Soot in the flues

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Merry Christmas to all of you wonderful folks! Know what? To me that sounds silly right now, as I sit here in August writing the column for November/December, which means the Christmas season is really not too far in the future. I really should be used to it by now, as this is my 34th year of getting a regular message to you. I really cannot believe it is that long already, and I'm sure all my good buddies in the senior citizen group agree that the years really seem to have rushed by, and it looks like it may be my last year, according to incoming letters.

So many of you have been faithful for years and sent in many interesting letters, column material and homespun stories that have brought us all education, the warmth of a close relationship between our magazines and families. Stories of joy, laughter and yes, sadness, but it's been wonderful and has enriched my life immensely. I really feel close to many of you, and we have had a bonding of sorts with swapping stories of our lives. I feel I know many of you, though we have never met, and I know lots of you folks know a great deal about our wonderful family. Our children were growing up and you heard all the important events, and little events also.

For quite a lot of years I not only wrote the column, but did all the ads, stories, pictures, all orders, etc., for both GEM and IMA. For the last few years I have only been writing the column for The Iron Men Album. I have not only been nudging you all and begging for your letters, and yes, praying many times for an increase in material for Soot in The Flues. Now I know, all good things must come to an end, and maybe it is about time for me to fade out of the picture. I'll give it a little while and if more material does not come in, I will bow out gracefully and say 'Thanks for the Memories.' (As you will notice, I received only TWO communications for this issue; let's face it, I have always tried to add other interesting items and interests, but without YOUR letters, ideas, thoughts and information, this column is really not necessary, or beneficial to IMA.

Following are the two letters:

BERNARD OBERLANDER, 16345 Los Gatos Blvd., #46, Los Gatos, California 95032, sends this: ' 'I have been a subscriber to Iron Men Album for many years. I am presently planning to build a quarter scale model of a Geiser 'Peerless' Z-3 steam traction engine. I have only Geiser machinery catalogs to provide information for this project. My greatest need is for drawings of Peerless traction engines. The reason I am writing you is to determine if you know of a source for such drawings. I am prepared to purchase drawings of any Peerless traction engines that may be available.

'I prefer to purchase drawings of the Z-3 engines, but I am also interested in other models, especially the Z-Z, Z-l, UU and U-l engines. If you know of a source to purchase such drawings, I shall be very pleased and thankful for your help.' (Surely hope you hear from some of our subscribers, Bernard.)

I received a letter from TED H. STEIN, 412 W. Second Street, Streator, Illinois 61364.

Ted states that Ralph Gehlsen wrote asking for Mogul engine color. 'I sent him a picture of a 4 HP MOGUL that had been restored by C. H. Wendel, author of '150 Years of IHC'. I met Chuck at an auction continued from inside front cover and he told me the green paint is DuPont 29609 H. Now, the flywheel rims were painted blue. Thought you might like to know.'

Melvin Kestler, 712 Chaps Rd., S.E., Rio Rancho, NM 87124, sent this photo of a Case outfit used in the wheat growing country around Bird City, Kansas. Kestler received the photo, developed from a glass negative, years ago.

And so, I pass it on to you folks of IMA Family. (This is more for the GEM, but Ted wanted it in IMA.)

Locomotive & Railway Preservation, the bimonthly magazine covering rail preservation, has a comprehensive article in preparation on the miniature trains built by the Cagney Brothers under the name The Miniature Railway Company, Inc. These trains were built between the late 1880s and the early 1940s, with steam locomotive production (all 4-4-0s) ending in the late 1920s. The article is being prepared by Nick Wantiez, noted for his column, 'The Larger Gauges,' in Live Steam.

The final part of the article will attempt to list those Cagney locomotives and trains known to still exist, and to do this your help is needed. If you know of existing Cagney trains, would you please tell L&RP where they are, and whatever other information you might be able to add, especially the gauge? Names or addresses of private collectors who prefer not to be disturbed will not be listed, but they would like to get an approximate count of how many remain from the approximately 1200 train sets produced. Photos of the existing trains would be appreciated also. Sharp black and white 8 x 10's work best for publication, but slides and possibly even sharp color prints may be acceptable. L & R P pays for photo publication; rates depend on the finished size on the page.

The Cagney trains, and similar ones made by their competitors, gave pleasure to many families at early amuse men t parks, but their greatest glory was moving crowds at the various turn-of-the-century World's Fairs and Expositions. In that respect, they were 'real' trains, serving the same purpose as the monorails and maglevs of today.

Nick Wantiez feels that there may be about 50 of the locomotives still in existence, some of which have been heavily modified. Besides being owned by steam collectors, some may exist in antique shops and other places. Class A Cagneys were 9 inch gauge, Class B and C locomotives were 125/& inch gauge, Class D engines, which came in two different sizes, were 15 inch gauge, and those in Class E were 22 inch gauge. A few were built to 18 inch gauge, using parts from both the Class D and E locomotives; these are believed to be from the Jamestown Exposition of 1904, and ended up mostly in the South. The last ones we know of still in regular operation for the public are two Class E engines at Lakeside Park in Denver, Colorado, incredibly still running after nearly 90 years! If you have any information on the whereabouts of a Cagney, please write to Bob Yarger, News Editor, Locomotive & Railway Preservation, P.O. Box 95, Richmond, VT 05477.

In keeping with the Christmas season, I chose the following two items:

From the book Guideposts Christmas Treasury comes 'The Legend of the Christmas Tree.' Today the Christmas tree is a center of our festivities. Topped with a star, and glittering with lights and ornaments, it is a part of the beauty of the meaning of the Christmas season.

How did the Christmas tree come to play such an important part in the observance of Christmas?

There is a legend that comes down to us from the early days of Christianity in England. One of those helping to spread Christmas among the Druids was a monk named Wilfred (later Saint Wilfred). One day, surrounded by a group of his converts, he struck down a huge oak tree, which, in the Druid religion, was an object of worship.

As it fell to the earth, the oak tree split into four pieces and from its center sprung up a young fir tree. The crowd gazed in amazement.

Wilfred let his axe drop and turned to speak. 'This little tree shall be your Holy Tree tonight. It is the wood of peace, for your houses are built of the fir. It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are evergreen. See how it points toward the heavens?'

'Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child. Gather about it, not in the wilderness, but in your homes. There it will be surrounded with loving gifts and rites of kindness.'

To this day, that is why the fir tree is one of our loveliest symbols of Christmas.

Another story from the Guideposts Christmas Treasury is titled 'One Solitary Life' by George Clarke Peck. (I'm sure many of you are familiar with it. I feel it is worthy of printing in this Christmas column).

How do you explain the greatness of the Man whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas?

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was 30, and then for three years was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held office. He never owned a home. He never traveled 200 miles from the place he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.

Although He walked the land over, curing the sick, giving sight to the blind, healing the lame, and raising people from the dead, the top established religious leaders turned against Him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was spat upon, flogged, and ridiculed. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, the executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth, and that was His robe. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.

All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as has that One Solitary Life.

AND, that is about it for this time, dear Friends. I do wish you all a great upcoming Christmas season and many blessings.

I will wait expectantly for your precious letters. Please let me hear from you! Love ya all!