Restoration of

Silsby Steamer 483

In Early 1984 members of Protection Engine Co. No. 3 traveled to an antique apparatus muster in Allentown, PA, where they placed third in a field of three steamers. At this event the members learned just how rare this machine really was and the potential for preserving this engine and returning it to its original grand state by properly restoring the engine.

The first steps to restore the old engine were taken in June of 1984 with the appointment of a working restoration committee.

The first step was extensive research. The committee first searched local sources for old photos and descriptions of the engine to discover what it looked like when delivered to Honesdale. Once these sources were fully explored, the search became national. Information was gathered from many sources until they believed that they were ready to begin.

The next step was to thoroughly photograph the engine from every possible point of view. These photos were to be used as a reference while taking the engine apart and to reassemble it when the work was complete.

Though we had been told that the original brass boiler jacket had once been plated in nickel, no traces remained, having over the years been polished away. Removal of parts from the boiler revealed gleaming nickel below, proving what we had been told.

Parts were removed, cataloged, cleaned and inspected over the next few months until no two pieces remained together.

Many interesting discoveries were made during this process. Nearly every piece was stamped "483". If a part was too small for this it was marked with either "83" or for very small parts just "3". A few minor parts were stamped "249", the number of the other steamer once owned by Honesdale. Many of the parts in the engine and pump were also stamped with the initials of the individual who made them. We also learned that as plating wore off of parts and steel or iron was found below the parts were painted black or in some cases red. Parts that were made of iron or brass continued to be polished.

The boiler was of major concern as we wanted to restore the engine to operable condition. Our studies of early steamer boilers told us that the boiler was not a Silsby boiler but rather a LaFrance Nested Tube Boiler. The engine was rebuilt by LaFrance in 1890. We do not know if they replaced the entire boiler or just replaced the Silsby drop tubes with LaFrance Nested Tubes. After mush discussion with the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry they agreed to certify the boiler for operation if it could pass an ultra sound test for shell thickness in a certified shop. The testing revealed a reduction in the shell wall at the waterline and was not approved.

Plans for a new boiler were drawn by the testing facility, Boiler Erection and Repair in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The plan was approved and they began to build a new boiler.

A new decorative boiler jacket was made and donated by Nichols Sheet Metal of Scranton, PA. Other parts were nickel plated as they originally were. One pump bearing was replaced in the machine shop at Moore Business Forms in Honesdale. Many of the original bolts which attached parts to the boiler had deteriorated to the point that they would not make a tight seal so new bolts, identical in appearance to the originals were machined by a member of the Company. During careful paint stripping operations the original layer of paint provided the paint color and enough remaining gilding to show the basic pattern of the original engine decoration.

With painting now complete on the wheels, chassis, coal bunker, and axles, Stephen Heaver of the Fire Museum of Maryland began the tedious job of restoring the gold leaf decoration to as nearly that of the original as can be determined.

During the plating operation all identification tags were removed from the parts and returned in one box with all finished parts neatly wrapped and packed in many cartons. Without the detailed photos at this point we would never have been able to reassemble the engine.

Finally more than two years later the work was complete and the engine was reassembled, tested, adjusted, tested again, and finally pumped for the first time Memorial Day, 1987. Below are a number of thumb nail photos which are linked to larger copies of the same photo detailing many steps of the restoration.

RETURN to Site Directory

RETURN to Engine 3 Directory