Finding Family Ties

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Peerless steam engine

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It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. For Greg Clouser of York, Pa., sharing old photographs with a friend proved the first step in relocating his grandfather's long-sold 1921 Emerson-Brantingham 40 hp TT Peerless steam engine #18045.

Greg and the engine where among many folks at the 2001 Grease, Steam and Rust Association's annual show, held the third weekend in October at McConnellsburg, Pa.

'My grandfather was Emory Dietz,' Greg said. 'He was the second or third owner of the engine, back in the late 1950s and early '60s, from the time I was an infant 'til I was 14.

'Then he sold it, and I had no idea what happened to it. As a small kid I went for rides on it and pulled the whistle.

'It was his hobby. He kept it in good shape and took it to shows, hooking it up to sawmills and threshers. Mom and Dad and the grandparents packed up and went to shows all the time.'

Recently, Greg was showing old photos featuring his family and the steam engine to an acquaintance at a show in Williams Grove, Pa. The man recognized the engine and told Greg to go to the Grease, Steam and Rust show and look up Eugene Lawson, the current owner.

'Mr. Lawson was a bit surprised,' Greg said. 'Now I visit it as often as I can and try to take lots of pictures. He drives it in the Old Timers Parade up Main Street and through town. That's quite a sight.'

Eugene said he bought the engine in good shape at Glen Rock, Pa.

'My daddy had a steam engine and I wanted one,' he said. 'So I got this one. It's in good running order and state-certified. I take it to eight or nine shows a year. And I go to shows all over the country, operating sawmills.'

Other show participants brought their personal exhibit favorites. Fred and Betty Frantz of Dubois, Pa., brought a half-scale steam engine.Fred is director and one of the founders of the Susquehanna Antique Machinery Assn., of Luthersburg, Pa.; Betty is the group's secretary. They collect Massey-Harris, John Deere and Shaw Du-All equipment, and they say they love to go to shows.

'We go to 10 or 12 a year,' Fred said. 'It's a retirement occupation. There's no place you can go that you'll meet such nice, friendly, helpful people. It's good fellowship. And you always see something different.'

Fred s steam engine is certainly something different. The boiler is an Ed Trudeau, built in 1965 in Nebraska. Fred bought it in 1990. 'It was in a barn and partially finished,' he said. 'I've always been fascinated with steam engines. We had a big one but couldn't afford to move it around so we got this one.

It took me two years to get it together. It had the wheels, the engine and the boiler, but I had to build the drive train and have the axles milled. The rest I constructed as I went along. The engine is out of an 1896 Locomobile automobile. They were steam cars like the Stanley Steamer. I built all the superstructure in my shop at home. No plans. You just get everything to fit.

Fred said steam engines are a lot of fun, but are also a lot of work because once they're fired up, they can't be left alone.

'Steam engines are safe; operators are not,' he said. 'I read that in a 19th-century operator's book for steam boilers, and it's very true.'

David Blevins of Big Cove Tannery, Pa., is a dairy farmer who said he's been collecting 'junk,' including steam engines and tractors, on and off for 40 years. One of the original organizers of the Grease, Steam and Rust show, he said he attends two or three such events a year.

At the October show, he was using his 1929 Hart Parr 1836 tractor to power a 100-year-old shingle mill made by the Chase Turbine Manufacturing Co. of Orange, Mass.

'I ve had the tractor about a year,' David said. 'It came from Lancaster, Pa., in pieces, and I restored it. Most of the parts were there. 1929 was the last year Hart Parr tractors carried the name; the next year it was Oliver.

'We got the shingle mill from its original owners. It had been carefully stored once it was no longer used. All we had to do was paint it and build the trailer.'

Paul Schmidt is a past president of the Grease, Steam and Rust Assn., and current president of the board of directors. His machinery collection includes 1942 and 1950 R Minneapolis-Moline tractors, and for this year's show, he exhibited his 1952 BF model Minneapolis-Moline tractor.

'It was actually made by the B.F. Avery Company, which was purchased by Minneapolis-Moline in 1951,' he said. 'This one's a sort of a carry-over, a hybrid. The engine and sheet metal are Avery. The hydraulic system is Minneapolis-Moline. The model number is R593. The 'R' signifies a B.F. Avery tractor. I've had it 10 years. It was running but in very poor condition (when purchased), and I restored it.'

Restoration parts came from as far away as Staunton, Va., and Twin Valley, Minn. 'The tractor I got for parts from Virginia was Prairie Gold, but it was red under the gold. According to the serial number, it was a 1953 model.'

For more information on the Grease, Steam and Rust Association, Inc., write to the group at P.O. Box 29, McConnellsburg, PA 17233, or call (717) 485-9405.

Jill Teunis is a frequent contributor to Farm Collector. She lives and works in Damascus, Md.