Rt. 1, Box 459-A Sugar Grove, North Carolina
In late June, 1981, my brother, our two children, and I went to the Estate sale of the late Col. D.E. Price, Creston, North Carolina. Among various pieces of antique machinery, stood the Peerless 'D'. The little steamer was billed to be in excellent condition. The auctioneer's opinion of excellent and mine differ greatly.
The ravages of time had taken its toll on the smoke box. You could stick your head through what used to be the bottom. The flues looked fairly new. Inside the firebox things looked good until I saw where the fusible plug center had been replaced with a bolt and gasket; some never live to tell about such mistakes. There were no grates, only one grate bar; ash pan holders were broken and door was broken. The exterior of the boiler looked extra good, no welds or repaired stay bolts.
The engine was free, but some parts were badly worn. The Pickering governor was completely worn out., Somewhere along the way the front axle had slipped several inches off center, and the rear axle was shifted to one side. The entire brake system and front truss rods were missing.
Many thoughts were going through my mind, all of those long hard hours to restore it back to original condition, but the enjoyment of hearing that first chug always outweighs the hard work.
By now the sale had begun. There were a number of our collector friends in attendance, all were curious to see who would get the little steamer. During the course of the day, I talked to Mrs. Ruth Price. She called the Peerless 'The Little Steamer'; it had been used throughout the Rock Creek Community for powering a small thresher.
That afternoon the auctioneer finally got down to selling the Peerless. It looked as if my luck had run out. One bidder in particular, seemed bent on owning that little steamer. With one last hope, I raised the bid $500.00; everyone became quiet, finally the auctioneer rang out with 'SOLD'!
After the sale was over, we pushed the Peerless back in the barn. Several weeks later our daughter Kristi, age 9, our son Jody, age 2, and I went to move our new treasure home. Mrs. Price agreed to send me some history about the little steamer. The engine was originally owned by her father-in-law, Rev. Ben C. Price. After Rev. Price died, the engine was sold to help pay family expenses. During the early 50's, Col. D.E. Price discovered the little engine at Tilley's Antiques, Hillsville, Virginia. John Midkiff, owner, agreed to sell the engine to Col. Price. The little steamer was moved back to its home on Rock Creek in May, 1958.
After getting the Peerless to our home, my dad, M. L. Scholl, helped me hydrostatic test the boiler. At 150 pounds, we had only some minor leaks. Later that summer, I hauled the Peerless to Link Iron Works, Hickory, North Carolina, to have a new smoke box bottom installed. Upon hauling the little steamer back home, I proceeded to remove small engine parts, plumbing, and to protect all brass and machine surfaces with duct tape. I rented a sand blaster and did the major cleaning, all down to bare metal.
Dad and I backed the Peerless in the basement of our home with my 1934 Caterpillar 20. During the days and weeks to follow for the next year, I cleaned, repaired, primed, and put 2 finish coats of paint on all the parts. The only remaining parts on the boiler were large studs and the crankshaft lower bearings. We painted the boiler with a graphite heat resisting black.
At Christmas time, my wife, Judy, gave me two Peerless re-prints, 1889 and 1910. The specifications showed our 'D' to be rated at 4 H.P. Robert Johnson from Georgia, sent me some color photos of an 'F' he restored, and also said or 'D' #10343 was built in December, 1904.
In between the Lord's work, family, full-time job, etc., we kept plugging away o the Peerless. New axle, hub caps, ash pan holders, and grate bars, were all cast in Tennessee. Grates were fashioned by welding 2' mine rail together. The axle ends were straightened, front coil spring repaired, governor was equipped with new cross shaft, bearings and new springs, new studs for ash pan and firebox door were installed. Engine parts were finished in green, wheels are red and pin striping in yellow. All the work on our little steamer was aided by our daughter, our son, and my very patient wife.
I poured new bearings for the valve eccentric and opposite end of the valve slide connecting rod. The articles written in IMA and GEM on pouring bearings were very helpful.
It is an annual event for us to display at the Threshers Reunion in Denton, North Carolina, during the 4th of July. While looking over Joe Millers' 1902 Peerless 'D', I discovered that our engine was missing the original cast cover that holds the valve slide in position. Jeff Hutchings, host of the East Tennessee Crank-Up, agreed to have one cast from one that he had. Jeff and his family have been good friends for many years.
The remainder of the summer was spent putting the engine back together and re-plumbing the boiler. I equipped it with a new Lunken heimer Safety Valve set at 100 pounds, new fusible plug, and Dad gave me an extra whistle.
We are members of the Carolina Fly-Wheelers, Boone, North Carolina. One week prior to our Autumn Leaves Crank-Up, I put another test on the boiler. Things went sour when the firebox corner fittings for blow down and front cleanout started leaking. My brother, Don, works at 'Tweetsie', a narrow gauge steam railroad. They are equipped to completely rebuild steam locomotives. We fixed the leaks on Thursday. Dad and I built our first fire in the little steamer on Friday. What a thrill to have the Peerless running. We made it to our club's show Saturday, just in time.
Last summer, we displayed the little steamer at our local fair. Over 80,000 people attended this event. In October, we exhibited again at our local club show at Boone, North Carolina. This time, we belted the Peerless to Frank Hodge's Meadows gristmill. It powered the mill with ease.
I was born in 1948, at Hilliard, Ohio, and a former member of Miami Valley Steam Threshers Association. My family and I moved to the mountains of North Carolina in 1966. I thank God for the many talents he has given me, and also for a desire to preserve a part of our past for future generations.