131 Robin Rd., Blackwell, OK 74631
Jeff Davis at the throttle of Fricke brothers 6 HP Nichols and Shepard at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa in 1981. Jeff is one of my favorite engineers. 'Little Nick' is sure a fine engine. Jeff Davis is Mr. and Mrs. Charles Fricke's grandson.
About fifteen or sixteen years ago at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, my friend, Webster Mooney of Nortonville, Kansas, introduced me to Charlie and Alden Fricke of Mt. Union, Iowa. I had noticed the Fricke Brothers' engines even before this, and that Charlie always had room on the engine he was operating for young people. When you would see Charlie in the parade, there would be some young people riding with him.
I've been in this hobby since before the first shows. We (Lyman Knapp, my Dad and I) were talking and thinking steam and old tractors before we knew that there were other people in this great country that had the same interest. Then, a preacher in Pennsylvania started THE FARM ALBUM as it was first called. His name was Elmer L. Ritzman. The first thing we knew, steam shows were started. At first only a few, but it wasn't long before shows sprang up in several states, such as Blakers in Ohio; Kinzer, Pennsylvania; Mt. Pleasant; Pontiac, Illinois. Along with these shows, names like Charlie Harrison, LeRoy Blaker and Holmer Holp in Ohio, Arthur Young in Pennsylvania, Lyman Knapp in Oklahoma, Harold Ottaway and E. C. 'Big Mac' McMillin of Kansas, Fred Kiser and Milford Feese in Illinois, became well known. It was through this little magazine that we learned of different collectors and of course, got to meet these people at the shows. And it was June 24, 1946 when Rev. Elmer made a little trip to see if there was enough interest to start his little magazine.
Over the years, many of the old steam boys that loved their engines have passed on. So if this hobby is to survive, we must train young engineers and give them a chance to run an engine. I've read many an article in the hobby magazines and in the old American Thresherman where the old timers would say, 'Dad started me firing the old Gaar Scott' or whatever make of engine they had when they were 12 or 14 years old. So let's take time to teach the young people who show interest in our hobby.
Getting back to 'Charlie's Engine Crew,' I've gotten to know Charlie Fricke much better in the last few years. I haven't seen anyone that spends more time with young people. Charlie has a special way with these kids. He always has time to show and teach them. And it's not just all work with Charlie. He lets them have the reward of pulling a steam throttle. And as you know, that is a thrill you will always remember. At the 1981 Mt. Pleasant show, Charlie had his grandson, Jeff Davis, running the 6 HP Nichols and Shepard. Jeff was 12 years old. This wasn't his first year helping Charlie. That year Jeff ran the engine by himself; of course, always under Charlie's watchful eye. Jeff will make a fine engine man. He has a genuine interest in the engine. It's a pleasure to see a young man that is all business and doing such a good job with an engine at this age.
I have a daughter, Beverly Atteberry, who was then 14. She helped Charlie on the 6 HP Russell. Again, this wasn't Beverly's first steam experience. She started out on Webster Mooney's model 20-75 double rear mounted Nichols and Shepard. I was watching Beverly handle the 6 HP Russell when she and Charlie were taking it around to the shingle mill and lining it up to put it in the belt. I was real proud of how well she handled the engine!
I am seeing more young people doing a good job with the engines. It's like learning to handle a gun or drive a car. They need to be trained right. They need to really know and understand a steam engine. I am so thankful that I've had many an hour of lecture from men like my Dad, 'Big Mac' McMillin, and a lot of other real steam men who knew their business.
We are all interested in safety. Some kids wouldn't be safe to turn an engine loose with! These two young people I am writing about need close supervision, but both are the type who want to be and can be trained. I've seen several older fellows I wouldn't want to turn one of my engines over to.
One of my biggest worries is that an engine will get low on water. We all know this is the best way to get in real trouble. I've always worried about a water glass having the valves closed and allowing the engineer to think he has water. I've known this to happen. Around these shows a spectator may turn a valve off not knowing what he is doing. Learn to be sure and check that the valves are open. Better yet, blow it down once a day.
CHARLIE'S ENGINE CREW: Left to right, Beverley Atteberry, Jeff Davis Darin Fricke and Charlie Fricke. Thank you Charlie for taking time to teach these young engineers!
Also, it is a good idea to know how much water you have over the crown sheet, when the water is at the bottom of your glass. This will vary with different engines. Case engines have about three inches of water over the crown sheet when it is at the bottom of the glass. Some engines that have high crown sheets may not have much more than one inch water when at the bottom of the glass. It's a good idea to know your engine. If for some reason you are getting low on water, stop the engine before it is too late. On an engine that is pulling, the level will drop when you shut the engine off. So stop in time and you won't be in any trouble.
The water gauge or gauge glass should be blown out at least once each day, to clean the glass and prevent the upper and lower connections from getting filled with lime or sediment. To blow out the lower connection, open drain cock and close upper valve. Then close lower valve and open upper one, which will blow steam through the upper connection and also the glass thereby cleaning it. On returning to your engine in the morning or any time, be sure that no one has closed the valves of the water gauge during your absence.
Dad and I went up to Turon, Kansas in 1946 to visit some of his old thresher buddies. We heard of an engine at a service station on the way up and decided to check it out. We found the man who had owned the engine. It had been a 32 HP double simple Reeves. It had blown up, due to low water. The owner showed us his head and said, 'You can see I have no hair.' He had been standing by the driver when she blew. He was badly scalded. His brother-in-law was the engineer he was on the engine and was killed. The owner told us that the water column had limed up, shutting off the water. The engineer did not realize the water was low.
I would like to give a special salute to Rev. Elmer Ritzman for starting his magazine that really got us all 'steamed up', also all the men who went out and saved the engines that are left from the junk. These men who collected engines back in the forties and fifties saved a lot of engines that would have gone to the junk. I remember Dad and I trying to get a dandy 20 HP Reeves. It had new flues and the man wanted $100.00 for it, but we couldn't raise the $100.00.
Things have changed a lot since those days. Now this is a big hobby, with shows in a lot of states. The old steam engines and the men who ran them will always have a warm place in my heart.