(Slightly OT, but contains a LOT of metal...)
The 115hp steam traction engine will be operating this (Labor Day) weekend
at Ardenwood Park in Fremont. The engine was built in 1905 by the Daniel
Best Co. of San Leandro, CA. A spectacularly impressive machine, it stands
seventeen feet tall and weighs in at somewhere around 22 tons.
New, it hauled logs from the woods to the sawmill, pulling a string of
wagons carrying what, today, would be about four semi loads a trip. This
weekend, it will be pulling an antique wagon, giving hayrides to kids of all
Take a look at:
The Ardenwood Railroad's steam locomotive will also be running.
I admit that, when I first saw the engine, I thought 115 hp sounded a bit on
the high side. But that was the rating it was given by the factory and one
of the crew that has been involved in its care for years, an engineer by
profession, did the calculations and concluded that, at a boiler pressure of
around 175 - 200 psi (which it carried when it was new), 115 hp was about
Today, the century old boiler is licensed for 100 psi. It is still powerful
enough that whatever is hooked to it has a pronounced tendency to come along
with nary a "chug" from the engine to suggest it is starting to labor.
One thing that adds to the confusion is that this is a "road engine" as
opposed to the agricultural version which Best also built. The ag engine is
shorter for a sharper turning radius and had rear wheels that were three or
four times as wide (less soil compaction). Further, the vertical boiler,
hidden as it is by the 8 ft. diameter rear wheels and the 450 gallon water
tank in front is much larger than it, at first glance, appears. It is about
eleven feet tall, from the bottom of the grates to the base of the stack and
is nearly five feet in diameter. The grate area in the firebox is close to
15 sq. ft. The engine is two cylinder, double acting and displaces appx.
2000 cu. in. per revolution of the crankshaft.
(If anyone wants more accurate measurements, I'll take a tape measure to it
This is not a small engine.
Did a little research...
Floyd Clymer's ALBUM OF HISTORICAL STEAM TRACTION ENGINES AND THRESHING
EQUIPMENT NO. 1, published in 1949, has, on page 76, a reproduction of a
page from the 1906-1907 Best Manufacturing Company catalog showing this
model of engine and describes it as its "latest improved road engine of 110
H.P. mounted on springs front and rear."
Best (and Holt) made some absurdly wide( to modern eyes) wheelsets
for their Traction Engines for avoiding sinking into the soft peat
in the San Joaquin Valley- like 15+ ft. wide on each side to keep the
ground pressure reasonable. The Crawlers came sortly afterwards
as a better solution. I havn't read some of those Clymers books in
but I think he had some pictures of those, too. **