Steam engine

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Courtesy of the Intelligence Journal, Lancaster, Pa. - Monday, June 14,1976.

Steam engines seem to hold a fascination for boys of all ages.

Elmer E. Adams, Fairfield, who was 74 on Jan. 27, has never lost his fascination for things to run by steam, an interest he has had since he saw his first steam engine at 14.

As a small boy, he was constantly imagining machinery running. He tied string around boxes, adding clock wheels to make them run.

'And then one day I went to the slate quarry with my brother and dad to help pull a steam engine home on a sled,' said Adams. 'From the minute I saw it, I knew I had to see what made it run and it just had to be mine.'

Got Engine Running

He remembered the engine was in bad shape, but the family got parts and finally got it running. They used it to grind feed, saw wood and help with the butchering. After a few years, the boiler and engine were sold, but Elmer also knew where they were. A few years ago he was able to buy them back.

The old steam engine is all together again, sitting in his backyard.

Adams, the youngest of 11 children of the late Louise Minnie and Jacob C. Adams, was born in a log house less than a mile from where he lives today.

'My sisters and I walked three miles to attend Post Tree School in Fairfield,' he remarked, 'but on stormy days, Mother would hitch up the horse and take us in the buggy.'

Help to Farm

Elmer helped to farm in his younger years and some of his other jobs included work at Armstrong, Quarryville shoe factory, the slate quarry and garage work.

'Know what I did with the first money I made?' he chuckled. 'Bought a motorcycle.'

He built his own garage in Mechanics Grove in 1935 and later enlarged it. He operated it until he retired in 1968.

'You know there is always lots of cans and junk laying around garages,' said Adams, 'so back in 1930, I began to put pieces together and built me a model steam engine. Well, everyone looked at it and said, 'Does it work?' and I got so tired of saying 'no' that I decided to build one that would.'

He finally completed his first steam engine after working on it for over three years. It was made completely out of junk. There were parts from a hay rack, a binder, V-8 Ford, old mowing machines, Case tractor, pipe for the boiler from Jim Groff's and one part from an old Fulton Knight auto.

'And, it still runs good today,' he smiled. Since then, he has made five more, but the engines and boilers for those are factory made.

Steamed Tobacco Beds

During this time, he used his engine to steam tobacco beds, he built a threshing machine so he could thresh small grains, bought a saw mill and steamed chicken houses. He also drove a school bus in the Quarryville area, and did wiring, plumbing and heating work.

He and his wife, the former Rose A. Schoff Boyce, (his first wife and daughter deceased), are members of the Solanco Community Senior Citizens of Mt. Eden Church.

'We really enjoy the people, trips and fun,' he said. He is also a member of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, Fairfield, and the Rough and Tumble Engineers, Kinzers.

When he's not trying something new with his steam engines, Elmer helps his wife care for a big garden. One of the strange looking items in his garden is broom corn. Elmer is also a broom maker.

'Much of the broom corn is shipped from foreign countries and isn't always available,' he noted, so Elmer started to grow his own.

Invented Machine

He invented a machine to pick out seeds from broom corn. The corn must be soaked, dried to the right degree and then put together by hand, a few pieces at a time. Of course, it is sewn by hand.

'Why that's the only way to make a good broom,' he added.

'I like to go fishing when there's time,' he laughed, 'because, golly, I'm busier than before. I still keep up with sports, especially baseball.'

He used to co-manage a team from Mechanics Grove.