Gates Road

This was taken along a level part of Gates Road. We were puffing along.

Content Tools

R.D. 2, Brooklyn, Michigan

We were up at 4:00 in the morning of Saturday, the month of June, the third day, ready, we thought to head for Jonesville, Michigan to start the moving of Sherwood Fox's 40 horse Case engine. The serial no. 29917 of 1914 vintage was previously owned by Orin Hughs of Jonesville. Mr. Fox, my employer, bought it off of Mr. Hughs' widow. It included a 500 gallon water tank with a front platform and a pump that made it very convenient for our journey.

Now, back to our epitaph. We did not get there until about 8:30 A.M. I laid the fire at 8:45 and Sherwood and his nephew, Waller Fox. took the tank a mile down the road to fill it at a lake. When they returned, 1 had 20 lbs up and the blower on. At 10:25 we hooked the tank onto the engine, then made a final check and were underway at 10:30 A.M.

We had no idea what 33 miles was going to be at 2 miles an hour with an old steam engine. I have operated steamers before and can handle them as good as most engineers, and better than a lot of them. But none of us had ever made a trip this far.

To start things off, about a quarter mile east we had to pull a fairly steep hill. The road was a hard surfaced one. Upon starting to pull the hill, the packing lands were blowing bad ... and we had no packing with us. We did not pack them the whole trip as we were not going to take anything apart unless we had to because it may have meant a layover to do it.

About three miles east we turned onto Pope Road off from Hastings Lake Road. It was about here that the one injector would not work. Sherwood was ready to turn around and park it. We changed the siphon hose over to the other injector and turned it on, but the bottom drain plug was gone... Luck was with us however, as we found it in the tool box. That injector worked for us the rest of the trip, and never failed as long as we had over 60 lbs of steam. The pop would go at 110 lbs. We pulled some good sleep hills on 45 lbs of steam. The reason for this was we traveled back roads most of the time, and about hall of them were gravel. The engine did have bolted-on rubber treads though. We were not out to gain a lot of publicity.

Everything went along fine north on Brown Road until we came to a steep hill about 3/4 of a mile from Mosherville Road. We stopped to get steam up to the pop, then started taking water. A good friend of mine, John Harper of New Haven, Indiana, told me that a Case engine was hard to fire. We found it out on this trip. When we started the injector, the steam went down like a ton of bricks. When you have water, you don't have steam, and when you have steam, no water. Things went along good east on Mosherville Road until we got into more hills. Then it was a battle to keep steam and water up together.

After traveling east on Mosherville Road, it turned north for one mile, and this became Vieary Road. From two miles south of Hanover on Mosherville Road was gravel road, including Vicary Road. We were still on Mosherville Road and had just crossed Horlon-Moscow Road when Sherwood's wife and his brother and wife met us with a picnic lunch of ham, potato salad and other goodies, including rhubarb pie. After our eats, we went on to the east into the hills around Bundy Hill.

By this time, Sherwood and Walt had learned how to hold the Case down-going down steep grades, so I let them run it by themselves on their own, not having to worry so much. Now I have some ideas of why some of these old steam men don't want anyone to touch their engines at the doings.

When we reached the headwaters of Lake Lee Ann we filled our water tank and were on our way again. We started up another hill with good steam when we spotted some wood cut up in the ditch. I told Walter to get off and help Sherwood load it up. It seems that the man that was in charge around these man-made lakes had cut it up, and he caught them picking it up. Did he ever give them the H-D, and all as this man was going by. We went down the road about a mile and were looking for a place to park the engine for the night. Sherwood went on ahead with the pickup looking when the gentleman that gave him the hard time, stopped him and asked him if he was looking for a place to leave the engine. He told him who he was, and although the wood he was complaining about was still on the truck, he suggested they park the Case in his yard for the night... which we did. We were three tired guys, but still looking forward to tomorrow. Walt was so tired that he did not go see his girl friend -who is my sister-in-law.

The next morning Wast and Sherwood were over to the Case and had steam up and on their way by 8:30 A.M. My wife, Jean, and I met them down the road about a mile and we were one happy family again.

We made it to Gates Road with not too much fanfare other than people along the way taking pictures. The thing that really got us was the amount of people that came out to take pictures with their cameras. They would fool around with them and be all ready to take, but we were going by at 2 miles per. So what happens, they get in their cars to drive down to the neighbors to finish their ordeal. This also happened to Sherwood, this same day. Sunday, the 4th of June, 1967...

We went on our way north on Gates Road. One neighbor would call another telling them that there was an old steam engine coming up the road. Some wives went out into the fields to tell the men, and they would be waiting in the front yard for us. We were well up Gates Road to where we came into a region of nice homes. The people would come out to look, and I would bet the most of them did not know what it was, other than it made smoke and puffed along with three guys that were getting tired again, what with going into the second day of our travels.

We came to Jefferson Road and turned east again. With our rubber cleats on we left tracks in the black top. We had a mile to travel on this when we came to US-127. We drew up to the highway and looked both ways ... cars, cars, and more cars. The time came when there were no cars for about a mile each way, so I whistled off and we proceeded. Sherwood was at the wheel and I was at the controls. You boys know when you are doing 2 MPH and the cars are going at 60 or 70 MPH we were not moving fast enough. We had to whistle more to get the traffic stopped and they had to wait for us - This is Fifty-three years too late.

We proceeded north along US-127 on the old Meridian Road for about 1 miles when Sherwood's wife, Grace, and their daughter met us for our noontime lunch. After eating, I started the Case moving as we did not want to be on the road until 8:00 P.M. again.

We turned east again on Reed Road for another 2 miles. We had one hill to go down on this road that was fairly steep and I let Walt do it by himself. After getting down the hill, Sherwood let his daughter take over the wheel, and boy you talk about a driver that had never driven a Case ... her trail sure did show it. You see, she was used to driving a Cadillac.

We turned onto Clark Lake Road for a mile with no more difficulties; likewise for the mile east on South Stony Lake Road.

Upon going north on Benton Road, the camera fans started to gather again. By the time we turned onto Benton Road, my wife and our three kids, also her sister, Amy, and her five kids were riding on the tank wagon.

We went north on Benton Road to Wheaton Road and turned east again, then north on the. same road to M-50. We had to travel two miles east on M-50 to our shop. This was done all the way on the firm. Mel was at the helm of the Case during this time. What he did not see was the water glass. On the level we had a half a glass of water, but running on a right hand slope sometimes the water was out of sight.

We arrived at Fox Brothers Drillers' shop at 5:00 P.M. on June 5th, 1967 with water in our tank and coal and and wood to spare. Our consumption of coal was about 600 lbs; wood 1 cords; and about 900 gallons of water... our miles traveled approximately 33. I believe this is, and will be about the longest trip for a steam traction engine in this year of 1967 for a slow moving 1914 Case steam engine. And, I believe this will be the record for this year and several years before and after.

Some of you old boys will have a lot of fault to find with our trip, but regardless of your pros and eons, we had a lot of fun. No one got hurt, and a lot of people had enjoyment out of us going by. Myself, I have to thank (Pappy) Forest Williamson and John Harper for giving me my chance for my ability to handle engines. So, in return 1 will try to show others how, too.

That is what I am griping about when you old fossils with your engines at the steam doings won't let the tourists touch anything. Boys, if you do not show the younger generation what they stand for, who will carry on the ability to run the for runners of our modern farmers. . oh yes, we were passed by four of these modern farm tractors just as though we were standing still.

We are sending some pictures of our journey, and if Anna Mae and Elmer will show these to you folks, the whole bunch of us will thank you, and will hope that you had a lot of fun reading about a 1967 trip with an old 1914 Case engine.

We had a lot of fun, but it was harder work than if we had put in two weeks on a drilling rig. All we have to say is that you old pros that put in 10 and 12 hours a day on these old man killers years ago were men of no equal. Our hats are off to the men who were out on the prairies going mile after mile on them. We had a lot of fun, but we earned it.

After getting back to the shop with it, we went over the packing and lines to put it in better running condition. We have a 60 C.F.P.M. air compressor that we hooked up to the Case to move it around in back. Well, you know we had to stop twice going around the building to get up steam ... oops, I mean air to make it. That gave us some idea of what that boiler had to put out what with all the leak we had.

We are going to have a little contest over at Sherwood's later on with his Case and Garr Scott 18 H.P. We will start with the same amount of water, coal and kindling and see who will get underway first and run the most laps around a measured course. I am taking the Case and Sherwood the G.S. I believe he will out-do me by quite a little, as the G. S. fires and steams so much better and easier. We will let Elmer know how it comes out.

Well, I think it is time to end this epitaph. Here is hoping we are not condemned too severely for our trip of the year.

Sherwood Fox    Walter Fox

Mel Fox              Bob Bender