The engine on its first run after restoration c. 1981.

Many people don’t realize that there is a train engine at Historic Charlton Park.  It is a 1920 small gauge engine housed in a small shed near the maintenance shop.  It is 10 feet long and has a chain drive four speed chain gear.  The engine runs on two foot gauge rails.  When running it goes 3 to 15 miles per hour.

The founder of Historic Charlton Park, Irving Charlton, bought the engine from the city of Battle Creek.  It was used for hauling waste in a treatment plant and had several dump cars. The 5 ton engine was made in the 1920’s by Midwest Locomotive Works in Hamilton, Ohio and the company closed in the mid 1930’s.

The train was likely acquired by Irving Charlton around 1960. The train was unloaded next to the Machine Shed, which was built by Charlton in the 1950’s, and a snow fence was placed around it for protection. The train sat next to the Machine Shed (torn down in 2007) and children used it as a playground until 1980 when Russell Chaffee decided to restore the engine. In the winter of 1980, Chaffee towed the engine down the hill, he remembers the ground being frozen, and began restoration. Ed Slocum of the Barry County Road Commission rebuilt the engine. Park employee Mike Jones and community service volunteers restored the woodwork. It took them all winter to clean out the engine and make repairs and it was ready to go by early 1981. The photo on the left was taken the first time the engine ran on the rails, Russell Chaffee was the operator and you can just see him in the car.

Some Charlton Park visitors recall a time when this engine was displayed outside and children were allowed to sit on it.  Do you have any memories or photos of the train that you would like to share?

Sources:

http://www.northeast.railfan.net/diesel113.html

By: Kerri Steward and Claire Johnston

Westinghouse rolling through the historic village

In honor of last weekend’s 39th Annual Gas and Steam Engine Show, this week’s Artifact Archive features our 15 hp Westinghouse Traction Engine, made in Schenectady, N.Y. This vertical, self-propelled engine is the pride of the Historic Charlton Park collection. It would have been used to power threshers primarily, but could have powered other belted equipment such as water pumps and drag saws. To see a video of the Westinghouse in operation, click here.

Irving Charlton, Historic Charlton Park’s founder, purchased the Westinghouse in 1957 from Mrs. Willow Palmer of Paw Paw, MI. The engine was secondhand when the Carter’s acquired it, but they did not use it much. Charlton groused that he paid double what the engine originally sold for, possibly paying $1,500.

Irving Charlton seated on the Westinghouse

The Patent dates on the machine read May 20, 1884; Sept. 27, 1881 and Aug. 12, 1879. This Westinghouse engine was probably marketed about 1886. The engine operated with water on the inside of the tube, rather than the later models that carried water in flues on the outside. In a Grand Rapids Press article dated August 15, 1957, Charlton stated, “there are but two more like this particular engine in the United States.” That statement is difficult to corroborate, but the engine is still rare, especially in its current condition. The Westinghouse has all of its original sheet metal and almost all of its original parts. It also has a big leather drive belt. Russell Chaffee restored the engine in 1982.

 The Westinghouse is still in operation and can be seen chugging around the Park during Charlton Park Day and the Gas and Steam Engine Show. The engine is operated and maintained by members of the Charlton Park Gas & Steam Club.

 Sources:

  • Catalog of Machinery Manufactured by the Westinghouse Co., Schenectady, N.Y. 1903. Reprinted 1974.
  • Catalog of Machinery Manufactured by the Westinghouse Co., Schenectady, N.Y. 1886.
  • “Ancient Steam Engine: Barry Park Displays Machine of 1880s”, Grand Rapids Press, Aug. 17, 1957.