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Thread: Context is everything....

  1. #1
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Context is everything....

    List,

    There's no BMW content in this post. Absolutley none. Nada. Zip. Turn back now if that offends...

    For the rest:
    I spent some time tonight reading history on the Web. Work-related, but obliquely I work for Whirlpool, as a designer at our washing machine factory inn Clyde, Ohio. A recent trip to the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan had me looking at the antique Thor washing machines till my mind wandered,and then two aisles over I looked at the antique Thor V-twin motorcycles as well. Yes, the same parent company. Both divisions were apparently
    going well in the early part of this century.

    Anyway, Googling around on the Web using "Thor motorcycle" as the search words, produced some darned interesting stuff. If you're into twisted stories and antique mechanicals, take a look at the URLs below. It's good stuff, if you like stories that twist and turn and interconnect:

    http://209.204.252.20/thorhistory.htm

    http://www.thormotorcycle.com/

    http://www.kaleden.com/articles/681.html

    The three URLs describe the birth, life, and eventual decline of Thor Moto Cycles, out of Aurora, Illinois.

    I'd assumed Thor was just a small-potatoes operation, folding like many others, but the story is a lot more twisted than that.

    Just a quick outline, for details the websites make fascinating reading:

    Aurora had a foundry, and made castings for engines for the founders of Indian starting around 1901. It appears to have been a joint effort, as eventually a deal was made where Aurora would make engines for Indian, but could sell those same engines to other makers, as long as the royalties were paid to Indian. Aurora was not allowed to make motorycycles themselves, as part of the agreement with Indian.

    An example of the cooperation between Indian and Thor:
    In 1902, all 137 Indians produced had Aurora-built engines in them. Indian didn't have a foundry of their own Imagine, when Harley was taking baby steps Thor had been building engines for several years.

    Then in 1903, Aurora formed Thor Moto Cycle company, but only selling components such as hubs, brakes, and spokes to other makers. In short, you could order your parts, build a frame, slip Thor engine and components in, and you were suddenly a motorcycle company. But Thor didn't yet make a machine with a Thor emblem on it.

    It appears that Thor had an increasing market share and presence, with approximately 50% of the motorcycles at industry shows in 1905 being powered by Thor engines, or Thor clones.

    Eventually, Thor decided to build entire motorcycles themselves. And their machines were competitive against Harleys and Indians and Excelsiors, winning enduros and other types of races.

    There was innovation at Thor, and many components made at Thor were purchased by other makes as OEM equipment. Thor produced major components for Reading Standard, Flying Merkle, Raycyle, Indian, Sears, Cyclone, Henderson, and Harley.

    Much of the innovation and race effort at Thor was under the guidance of an engineer by the name of William Ottoway. In 1912, Ottoway left Thor and was recruited by Harley to head up their racing team. The Harley race team brought Harley fame and prestige from 1912-1916.

    By around 1916-1919, Thor motorcycle production had stopped. It appears there were still some components for sale, but it's hard to tell exactly what happened from reading the websites. The parent company, now re-named Hurley Mf'g Company, by then was making home appliances (I know them for their washing machines), and continued to do so for several decades after the demise of Thor Moto Cycle.

    But the story doesn't end there, not exactly. William Ottoway was still working for Harley after Thor's demise. And so in the late nineteen-teens, under William Ottoway's guidance, and with the help of combustion expert Harry Ricardo, Harley designed and built an 8-valve V-twin race bike. Several, actually, though I didn't see any exact numbers anywhere. None of these were sold to the public, and apparently Harley themselves never thought about the historical significance of the machines, either.

    In other words, they didn't save any for themselves, and it was thought all were gone, having passed into private hands eventually and then being scattered to the wind.

    Over the years, three have been found, in various places around the world. Extremely rare, and I suspect extremely valuable.

    So the V-Rod isn't the first 8-valve Harley, not by a long shot. And that obscure Thor up at the Ford Museum played a not-so-small part in the long Harley story

    I especially like the way all the old names in motorcycling were so closely connected, that was a major surprise. I had no idea I was looking at so much history, when I was looking at the Thor motorcycle in the Ford Musuem.

    Anyway, that's the twisted tale I came up with tonight, when all I really set out to do was to read about old washing machines and other home appliances

    Best,
    Doug Grosjean
    douggrosjean@wcnet.org
    Luckey, Ohio
    N 41.45060
    W 83.48456

    And yes, I *am* writing a book...

    Alaska Trip 1999
    Arizona Trip 2002
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  2. #2
    Focused kbasa's Avatar
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    I resized your picture for you Doug.

    Dave Swider
    Marin County, CA

    Some bikes. Some with motors, some without.

  3. #3
    looking for a coal mine knary's Avatar
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    Connections are everything. The threads that weave through our common experiences are everything. Thank you for your ever firing synapses.


    My latest fascination is with the old windmills that crop up in so many of the photos taken by our fellow riders. Below is a photo I took in northern Oregon of one of these Aermotors, the most sold windmill in the past century (and still in production). If you were so inclined, you could pick up a new 16' complete windmill for $8,245.00 (tower and shipping not included).
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  4. #4
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Hey Scott,

    The photo of the Aeromotor is cool. I have a bunch of them from when I lived in Arizona, the photos I mean.

    Ever get up close and listen to them run? Creak / groan / whirr, creak.

    Something else thats old tech but very cool: water turbines. We have local grist mill in a Metropark nearby. Providence Park, where I got married, named for the ghost town of Providence. Anyway, it had its turbine replaced, IIRC it was well over 100 years old, and the company that made the turbine in the first place is still in business!!!!

    Leffel Turbines, out of Springfield, Ohio. Have since been told that they never went out of business, and that they have steady work replacing the old turbines in mills that have survived to the present day.

    Attaching one of my Aeromotor photos below. From Arizona, a scanned slide, about 20 years old now. Darned glad I stored them well.

    Hey, one last thing. It occurs to me that if you and I ever took a motorcycle trip together, it would take 6 months to get across the continent. I can see it now:

    Scott: ÔÇ£Mind if I stop for some photos? Looks like good light here.ÔÇØ

    Doug: ÔÇ£Sure, no problem. IÔÇÖll watch, maybe shoot some myself.ÔÇØ

    And 20 minutes later, wed suit up, ride 4.8 miles, and son of a gun thered be more unique light, right around the bend..

    Other times, youÔÇÖd be shooting and IÔÇÖd be scrawling out stuff in my PDA.

    I figure wed be darned lucky if we could make 30 miles a day in some of the scenic areas. Would be weeks and weeks to cross the Rockies.



    Best,
    Doug
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  5. #5
    El Dookey loves to ride. 99007's Avatar
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    Thats what I like about....

    You guys are reasons why I enjoy this silly Forum so much, thanks for sharing on the Thors and the Aeromotors.
    Don't winterize; Rounderize!
    www.yearroundriders.com

  6. #6
    Focused kbasa's Avatar
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    Hey Cliffy - We gotta get you an avatar, mang.
    Dave Swider
    Marin County, CA

    Some bikes. Some with motors, some without.

  7. #7
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Cliffy,

    Thanks!

    I'm a mechanical designer and a photog as a hobby. But Scott comes from the other side, an artist (meant as a big compliment, Scott) who has some understanding of mechanical things.

    Haven't met Scott F2F, but have corresponded via email a bit. And I don't think my sketch of taking months to cross the Rockies with him is too far out....

    Best,
    Doug

    PS: You're in MI, right? If you like Aeromotors and mechanical things, the Ford Museum rocks..... I swear I'm going to get a membership there this year. It's 1.5 miles from my g/f's house, and I could sneak in there when I run errands....

  8. #8
    looking for a coal mine knary's Avatar
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    Doug,

    Thank you.

    I think you might be right. If we traveled together, it would probably be a slow journey. But it would be a journey I would gladly take.

    This coming May, my best long-time friend, a fellow artist (also conflicted over his suckling at the corporate teat), is coming out west to join me on a long ride. We're still debating over where to go (Utah, CA coast, down the continental divide, all of the above?). The more I've thought about it, the more I've scaled back the trip. I know that we'll be stopping every fifty yards so that one of us can take in another vista - he'll point out some subtle shift of light, I'll point out some piece of geology.

    So when are you next coming west?

    -scott

    p.s. I may have finally come to terms with the label, "artist".

  9. #9
    Airhead GS convert...
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    Scott,

    You deserve the praise, your stuff is good. Far better than good, actually. I understand basic photo composition, but the images on your Beartooth trip were way beyond what I would have seen on the same trip.

    I have the same problem when people call me a writer, that you did with artiist. Or had, I got used to it as well.

    Heading west to Vegas in July. But g/f, son, and I.... in a Honda CRV, soft-core SUV. So you probably won't see much about it, very little will be moto-related.

    Convention in Vegas, then meander home via some soft-core off-road passes in CO, visit sand dunes in CO, and a couple sisters there, and then a washing machine museum in Eaton, CO. Have done several hard passes in a Suzuki Samurai, so I know what's up. We can rent a Jeep if we really want to do something hard.

    That guy in Eaton has 1,000 washers on display, has written a book on the subject (in my library at work), and has invited me to stop by so he can personally show me around. Came about becasue I called him for info, when doing research here at work (Whirlpool) on some old machines we had.

    His POV: imagine, the factory, calling up an old farmer in CO....

    Going to stay in motels and take a tent, for some of the nights out. Maybe also the 2-seater whitewater kayak, I know some easy runs that I could take my son down...

    And a book by David Lavender: "One Man's West", about growing up in the San Juan Mtns. in the 1920s-1930s. Ranching, mining, and train stories are all there. Great book, probably in your local library. He's an excellent writer.

    Great to read that book aloud in camp now and then, maybe just outside one of the mines he worked in 80 years ago. Context is everything....

    And I'm sure I'd enjoy a trip with you as well, someday. Sigh.... not enough days, you know?

    Doug

  10. #10
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    montezuma, KS. Hundreds of huge windmills. But I too am more fascinated by the old, mechanical windmills. What do they power? Wells or something? You'll often see them next to a big pool of water, somehow attached to it, in the middle of giant fields.
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  11. #11
    looking for a coal mine knary's Avatar
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    Originally posted by dizave
    montezuma, KS. Hundreds of huge windmills. But I too am more fascinated by the old, mechanical windmills. What do they power? Wells or something? You'll often see them next to a big pool of water, somehow attached to it, in the middle of giant fields.
    The old ones are used primarily to pump water for irrigation or livestock needs. From their website...
    Aermotor Windmills started in 1888. Since that time, there have been few changes in design of the workhorse we know as Aermotor. Harnessing the wind to pump water enabled the pioneers to settle land where surface water was non-existent. Today, the Aermotor still produces water for livestock throughout the country and many parts of the world.

    The big ones are just as fascinating to me. They could be the forgotten toys of giants.

  12. #12
    Registered User 2Tonic's Avatar
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    Do any of you remember the opening of the film, "Rainman"? The sea of windmills was immediately brought back to mind by Scott's photo and the subsequent photos.

    As for the Henry Ford Museum, we cannot say enough. It is a great place for all of the family and especially good when they present specialty exhibits, either alone or in conjunction with Greenfield Village.

    In a slightly related area -- I wonder if the "Art of the Motorcycle" will be traveling. I understand that it is in Las Vegas now. Do any of you have any information regarding the exhibit?

    Many thanks for the prose and photos. Most enjoyable!

    Mark

    '04 R 1150 RT

  13. #13
    Has the GS-Lust The_Veg's Avatar
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    Some thoughts

    Windmills come up a few times in a very good book I recently read called That Old Ace In The Hole by Annie Proulx (author of The Shipping News).

    The new ones are for electric generation.

    It's been nineteen years since I last visited the Ford Museum- really must get back that way sometime...

    Art Of The motorcycle, if memory serves, has been gone for a while. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong about that please.

  14. #14
    ian408
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    Originally posted by dizave
    montezuma, KS. Hundreds of huge windmills. But I too am more fascinated by the old, mechanical windmills. What do they power? Wells or something? You'll often see them next to a big pool of water, somehow attached to it, in the middle of giant fields.
    The windmills of Altamont Pass generate electricity that's sold
    back to PG&E. Depending on who you believe, they are either
    good or bad. At least they're interesting to look at.

    Ian

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