I'll Never Forget

Buffalo steam roller

IT'S A BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD-Gracing the Granby Bicentennial parade will be this 1920 Buffalo steam roller, rescued from a junk yard four years ago and restored by Chester Petrowsky of Federal St., Belchertown. Now a valuable antique, it will be a part of t

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Box 216, Rt. 1, Federal St.,Belchertown, Massachusetts 01007

I'd just like to make a few comments on the results of the parade as best I can. The week before found me breaking my neck to get everything in top shape for the two and one half mile run; repainting, fixing and testing.

Doris Dickinson, a reporter for the Holyoke Transcript and Springfield Daily News came down to write the fine story which I have sent along. She spent a lot of her own time on research for the project and surely gave us a lot of recognition.

The day before the parade we had arrangements made to move the steam roller to the Clark Farm which was the starting point of the parade. As I had to work until 3, my two friends, Ray Murphy and Ray Wright came over to fire up the boiler. When I came home Bob Nutting had his low bed backed up to a ramp which he made for loading. With Ray Murphy at the throttle, he took a turn around the yard and put that ten ton monster on the low bed as easy as you park your car. Ray Wright and Bob chained her down for the five mile ride to Granby, with the help of Highway Superintendent Mike Sabin and his assistant, Sam White. My Dad and I followed the truck in my car while Wright and Murphy were on the steam roller, waving to all. To my surprise, it brought out the young and the old, with disbelief at what they saw going by. In the northeast, steam equipment is very scarce and has not been seen by the younger generation.

When we arrived at our destination, a nice little crowd was on hand to see us and ask questions. Mike Sabin got on one of his bucket loaders and made a ramp in short order. Bob Nutting, who I think can drive that trailer through a tea shop, had little trouble backing up into a very tight spot. Then Engineer, Ray Murphy, who still keeps up his old steam roller operator's license, took her off and parked her for the night.

Ray Wright and myself worked into the early morning hours on a few leaks around one of the injectors. Next morning, we were up early so we could build up the pressure and do some last minute oiling and cleaning.

A lot of people stopped by to take pictures and to congratulate me, for which I was very grateful-it all seemed worthwhile!

The big moment finally arrived and it took hours to line up all of the floats in the parade as it was five miles long. No one in this section of New England has ever had a nicer collection of parade material than the Granby Centennial. The town people made us feel like their friends and neighbors. We were in the Highway Department Section which was in the middle of the parade.

After a short wait we got underway down Route 202 to Granby Center through long lines of spectators, four and five deep. Ray Murphy was on the throttle all the way and did a great job in handling everything. I was supposed to operate half way, but with all those people looking on--I lost my nerve. We received a nice hand from the spectators all along the way. After 21A miles of waving and shaking hands, we came to our destination where we had to park on the side of the road and wait about an hour before the low bed could get through so we could load.

It wasn't long before Bob Nutting and Mike Sabin came down the road with the trailer truck. It was our luck that Bob had his 15 ton International Bulldozer in the year and with one or two passes made a loading ramp. Ray Murphy loaded the machine like it was a toy and got a nice hand from the crowd watching (I think he has a little ham in him anyway).

On the way home, we all rode the truck and enjoyed waving to people along the way. When we arrived at my home, a number of folks had come to watch the unloading. All went well and Ray parked the steam roller in my back yard. For the most part of the summer, people stopped by to look her over, talk and take pictures. This was an adventure I'll never forget.

'Nothing can happen to you that hasn't happened to some one else.'

'Buffalo Springfield' Steamroller Of Another Era Will Chug Along


Roaring and chugging along at 4 m.p.h. in the Granby Bicentennial parade Sunday will be a vintage 1920 Buffalo Springfield steam roller.

This unusual entry, which will be among the many floats was restored from a junk yard hulk to a prize antique by Chester Petrowsky of Federal St., Belchertown.

The four year restoration began in 1962 when Petrowsky and a friend, Raymond Wright of Springfield, were discussing the possibility of restoring a steam roller. Wright recalled seeing a steam roller in the Belchertown Salvage Co.

The machine, thickly covered with rust and solidified tar, had been rotting in the yard for seven years. Petrowsky purchased it and brought it to his property by trailer truck.

Four Year Project

This was the beginning of a four year project by Petrowsky, who almost single handedly rebuilt the entire roller. Taken apart it was carried down the embankment to his cottage on Lake Holland. Each piece was painstakingly cleaned down to bare metal by acid, torch and just plain, hard work with hammer and chisel. It took three months just to take the machine apart.

Boiler inspection stickers, dating back to the early 1920s were found in the machine. They gave the number of the machine and the Town of East Longmeadow as the owner at that time. The company in Ohio was contacted for information on parts. Although the company had records verifying it was built in 1920 no parts were available.

This was a new venture for Mr. Petrowsky, a 3rd Class Engineer at the Belchertown State School. Buying equipment to do the task, he taught himself to weld and machine tool the parts needed for the machine. He had nothing to go by except his own intuition.

This massive 12 ton piece of equipment was used to roll the roads in towns and cities and also as a power supply source. Its huge steel wheels measure over five feet in width. The engine, which uses soft coal to fire the boiler is similar to those used on steam locomotives by railroads.

The roller, looking almost like it rolled off the assembly line, represents some 5,000 hours of labor. Special steel tubes were secured from a firm in Wisconsin for installation in the boiler. The governor for the engine, a vital part, as missing. One was finally located, also in Wisconsin, and purchased from another steam engine fancier.

Takes Shape

As each part was finished and joined to another, the roller began to take shape on the shore of the lake. At one point, when the five foot back wheels were ready to be installed, the machine as found to be too close to the house. It had to be moved over 18 inches. This was a two day job as it was inched over slowly by blocks.

The welding on the boiler by a certified welder was the only outside help required in the restoration of the roller.

Petrowsky feels that the steam roller is the only one in the New England area that is in running condition. The restoration opened an entire new field to Mr. Petrowsky for since 1962 he has also restored some 50 gasoline engines of the type called 'one lungers.' He has seven restored outboard motors,, one dating back to 1913. All have been restored to mint condition and are displayed in his basement workshop, painted in attractive eye catching colors.

Two tractors, an early Fordson and a Wallis, are in the process many of these engines were unavailable and were machined by Petrowsky.

Completed in 1966, the steam roller reposed by the lake until several weeks ago. A group from Granby approached Petrowsky, asking him to join the Granby Highway contingent in the parade. A rig was dispatched and the roller was pulled up the steep embankment to the road.

Old Timer

Riding with him on Sunday will be an old time steam roller operator, Ray Murphy of Northampton. He will also have Roy Wright, the friend who started the project six years ago.

Many of his friends and neighbors said it couldn't be done. But it was and the roller will 'roll' along under its own steam in the parade on Sunday. No longer an 'eyesore' it is the source of a great deal of interest to passerby. It was fired up with coal on Thursday evening and made the maiden run of its new life a 12-ton monument to one man's ingenuity and old fashioned Yankee 'make-do.'

It will give youngsters of today a chance to see the steam roller of yesteryear, which kids of other generations watched while roads were being built in New England's towns.

We appreciate the permission given to us by the Holyoke Transcript Telegram to reprint the above article.