IRON MAN OF THE MONTH

Lloyd Seidel and Glen Hill

Lloyd Seidel gets expert advice from Glen Hill, in cleaning out that smoke box front on his 50-horse Case engine at Georgetown, Ohio. O.V.A.M. Show. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390

Joe Fahnestock

Content Tools

Union City, Indiana

Grandpa may like to be out there at his shop, working on his steam engine, you can betcha. But, when Grandpa's little seven month old granddaughter was confined to a complete body-cast, to be confined for months away from the family in a lonely bedroom, you can bet that Gramps banked the fires on his beloved Case and went back to the 'drawing boards' to do something about it.

Yes it's the story about a steam engineer who thought his first love was his steam engine. That is, until his little granddaughter, Karen was hospitalized in a body cast and would have to remain that way for eight long months. All of which was going to mean that little Karen would have to be oh so lonely in her bedroom, for oh so long, while the rest of her family and playmates would be elsewhere doing chores and having fun. Then it was that Lloyd Seidel, the Iron-Man Hero of our story, let the fires die down and the boiler pressure dwindle away to fulfill an old promise he'd made, to help others, back in his high school days that, with the help of the Lord and his new knowledge he'd make something to lighten little Karen's load.

For a while Karen's folks thought she could be more with them and more maneuverable both at the hospital and later at home, if she could be pulled about in a child's coaster wagon. But Grandpa, Lloyd seidel's inventive mind soon saw through the problems involved and sought immediately to do something about them.

'At the hospital I noted how awkward it was to try to pull a wagon around the sharp turns between beds and stands without hitting or running into something,' explained Lloyd to me, the first year we attended the Ohio Valley Antique Machinery Show at Georgetown, Ohio, back in 1971. Parents, let alone a nurse or nurse's aid simply couldn't steer a coaster wagon around, unless they set down what they were carrying and use both hands one to pull and steer the front wheels, the other to lift the rear wheels around the obstacles. (How well I know that, recalling the good old days when I used to deliver fresh country butter for the neighborhood store in an old wooden coaster wagon.)

Determined to do something about it and make little Karen's life and everyone else's a little easier and happier, Lloyd Seidel began visualizing and improvising some rather simple mechanical principles. The kind of ideas an engine man gets around his steam engine if ever and whenever he decides he can make it work or steam a little bit better.

The age old idea that a wagon should be guided by only the front wheels and axle seemed a little archaic to Lloyd. For centuries it got the front end of the wagon around tree stumps and protruding rocks and barn corners, but that didn't keep the back end from whacking the same object.

Why not guide or steer both the front axle and wheels and the rear axle and wheels at the same time with the same handle? And, in so doing, the rear end of the coaster wagon would follow around any object, the same as the front end did. And the nurse, or parent, taking care of the child would not have to use both hands, or set a glass or pitcher down, to do it.

Yes they were very simple mechanical principles that Lloyd Seidel had drafted on his Patent Description, and made into his Patent Model in his farm shop, in order to apply for such a patent. But, simple though they may be, no one has ever seen a coaster wagon, or a farm wagon for that matter, that ever came close to operating and maneuvering so easily as does the one that Lloyd affectionately refers to as 'Karen's Kustom Karriage'.

It was encouraging to Engineer Lloyd Seidel to hear hospital personnel brag about his invention how it made the moving of non-ambulatory patients so much easier in and out of the hospital doors and the crowded rooms.

'The hospital people told me there would be quite a demand for such a conveyance throughout America and elsewhere,' confided Seidel. 'But, of course, there is the big problem of finding a manufacturer, and, after that, marketing.'

But Lloyd Seidel, inventor as well as Iron-Man, went right ahead applied for his patent and, after the usual weeks of searching the national patent files, he was awarded the patent.

And, with little Karen long over her big ordeal of lying bedridden and stiff in a body-length plaster cast, at least our engineer Lloyd Seidel can have that joy in his heart which comes to one who has done so much for one so dear and little, even if modern red tape and competition often stifle an inventor from helping others with his inventions. (Like those more economical carburetors sabotaged by the auto and oil industries, years ago, but which could be saving millions of gallons of gas, in our fuel crisis, today.)

But, for one Lloyd Seidel, the greatest, most fun invention ever created by man's ingenious inquisitiveness was the steam engine. (Another great victim of the auto-oil industrial combine the builder of the American Railways Systems and of American Agriculture, till we become the 'Leader and Feeder of the World.')

Says Lloyd, 'From the time I was three, my uncle had a steam engine which always fascinated me in watching it run at threshing and corn shredding. The older I got, the more I got interested. The first thing I got to do was to toot the whistle when they were going to start and stop. Finally I got to let water in the boiler with the Leader Injector, then stop and start the engine when on the belt. I rode the water wagon and pumped the tank from ponds 'n cricks.'

'But, by the time I got old enough to operate a steam engine or act as engineer, my uncle broke over and purchased a 15/30 Horsepower International Harvester Company Tractor which ended my steam engine career, until the O.V.A.M. started in 1970,' laments Iron Man Seidel.

It was at this time that Ed Fiscus had his Baker Engine. And, since Lloyd Seidel's wife had to work the gate at the show, from seven to nine in the mornings, this left our Iron-Man with nothing to do, but look at the steam engines and wish he had one.

Soon wishing became wanting. And then there was that urge to rake the ashes out of Ed Fiscus's Baker and sort of build a fire.

'By the time Ed Fiscus arrived at the show, I had 55 p.s.i. of steam in his boiler and he laughed when he saw it,' muses Lloyd. 'He said, 'How would you like to play around with my engine during the show?' '

'But, I said, the boiler would soon be needing some more water and I didn't know how to operate the Penberthy Injectors,' was the way that Lloyd Seidel answered. 'However, Mr. Glen Hill (one of our former Iron-Men) had just driven in to fire up his engine, and Ed Fiscus said he would help and assist me in running the Baker.'

From then on everything went fine.

But it wasn't until 1972 that a man passing out hand-bills, gave one to Lloyd. And on that bill was listed a Case 50-horse steam engine for sale.

'After I got the okay from my wife, to buy that engine, I got Mr. Hill to go along with me and look it over,' says Seidel with a glint of remembered glee in his eye and a hefty chomp on his well-chewed cigar. 'Hill's decision was that I could not go wrong in buying it.'

'So I bought that Case from Mr. T. K. Owen at Jackson, Ohio, in August of '72 and by September it was home. I did all the work of restoring it, except for a little boiler welding which required a certified welder,' explains Lloyd.

'I got interested in steam as a boy, but it hit me harder later in life,' is the way Lloyd Seidel sums it all up. 'Although neither my wife, Nera, nor my daughter care about the engine, my grandchildren all think it's great. And that includes little nine year old Karen Sue who loves Grandpa as well as the Case Engine because of what he once did to make her well and healthy and happy by inventing a new-fangled coaster wagon to pull her around in.

So, you see, you only get to keep what you give away. Give a little love away, and years later it returns, like the bread cast upon the water to bless the giver over and over again.

Although wife Nera only rode once on hubby's Case Engine and that only at the insistance of friends at the local Georgetown, Ohio, O.V.A.M. Show you can betcha that little nine year old Karen has ridden it and tooted the mighty Case whistle.

But the one wonderful thing that both my wife and I so appreciate about Iron-Man Lloyd Seidel and his Case Steam Engine is the fact that, whenever he arrives at the show grounds, he always drives his steaming Case up by our Iron-Man Stand and hands down the morning edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer.

'That's the first newspaper boy I ever saw delivering his papers by steam engine,' said I to Pat. (How's that for saving gas?)

And, for my book, and hers that's reason enough for any steam engineer to be elevated to our Hall of Iron-Man Fame.

Come Lloyd bring along little Karen Sue and let her blow the Case whistle all the way, too.