'Modern Navy Pilot Has Old Fashioned Steam As Hobby'

Burrell Engine

Courtesy of Lt. F. A. Orr, USN, VX-6, FPO San Francisco, Calif. 96690. A Burrell Engine with Mr. C. F. Long driving and E. Lucas is the engineer.

Lt. F. A. Orr

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VX-6 FPO San Francisco, Calif. 96690

I have been a reader of the Iron-Men Album for a number of years and it has provided many hours of enjoyable reading. The pictures have been outstanding. Many thanks to you and your staff for a fine magazine.

The age of the steam engine was over when I was born but my Grandfather and my father have both had extensive experience in the field. My Grandfather went into the Dakotas as a young man where he plowed and threshed with steam before returning to Corning. New York, where he went on the railroad. He also drove a Buffalo-Springfield roller to maintain the roads in our county.

While my Father was in high school, he ran a pump house for the railroad and then ran the power house for the town of Dundee. When he went to farming, he threshed with steam.

He often tells the story of going to work at the power house one night and seeing Shorty, the man he was to relieve, sitting on a chair, white as a sheet. When asked what the trouble was, Shorty gestured towards one of the boilers. My Father could see nothing wrong until he was told to bend down and look at the crown sheet. There it was, a great big bulge. There is a lot of lime in our water and evidently, it: had formed a crust on the crown sheet causing it to get hot and bulge just as Shorty was heaving in a scoop of coal. Being low slung, he saw it come right down. Later speculation concluded that when she bulged, the scale was broken allowing water in to cool the metal and stopping it from blowing out completely.

My occupation is gallavanting around the world as a Navy pilot. My folks are always amazed that I am interested in steam but I tell them it runs in the blood. Right now I am spending six months on the Antarctic continent flying tour engine turboprop transports, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. It is interesting duty because of the conditions here.

Before we flew onto the ice, I spent a week in Christ Church, New Zealand and met several members of the steam fraternity there. The traction engines are all of English make with the Burrells and Fowlers being among the most popular. Many of the engines still work for a living.

The first steam fan I met was Mr. C. F. Long of Ashburton. He has a sheep ranch about 20 miles south of Christ Church and has been in steam for many years. I first heard of him while talking to a member of the Christ Church Flying Club. It took a short phone call to arrange a visit the next Sunday.

The telephones here are something else again. New Zealand is on the English Pound system although they are switching to the Dollar system in the next couple of years. The pennies are as big as our silver dollars so phone change causes quite a bulge in your pants pocket. The phone boxes have an A and a B button. You put your money in, dial your number and when your party answers, push the A button which deposits the toll in the box. If your party does not answer, push the B button to return the toll. On his first call, the average American novice usually forgets to push the A button causing the party called to hear nothing but garble. At that, the standard phrase used is 'push the A button Yank.' Back to Mr. Long.

After getting thoroughly confused with the right hand steering of my rented Vauxhall and the vagueness of the map, I stopped for directions only to find that my goal was 'that farm across the paddocks with the red roof.'

Mr. Long and his son-in-law were waiting for me and I had a wonderful time examining his stable of engines. He has a Burrell and a Fowler traction engine and a McClaren road roller. The traction engines are mostly hobby now although occasional use is made of the winding drum built on the left axle of most English engines. A practice that I think the American engines could have made good use of. The roller still puts in an occasional good days work flattening out the sheep paddocks. The paddocks in New Zealand are very neat and precise with clipped hedges used for fence. Along with the engines there is a large wooden wheeled wagon of the type used to haul freight behind the traction engines. For those interested gas engine men, Mr. Long has a Titan tractor in excellent condition.

Because of the scarcity or high cost of materials, nothing is wasted in New Zealand. Americans who are used to power tools and specialized equipment might be a little surprised at the work Mr. Long does with a gas engine driven grinder, a mounted H.P. hand drill and a forge with a hand worked bellows for draft. The grinder was made by turning an auto engine block upside down and using the crankshaft bearings for the main bearings with the stone mounted on one end and a pully on the other. Not a bad idea to copy.

Courtesy of Mr. Jack W. Beamish, Box 271, Hamiota, Manitoba, Canada. I am 19 years of age and have been interested in steam engines and everything that goes along with them ever since I can remember. I have a collection of gas engines which I also enjoy working with and restoring. This is a picture of my uncle's 75 HP Case and a 36 inch Red River Special separator threshing wheat into our neighbor's barn last fall. My Uncle Doug is sitting on the right hand side of the engine and my father is standing on the separator. After we finished combining last fall we threshed two days at the neighbors. The weather was nice and a lot of people turned out to watch and even pitch a few sheaves. My uncle also has a 65 HP Case that he acquired last fall. The Iron Men Album is the most interesting magazine I find to read and it would be nice if it could be published more often.

After looking the engines over and getting all the pictures I could, we went inside where I was introduced to Mr. Long's wife and daughter. While looking at pictures, the ladies plied me with tea, cookies and cake. To say they were good would be an understatement and I'm afraid they thought the Navy must not feed me the way I ate. Bachelor life does have its disadvantages. I was invited for Tea (supper) but had to return to duty so left the Longs with a promise to return.

Talking to the police sergeant who gave us a lecture on the perils of driving in New Zealand, I learned of Mr. A. Greer, an enthusiast, who directed me to Mr. Bob Hawkins of Belfast on the north side of Christ Church. Mr. Hawkins and his Father before him were saw mill men. Demands for lumber had outstripped what could be produced by the belt of a steam tractor but Mr. Hawkins still has the last Burrell imported to New Zealand which used to run the mill. She earns her keep by hauling logs around the mill yard.

The mill was another lesson in New Zealand economy. Most of the buildings had frames made from bent railroad rail with fillits at the curve of the eave and welded at the peak. In fact, rail seems to have been used in 100 different ways. A slab wood cut off saw was run by air, automatic and home made as was the sawdust conveyer belt. Logs were conveyed to the carriage by an endless chain made up from the tracks of crawler tractors and running on a frame of railroad rail. Everything was driven by surplus speed reducers and liberal use was made of air cylinders to help kick the logs and lumber around.

As I had to return to the base by noon for an inspection, I was very impatient for that old Burrell to get up steam and, as you know, a watched pot never boils. Finally, with 60 lbs on the gauge, Mr. Hawkins hit the simpling valve allowing boiler pressure into the L.P. cylinder and she walked her way out of the mud under the shed. He said we'd go out on the road for a spin and after getting through the gate, he turned her over to me.

In third gear that engine really could travel. Although she made a lot more noise than our American engines due to the extra gearing involved. I was told that the road engines could do 18 to 20 MPH in high gear and that on engines with canopies, you could hardly hear yourself think.

The exhaust of the compound engine was quite soft even under hard pulls unless you opened the simpling valve. Then the engine would really talk. Jacketed boilers, compounding and high pressure made up for the high cost of fuel in England.

It was with regret that I turned back into the mill yard and said goodbye. You may understand how I felt when I returned to the base and found that the inspection had been cancelled. That's the breaks.

As we left for the ice on 1 Oct., I was unable to attend the big rally at Ashburton on the 16th. The previous year there were almost 20 engines present.