The Western Engine Company History Books

and About this Web Site

Introducing the Revised Two-Book Set

Book cover for the newly revised "A 'Western' History."
The newly revised "A 'Western' History," is 124 pages long and nicely illustrated. It delves into the history of the Western Iron Works and its evolution into the Western Gas Engine Company; the Western Machinery Company; the Western-Enterprise Engine Company and finally its bankruptcy and buy-out of assets by the Vernon Tool Company. This revision also contains a bonus chapter entitled "The 'Little' Engine," a story about rescuing an abandoned Western engine from the rugged California oilfields.

$17.95 softcover
ISBN 096456704-0
124 pages with index.
137 illustrations, 7 charts, 14 tables.
Size: 8-1.2" x 11"
Weight: 10.3 oz.
SPECIAL OFFER: Both volumes when purchased together as a set can be had for $50.00, plus $8.00 postage and handling. Weight (per set): 2 lbs. 10.8 oz.
Book cover for newly revised book, "The Western Engine Factory Test Card Listings."
The Western Engine Factory Test Card Listings book is 294 pages in length, and was compiled from the surviving Western Engine Company's engine test cards, which were inscribed with ownership and technical details for each engine manufactured. The book pages show statistics and specific details about ownership, location, technical specifications and repair activity, and, when available, current ownership and additional historical information regarding certain Western engines.

$39.95 softcover
ISBN 096456705-9
294 pages with CD-ROM.
16 illustration, 7 charts and 29 tables.
Size: 8-1/2" x 11"
Weight: 1 lb. 13.5 oz.
SPECIAL OFFER: Both volumes when purchased together as a set can be had for $50.00, plus $8.00 postage and handling. Weight (per set): 2 lbs. 10.8 oz.

Limited Edition

Please be aware that the two Western Engine Company history book volumes are limited editions with only 200 copies of each volume printed. As such, book availability is subject to prior sale of remaining stock.

Book Purchase and/or Distributor Information

To obtain book distributor information and/or purchase copies of the Western Engine Company History Project Books please inquire at:

Book Revision Summary

The original two books A "Western" History -- A Capsule History of the "Western Engine Companies AND its companion book The Western Engine Lists, were self-published in 1989 with the intention that the major distribution channel would be through the Hathaway Ranch Museum. But while the Hathaway Ranch Museum did assist in the early distribution of the books, on May 21, 1990, the museum's founder and director, Nadine Hathaway, decided that she did not want to continue dealing with sales issues and the collection of sales taxes. Therefore, as of the aforementioned date, the books were no longer associated with the Hathaway Ranch Museum.

In general, revision work has included (1) acquisition of additional historic details regarding the Western Engine Company and related companies, (2) meticulously re-validate and proof not only the current engine list entries (checking questionable items against the original Western factory test cards), but to (3) additionally locate surviving Western engines and then (4) add, validate, and proof any new ownership and engine information.

The book A "Western" History has been substantially revised and is now 120 pages long, not including front verso pages, but including appendices and index pages. The story begins with the Western Iron Works, who devised the first Western engine, the Model 1900 "Ratchet" type engine, an odd four-cycle engine that could run in either direction. The interim Model 1903 "Eccentric" type engine soon followed and quickly evolved into the highly durable Model 1905 "Geared" type engine that became the standard design that was to make Western into a formidable competitor and supplier of high quality engines. Success brought about numerous reorganizations, which, in turn, carried on the Western engine. After the Western Iron Works (1887) came the Western Gas Engine Company (1905), Western Gas Engine Corporation (1912), Western Machinery Company (1917), Western-Enterprise Engine Company (1924), Western Engine Company as a division of Vernon Tool Company (1939) and Western States Engine Service (1945 -- acquired Western engine assets in 1961). The book covers all of these companies up to the end of the line in 1979, plus more, and it contains many photographs, illustrations, and tables to help demonstrate the history of the "chain of Western companies."

The Western Engine Factory Test Card Listings book has been substantially revised and updated with new text and up-to-date ownership information when and where available. It is now 289 pages long, not including the front verso pages. Moreover, the some 3,052 engine listings have been checked for accuracy and up to date ownership and location information has been added when available. As a bonus, the Listings book comes with a CD-ROM containing JPEG images of each surviving engine test card and/or card set (consisting of one or more cards and/or attached notes), with a total of 7,047 individual images, thereby allowing the dedicated researcher to go into as much card detail as they are willing to decipher.

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Evolution of This Site

After many years of intense private and commercial interest in mechanical music, mainly between the years of 1950 to 1980, other endeavors took precedence. Then, in 1997 a resurgence of excitement regarding automatic music machines brought about a renewed desire to write about and further research and share some of the stories about many of my old mechanical music friends. Thus, this web site came into existence as a way of sharing my rekindled enthusiasm for automatic music, and also because of my love of working with computers as a communicative tool for sharing certain aspects of my life with others.

When this site commenced operation in 1997 it was primarily dedicated to research and data collection in regards to the J.D. Philipps Pianella / Wurlitzer PianOrchestra line of self-playing automatic orchestras. The PianOrchestra research project, as it was then called, was originally a strictly academic affair, and, as such, was committed to acquiring historical information and related stories about the companies and the people associated with various automated music machines, adding to what is already known and then sharing that information with historians and other interested parties.

Beginning in 1998, a separate section devoted to understanding and applying (what I have arbitrarily termed) the fundamental Mechanics of Consciousness was added, with the intention of suggesting ways the knowledge could be put to use in practical everyday ways. This material has periodically been made available.

In April of 2003 the mechanical music history pages were transferred over to the Mechanical Music Press web site, where they reside to this day.