A Two-Hobby Trip: Motorcycles And Steamers


The Cranberry Special at the Edaville Railroad.

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Dartmouth, Nova Scotia , Canada B2X 2W8

We kissed our wives goodbye on Wednesday, September 26th (we being John and Ian Moffat, father and son), and with our BMW motorcycles loaded with camping gear and cameras, set out for Plymouth Rock,

Massachusetts. The first night, we decided to motel it in Bangor because of the threat of rain. Next morning, the rain in Maine was all too plain and we had to envelop ourselves in full rain gear before starting out. However, after about 150 miles en route we at last ran into bright sunshine. The rest of the run to the Pilgrims' landing site was pleasant indeed.

The first part of our holiday was to attend a BMW motorcycle rally at Plymouth Rock KOA. Just before the campsite, there was a roadside advertisement pointing the way to the 'Toy Train Museum'. For anyone interested in small scale trains, it is a very worthwhile stopping place. Most of the exhibits were in HO and smaller gauges. Although most were of American manufacture there were also a large contingent from Europe and smaller numbers from Asia and other continents. Also on display was an elegant 3' gauge engine which was steam ready, but is never run anymore.

Friday was given up to motorcycling fun, but Saturday Ian and I were fortunate enough to visit the Edaville Railroad and museum. Fortunate in two ways, because this particular weekend there was also a display of antique machinery with some seventy exhibitors with everything from Maytag two-cycle washing machine engines, to large make and break engines with flywheels up to five feet in diameter.

One of the interesting engines there was a Stirling hot air engine. This is the first one of its size which I have seen in operation. The Stirling cycle must be the quietest of all power producers.

The Edaville Railroad was set up with equipment brought from the Billerica two foot gauge railway in the early Twenties. Between the 80's of the last century and the 20's of this, there were a number of two foot gauge railways running in the States some hauling wood, others including passengers, and one was even being used in a cranberry operation.

Ellis D. Attwood purchased the last of the available engines and passenger cars as well as many miles of track. Today the run is a little better than five miles long and takes you around a lake, which is itself surrounded by cranberry bogs. In fact the train is now labelled the 'Cranberry Special,' and while travelling on it during late September or early October you get a chance to see the harvesting operation in full swing.

The museum part of the operation has six or seven engines, three of which are operational and are used to haul the passenger cars around as well as bring in the loaded crates of cranberries for sorting. There are also collections of cars, fire engines, and farm implements.

Sunday, on a short run into Boston, we visited the aquarium and also the science museum, where there was a display of interplanetary transport, lunar modules and other machinery related to space and time. Shadows of Einstein and E=mc squared!

Monday and a short visit to the Haffenreffer Anthropology Museum in Rhode Island to see an ongoing exhibition of native Canadian arts and crafts. Exhibits from tribes reaching from the Micmacs and Maliseets of the eastern provinces to the Haida in the west and Innu and Eskimo of the far north.

Now to our final destination, Connecticut, with several items on our agenda. First, the East Hartford Trolley Museum, closed for the season! Second, Peabody Museum in Yale University. Fantastic display of prehistoric monsters. Third, the Essex Railroad for a trip by train and then boat up the Connecticut River by imitation steamboat.

The engine pulling our trainof 2-8-0 configurationwas built in 1989 in China, the only country still making full size coal fired steam-powered railway engines. The railroad has four other engines, two of which are able to work and two of which are not worth repairing.

At last, the inspiration for the visitthe Connecticut Antique Machinery Show, to be held in Kent, which we mistakenly thought was to be open from the 27th-30th inclusive. Ouch! It is to be open only on the 30th, and by that time we had to be home for Ian to return to work.

Wednesday, we visited the site of the show and found several members of the local club polishing and painting a beautiful single cylinder steam engine with a stroke in excess of three feet and a bore of approximately eighteen inches. As we had nothing else in view for the day, we offered our assistance in polishing the metal parts and spent the rest of the day doing just that. We were invited to come back on the Friday, because the inspector was coming to examine the boilers of the staionary engine, as well as the boilers of a Russell traction engine and a Buffalo steam road roller.

Friday arrived and we helped raise steam in the two moving machines, chopping wood and stoking the fires. The big boiler for the stationary engine is oil fired. After inspection, I was invited to run both the Russell and the Buffalo. In two minutes, I was aboard the Russell, and for the first time since I drove an old Fowler at threshing time back in Scotland I had my hands on the controls of a steamer. I recall one winter in Scotland I drove several traction engines, including a Fowler, a Ransome Simms and Jefries , and a Foden wagon which had a flywheel set up to drive the thresher

After delivering the Russell to its destination, I walked back for the Buffalo. It is a two cylinder machine and with about sixty turns from lock to lock on the stearing gear, I had a real workout just shuffling the big machine back and forth till I got it pointed in the right direction.

The big stationary engine, which has a Corliss valve system, had been the chief motive power in a cotton mill and with a flywheel of approximately twelve feet in diameter, could be regulated down to only seven and a half revs per minute.

By late Friday afternoon we started our return journey to Nova Scotia, which we reached by Sunday evening. We kissed our wives hello and decided that another such adventure would be undertaken in 1991.

Ian tells me that it will take at least a year to wipe the smile off my face after driving the two historic machines.

Perhaps by the end of 1991 I will have my own 2' scale model of the 6NHP Fowler ready to steam up, and I'll be able to get behind the controls every weekend.