Gossip from the back Shop

Content Tools

Route 1, Box 1015, Yucaipa, California

Good Family of the Iron-Men Album: Apparently, from reading some notices in the last edition of The Album, I was a bit surprised to learn that I have been doing something wrong for a long, long time. - I have been writing single-spaced. And I can see that is especially bad with this elite type. But Goodness willing, this old mill will be swapped off one of these days for one of pica size type.

And, afore I get on with the next yarn, taken from true life, mind you, let me ask if any of the readers has seen 'Wild Heart' on TV? This is an English picture starring Jennifer Jones, which has two splendid shots of a little steam 'road locomotive' hauling a wagon full of passengers off to the county fair. All polished up and running like a brand new clock. What a beauty!

The Plumber and the Engineer

While some of our little old kettles may have had enough piping about them to almost require the engineer to be in possession of a plumber's card, there doubtless isn't an old steam engineer alive whom anyone would dare to address as a plumber. So it was, one day when I was trekking home at noon time and happened to spy good friend and top mechanic Mel coming out of the plumbing shop some six doors away from his foundry and machine shop. But it was not only the sigh t of him coming out of the plumber's shop which arrested my attention to a full halt, but the queer contraption which he was carrying all entwined about his strong shoulders. Actually, he might have passed for a snake charmer with a large boa draped about his body.

As soon as I was within easy hailing distance I called to him, 'Say, what on earth are you up to with that iron serpent? You must have cleaned out all the elbows, nipples and lengths of four-foot pipe in that solidified spaghetti Joint!' 'Yes,' replies Mel 'and if you didn't always have to be running around in tailored clothes I would give you one end of this animal.'

'Well, is that zig-zag affair some new invention to frighten some old kettle out of a hangover?' I continued. 'Could be,' responded Mel, 'and if you have a bit of spare time to come along down to the community still there might be a tip or two in it for each of us.' Drink or no, my curiosity was really up now so I cancelled out my lunch as often happened and climbed aboard the spring wagon in front of the shop and rode along with Mel down to the old distillery which depended for its steam on a large old locomotive boiler which rested on a rock foundation just outside the tower and alongside the water tank. Hank Walford was waiting for delivery of mysterious sideshow piece in the back of our wagon, and greeted us with the pipe wrench in his greasy hand.

Since Elmer wants to know the make of the engine in the picture of the bridge wreck on page 26, Sept.-Oct., 1958 issue, I will say it is a Buffalo-Pitts, although it has no front tank which must have been taken off.

I still did some threshing this last season which made me 55 seasons. Iuseda McCormick Deering tractor although I still have a 16 HP Russell steam engine, No. 15425. I've had 23 steam engines in all since I first started. I have been an Album subscriber since the first issue came out and have every number. I look them over now and then.

At this point 1 could only feigh full knowledge of what was going on, as the boiler was temporarily closed down and it was plain to see that modifications were being made to her thirst-quenching gear. And almost before you could say Smoking Toot may Mel and Hank had the two-inch serpentine ding fed all hooked up to the kadooditer and placed against the near water leg of the boiler. Hank then proceeded to cover up and insulate the entire side with asbestos clay, and spoke to Mel, 'You know, in all my years of tending stationary boilers I have always had the notion that this sort of feed water heater would be easier on the boiler and would save on fuel.' 'But you must remember that you can't get something for nothing, Hank, and if this does what you think it will do maybe I will have to start putting them on some of the fussier old ladies that come into the shop for repairs,' replied Mel.

Now that was quite a longtime ago, and I have never seen another water heater like it. But what reminded me of this job was an oil painting or rather a water color (so I was later told) by the famous artist Wilfrid Prevan, who happened to pass by the abandoned still old abandoned still and set up his easel. In order that you too may appreciate artist Prevan's interest in the scene, even to detail of the odd feed water heater which I have been telling you about, I am enclosing a black-and-white photo copy of the original coloring for Elmer to put in the Album.

Artist Prevan, born in Philadelphia, now lives at 3441 Cowper Street, Pale Alto, California. His skilled works have won many prizes and laurels. Odd how some of these things return to us out of the years - yes?

Can some reader in England get us a few still shots of the little road locomotive mentioned in the introduction, from 'Wild heart' -?