Iron Man Of The Month

R. D. S. Special No. 9

Here comes a train, right down the middle of the road and no railroad tracks to run on. Roscoe Shiverdecker at the throttle of his R. D. S. Special No. 9 heading across the reunion grounds at the Darke County Steam Threshers. Son, Johnny, looking over his

Joe Fahnestock

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CHOO, CHOO, CHOO, CHOOOO. . . .! 'Look, Mirandy I'll be dad-burned if there ain't a train a-comin' right up the middle o' the road and with no railroad track to run on,' yelled Si, jumping off o' his seat on the old grain binder and racing to the house to get the 'Missus'.

'Lordy I ain't seen no such sights since we picked up cousin Emmie, down at the village depot,' sighed Mirandy. 'I only hope it doesn't scare ol'  Topsy 'n Ted to run off afore you get the wheat bundled.'

It's always a big day when Roscoe Shiverdecker fires up his big steam locomotive and sets out, down a country road, to do some routine steaming of neighborhood tobacco bedsor to drive his fiery steed over to the Great Darke County Steam Threshers Reunion, at Greenville, Ohio.

Besides being the most important hero to all the kids along the way who wave at the heroic engineer, as he steams by with bell clanging and whistle wailing Roscoe Shiverdecker enjoys other marginal benefits from having a steam 'road' locomotive to do his chores of steamin' 'bacco beds throughout western Ohio.

'I can go thirty to thirty-five miles an hour up the road to whatever job I'm working at,' says Roscoe. 'And when I drive it to the Darke County Steam Threshers, I don't have to bother with loading and unloading it on a low-boy.'

Then there are other advantages to having your own road locomotive, such as Roscoe has, like not having to buy a license to go from job to job, or to the reunions.

'I'm treated just like a tractor so long as I have a 'slow-moving sign' on the locomotive and don't run her over twenty-miles an hour,' chuckles hiverdecker.

'Everybody that sees the old R. D. S. No. 9 Special at the Darke County Steam Threshers boasts they're gonna make one like it,' says Roscoe. 'But they never do.'

And one can well understand why, after hearing Roscoe Shiverdecker tell of the work and problems in building Old No. 9.  

I did all the work and planning on this road locomotive, in my shop back of the house,' explains Roscoe. 'The boiler is a 20-horsepower Frick, the engine a two-cylinder Soule Steam Engine bought from Chet Hiler. The engine came from Meridian, Mississippi, where they still make 'em new.'

'I spent two years just planning the locomotive before I even began putting it together,' says Iron Man Shiver-decker. 'With the help of my son, Bob, now 17, we put a jacket on the boiler, then bolted everything together and in place, added some more frame to mount the tender, and then we had Rolland Hofacker of Greenville come out and do the welding.'

'The frame is all in one piece,' explains Roscoe. (According to my understanding of steam locomotive construction and classification, this would make it an 0-4-4-T type, similar in construction to the small transit-type locomotives and the famous line of Mason-Bogies which consisted of a solid frame that supported both engine and tender. The former ran commuter trains on the elevated railways in many of the larger cities of our nation in years past, while the latter plied the narrow-gauge rails of the winding Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad in the fabulous days of Colorado Silver Mining Bonanza. May that outstanding expert on steam locomotives, Ernie Hoffer, add his official blessing to this and the great Orrin Seaver pronounce his Benediction to what we have said. Amen.)

But, regardless of what pronouncements and judgments may be handed down from the august chambers of steam locomotive officialdom, the fact remains that Roscoe Shiverdecker has put one over on all of us by doing the unique and unusual. He has made a darned good functioning steam road locomotive that, with bell clanging and whistle wailing, and pop-off blasting, it can literally scare the daylights out of the unsuspecting as it rounds the curve of some country road, as well as leave both old-timers and younguns bugeyed as it passes. And who knowsit could scare Uncle Si's team into kicking up its heels and run through the old strawstack, out through the pig-lot and down the road with the old grain binder before he even gets his jag o' wheat bundled. Who knows-?

For Roscoe Shiverdecker's road locomotive looks for all the world like a real-for-sure railroad engine, comin' down the turnpike road, snorting fire and defying everything in its way with engineer Roscoe at the throttle waving at the womenfolk and kiddies. It's terrifying enough to make even Uncle Jake swallow his cud and bust his cane, Hettin' out o' there.

Not only did Roscoe make the thing look like a locomotive engine, in the general lines, but he also built up a very convincing cow-catcher (pilot to an engineer), which is a direct warning of annihilation to every stray cow that might wander onto the Old R. D. A. No. 9 Special roadbedand he added the other accoutrements such as bell, headlight and steam generator to finish it off with a real, rootin' tootin' railroady appearance. We are indeed quite convinced that the authenticity of the Shiverdecker steam locomotive could even fetch a tear to the eye of that railroad veteran, Toni Paulin, and rouse him into racing for the cab to grab the throttle and run it for himself. And we're mighty sure that Roscoe would be only too glad to rest from his day's labors to let him do just that. (Maybe well see this for ourselves, someday).

'That bell came off a locomotive that used to run through Roy Tribbey's father's farm, the old carbide headlight (which came off an antique auto) is powered by a genuine locomotive switch engine generator of 32-volt capacity, manufactured by the Pyle National Co.,' explains Iron Man Shiverdecker, 'The whistle is off a Baker Engine.'

The tender was built in Roscoe Shiverdecker's 'back shops', behind the house.

It carries a capacity of five-hundred pounds of coal, and the tender tank holds three-hundred gallons of water,' says he. 'When fully loaded, the locomotive weighs around eight tons.'

The Frick boiler carries 130 pounds of steam pressure, which Roscoe uses when working tobacco beds. But when playing, he needs only around a hundred pounds pressure. The locomotive-type cab that Shiverdecker built, as well as the stack, put the finishing touches that really make Old No. 9 appear like the genuine railroad article. There's the cab vent in the roof, the front view windows, allowing access to the boiler walk-ways, in case some wandering child may venture out onto the 'rails' and the heroic engineer, Roscoe, might have to rush forward and make a dramatic rescue out on the point of the onrushing pilot.

The only things missing are the tall, flanged drive-wheels and the connecting-rods, the driving-rods, the exposed valve-gearing and crossheads in their guides. But even these latter are there, should the inquisitive railroad buff stoop to make a closer inspection and discover them all intact right beneath the boiler. Even some of the more ancient steam locomotives had their Stephenson Link Motion and Slide Valves and driving-rods similarly concealed between the drivers, rather than on the outside as became the practice later among locomotive builders.

The one big digression from railroad principle is that Roscoe Shiverdecker did have to install a steering wheel. For without rails to run on, and guide the flanged wheels, which Old No. 9 does not have, Engineer Shiverdecker does have to do the steering to keep the R. D. S. Special from winding up in a 'cornfield meet'.

It's not difficult to understand why Roscoe is always the center of all eyes whether he happens to be steaming tobacco beds or going from one job to the nextor when he's driving over a steam engine reunion grounds or coming down the main street of Broadway in Greenville as the main conversation piece in a civic or historical parade. With Shiverdecker at the throttle, and all the rest of his family either up in the cab, or helping to load coal and water into Old No. 9, it's often a problem to know which ones are related to the engineer and which are just hangers-on trying to snitch a free ride on the R. D. S. Special. Bui, when it comes to shoveling in the black diamonds, into the gaping firebox doorwe can almost bet it's Roscoe with a fresh cigar clamped between his 'store plates'.

Roscoe Shiverdecker's venture into building and running his own steam locomotive is only a 'Johnny-come-lately' idea, however. For him, the yanking of a steam throttle began at the early age of boyhood when he used to help his father, John Shiverdecker, run his old Aultman-Taylor Steam Engine.

'Threshing and steaming tobacco beds has been a tradition with our family,' recalls Roscoe. 'My Grandad, Dave Shiverdecker, started it, then my father, John carried it on, and steam got into my blood and never left it.'

Iron-Man Roscoe Shiverdecker is both engineer and fireman on the old R. D. S. Special No. 9. Roscoe is shoveling black diamonds into the gaping locomotive firebox, with a fresh cigar clamped between his 'store plates'. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

'When Dad quit, he wanted to give me the old Aultman-Taylor,' says Roscoe. 'But I didn't want it then, so he sold it for junk and it was cut up.'

But Roscoe soon got the fever of steam in his blood once again.

'That old Aultman-Taylor was like new, and the thoughts of it being cut-up for junk got me so that I up and bought me a 20-horse Advance Rumely off of Grandpa Mattis. I had that engine about eight to ten years, steaming tobacco beds.' recalls Shiverdecker. 'Then I began buying and selling engines for a while.'

The fever really hit Roscoe. He once owned five different engines at one time.

'I had an 18-horse Frick Engine which I took around to the shows, then sold to a guy in N. Carolina,' recollects Shiverdecker. 'Then I bought a little 12-horsepower Frick which I later sold to Percy Sherman (of Iron-Man Fame) at Palmyra, Michigan. After that I got me a 22-horse Keck Gonnerman Engine which I sold to a fellow in Cincinnati.

One of the real beauties that Roscoe Shiverdecker showed at the reunions was a half-size model Garr-Scott which he bought off of Harry Britton, that was made over an 18-horsepower double Garr-Scott Engine. This was the little 'eye-catcher' which sported the red scallop, like the fabled 'buggy with the fringe on top'. And Roscoe's boys used to put little ol' Garr-Scott through its paces at the sawmills and on the fan tests, just to show off at the various area reunions throughout Ohio and eastern Indiana.

'The 23-90 Baker that I got some time ago, I still have. It's like new and I use it to steam tobacco beds near home, because I can't drive it down the roads for a distance like the Old No. 9 Loco,' says Roscoe. And yet there was still another steam engine in the 'love affair' of Roscoe Shiverdecker and his beloved 'Iron Horses.'

'I got me a little half-size model of a Greyhound Engine. Its boiler was rolled in St. Marys, Ohio, but the engine was then built in Coldwater, Ohio,' muses Roscoe. 'That engine had the stamp of the Ohio State Boiler Board.' (I reminded Roscoe that it probably was the only engine that had ever generated steam in 'Coldwater'.)

'I tore that engine all down and rebuilt it,' says Roscoe. 'It had only three-quarter inch piping throughout and couldn't handle enough steam to give it the power it needed. So I replaced the smaller three-quarter piping with inch-and-a-quarter size, and I put on a heavier fly-wheel, rebuilt the clutch and governor.'

Although Roscoe Shiverdecker almost forgot to mention the small, quarter-size model of an Advance Engine, which he used to 'play with the did not forget to praise his entire family for all the help they give him at cleaning, repairing and painting his steam engines, including the old R. D. S. Special No. 9.

'My wife, Helen, helps to paint the engines, and my daughter, Sharon did the painting and lettering on my Baker,' says 'Shivvie', with a bit of pride in stride.

Now that son Gary is in the military service, next-in-line brother Bob, 17, has taken over with the helping of Iron Man Roscoe Shiverdecker in rebuilding his engines. And that leaves Steve, 11, and Johnny, 8, to hang around Dad's shop, so they can learn how to work on the engines. And, of course, help Dad show 'em off at the steam reunions.

And sister Sharon has also been known to 'show off' Roscoe's engines at the reunions.

'I'll never forget the time Mildred Ary (the only lady who up to that time had balanced a steam engine on the teeter-totter), was having a time of it balancing Harold Ary's big Garr-Scott,' chuckles Roscoe. 'Sharon then drove our little 12-horse Garr-Scott up onto the teeter and balanced it right off. 'As Iron Man Roscoe Shiverdecker says it' There's nothing like steam-once it gets into your blood, and it's been in mine ever since I was a kid in rompers.'

And as we say it 'A seat of honor to Iron-Man Roscoe Shiverdecker in our Iron-Man Hall of Fame for his tireless energy in rebuilding and repairing, as well as preserving so many prototypes of the historic Iron Horse-. Also our praises for planning and building the R. D. S. Special No. 9- and running it 'on time' to all the parades and reunions.

If  the railroad wouldn't give him a locomotive to run he just up 'n made one. From plowboy to railroad engineer that's Shivvie up there, tootin' his whistle 'n wavin'.