Barn Find Gearboxes

World's first Porsche

The world’s first Porsche vehicle was recently discovered in a shed in Austria, where it’s been since 1902 (photo courtesy of Porsche).


Close-up of the wheel from the world’s first Porsche (photo courtesy of Porsche).

Among old car fans few things stir interest more than the announcement that a valuable car has been found in some storage facility. Just this week we learned that the world’s first Porsche had been found in Austria. The 1898 vintage electric car had been missing and presumed lost since its victory in an early race for electric vehicles. Looking more like a horse drawn farm wagon than a 911 sportscar, the “P1” will no doubt become the centerpiece of a museum’s collection.

So what does this have to do with gears? It got me wondering how many historic gears and gearboxes are languishing in storage sheds or rusting away outside our factories? While not as fondly remembered as old cars and trucks, don’t these objects deserve to be preserved and celebrated?

Last year I started collecting material for an article on the history of gear rating methods. The AGMA was organized to standardize calculation methods lest some snake oil salesman ruin the business for everyone else by making outrageous claims for his products. One of the items I collected is a 1912 engineering magazine with an article by Percy C. Day on the advantages of herringbone gears. A short while later I visited Falk’s Renew facility for a client and on display in the lobby was a 1914 herringbone gearbox Mr. Day designed after he went to work for Falk in 1913.

I was involved with making parts for some 1894 vintage Hullet loaders a number of years ago and have read that the machines are still on display in Duluth Minnesota and Cleveland Ohio. Some very old gear drives continue to power the inclines in Pittsburgh. We are making history every day and someday today’s new product will be just another curiosity.

So what do you have in your lobbies, museums, and storage areas? How about your production line? I am sure we can get your stories up here on the blog and maybe into the magazine itself.

Categories: Gear Talk With Chuck

About Author

Charles D. Schultz

Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.


  1. Randy Stott
    Randy Stott 31 January, 2014, 11:45

    I’m reminded of a few articles we’ve run on working wooden gears in various old mills that people have come across over the years. Here are a few links for those interested.

    Water Powered Machinery (Photo Essay by Robert E. Smith)

    Wind Energy, Old-School Style (Addendum from August 2007)

    Down by the Old Mill Stream (Addendum from March/April 1997)

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