Steam In His Blood, Merry Go-Round In Yard


Lloyd Lehman views the merry-go-round he recently completed as it is powered by his steam traction engine in the backyard of his home at 2201 Bloomington Rd. (Staff photo)

Mary Ellen Smith

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Staff Writer

We thank The Tazewell Courier newspaper of East Peoria, Illinois for permission to use the following article and picture. Article sent in by Lloyd Lehman, 2201 Bloomington, Route 5, Peoria, Illinois 61611.

The Lloyd Lehman backyard at 2201 Bloomington Rd. is different from others in the city. In the center of the yard is a merry-go-round built by 74-year-old Lehman over the past three years.

Nostalgia and his enthusiasm for building steam-powered engines prompted Lehman to undertake the task of designing the plans for and building the merry-go-round. 'When I was a boy and nickels were so scarce to ride the merry-go-rounds, I could never get my fill of rides. I suppose I've always looked up to them as a fond memory,' said Lehman. He added, 'When my buddies were building with steam, I decided to start in on something like this.'

Lehman pointed out that his 'pride and joy' is patterned after the original merry-go-rounds in that it is powered by steam with a cable running from his steam traction engine around the base.

The merry-go-round, built upon a steel tract with four stabilizing wheels, consists of eight horses, four of which have a rocking motion, lighting, a red and white metal roof, and a tape recorder disguised in what used to be a radio cabinet.

Explaining that the merry-go-round was 'built by memory,' Lehman said, 'I didn't have any blueprints and had to cut and then try and build and sometimes do it again to get it right. ' He reported having to change the linkage on the four moving horses about three times in order to get the proper action.

During the winter months Lehman drew the plans for the iron linkage and made the imitation organ from the radio cabinet. 'I'll be playing the tape recordings of the original steam-powered merry-go-round organs as well as the up-to-date calliope and band organ music,' noted Lehman.

Although building a merry-go-round is new to Lehman, he reported his introduction to merry-go-rounds included assembling the various pieces of equipment when the fairs came to town.

'I can remember when 1 was 12 years old in Astoria, Ill., and they would bring the merry-go-rounds to town. They told us kids that if we wanted a ride we could help uncrate the pieces and lay them on the ground where they directed.'

Lehman said the three-year project never became tedious even with all of the changes he had to make. 'I just wouldn't force myself. If you drive yourself with a hobby when you are tired, you can't do it right. And if it's a hobby of something you love to do, you just don't tire out that much.'

The merry-go-round will be featured June 20 at his home with a variety of other steam-powered items built by Lehman and his friends. 'Anyone interested in seeing a steam-powered merry-go-round is welcome to come.' said Lehman.

After viewing Lehman's enthusiasm with his latest project involving the steam engine, it's easy to agree with one of his friends, Lewis Enderli of East Peoria, who commented, 'If that steam is in your blood, it will never boil out.'