on their site ( ) places serial numbers 12359 to 12765 as manufactured in 1905.

Since that was about all that could be gleaned at that site I browsed on over to the website of the Massillon Ohio Museum and found better grazing at . Page 38 of the Russell catalog features an illustration that looks very much like this engine. The description offers that it's a 5" bore by 7" stroke running at 250 rpm to produce a nominal 6 hp with a maximum of 9 hp. Other details include: boiler shell diameter 22", overall length 8' 4 3/4" , width 4' 3" height 7' 7 1/8" weight 4000 pounds. The ad copy states that the " Baby" was first built for the Southern trade and is particuarly designed for hilly country, which certainly fits the Upstate of the Carolinas. Be sure to check out the Russell catalogs the museum has posted on their site, interesting reading.

In 1842 three Russell brothers; Charles, Nathan and and Clement pooled their resources and with $1500 in capital formed the the C.M. Russell Company and opened shop in Massillon, Ohio. Since they were all carpenters by trade they naturally built houses, made furniture and engaged in the usual carpentry business. In 1853 they expanded into the manufacture of railroad cars. This is not as big a leap as it may seem since railroad rolling stock of the time was largly constructed of wood. This proved to be a successful endevor as the company eventually made over a thousand cars for various railroads.

Was this the begining of the move to production of machinery? The sources I've looked at are unclear. How did carpenters aquire the metal working and mechanical expertise to manufacture steam engines? Most likely they simply hired employees who had the necessary experience but who they were isn't reported.

By 1882 C.M. Russell & Co. was fully engaged in the production of steam engines and by all accounts they were very good at it. Russell engines had a reputation for quality, reliability and ease of maintenance. The engine serial numbers posted on the Russell Collectors website run from 1275 in 1882 to 17156 in 1924 for a total of 15,881 engines.

Russell also made stationary and marine engines, road rollers, threshers, sawmills, water tanks and assorted accessories for their steam engines. They even made a brief entry into the overcrowded gasoline tractor market. C.M. Russell & Co. was sold in 1927 but the service branch of the company remained in business until 1942.

Other sources:

Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck

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