President, Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association.
S. N. 918, Tanner & Delaney Engine
Co., Richmond, Va. W. E. Tanner,
Pres., Alex Delaney, Supt.
Seen at its resting place for
about 80 years.
The recent discovery on the side of the Blue Ridge Mountain of an ancient sawmill site and the rusting hulk of its engine has led to the acquisition by the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association of a Tanner and Delaney engine of 1880's vintage. The engine was located on land of the Shenandoah National Park and could not be removed without permission of the Park Service. After hearing the Association's proposal to move the engine and after examining its credentials, the National Park Service gave permission for the engine to be moved and, in accordance with National Park policy, entered into a 'definite renewable loan agreement' with the Association.
The project for the removal of the engine began at 8:00 on the morning of December 3, 1982, with eleven volunteers, two 4-wheel drive vehicles, one John Deere dozer, one dump truck and lowboy and several chain saws. By 6:00 in the evening, about two miles of old wood road had been cleared of dead trees, some as much as 32 inches in diameter. Since the days of its operation, the engine had become entangled in a growing tree which had found its place beside the firebox and around the axle. The cutting of this tree and all other clearing operations were strictly supervised by a park official. Jacking the engine and replacing its rear wheels, which were salvaged from the creek, ended the first day's work.
The final stage in the removal began at 8:00 in the morning of December 4 and was facilitated by the use of a 955 track loader. The engine was tied to two large logs to support the front end and, by noon, was on its first lap of a two-mile journey down the mountain, accompanied by fourteen volunteers and all of the equipment involved in the project. In addition to the twenty-five volunteers who participated in the removal, the wife of one volunteer furnished lunch for both days. Altogether, from its longtime resting place in the Blue Ridge mountains to its new headquarters at Berryville, the engine was moved about forty miles.
The age of the engine, which bears serial number 918, is estimated to be nearly one hundred years. It was used to operate a Frick sawmill #4977 from about 1900 until 1930. The Tanner and Delaney Engine Company which manufactured the engine, operated out of Richmond, Virginia on a charter which was granted them in the spring of 1882. They continued in production until late 1886 or early 1887, when they were overcome by financial difficulties. Prior to the war, the partners, William E. Tanner and Alexander Delaney, had worked for Tredegar Iron Works. When their partnership failed, the two men went separate ways and their shop was taken over by William R. Trigg and was to be called the Richmond Locomotive and Machine Works. The best judgment as to the age of engine #918 is that it was manufactured between 1882 and 1887.
The engine was located near Chester Gap, about 400 yards down stream from Indian Run Spring and about thirty feet from the stream itself, thus affording plenty of water to run the engine. Conversations with several older citizens in the area indicate that the mill and engine were operated by a Mr. John R. Keller and owned by Holmes Edward Boyd of Berryville, Virginia. Courthouse records show that in 1901 Mr. Boyd purchased from the estate of George Compton a 700-acre tract of land including Indian Run and the headwaters of the same for the sum of $1,400.
All indications point toward the fact that the engine, in addition to its lumbering operation, may have performed another duty, that of furnishing steam for the manufacture of spirits to be used for human consumption on cold winter nights. An elderly gentleman at Chester gap recalled that one could always tell when spirits were being run, because the word was passed down the mountain that someone 'had seen a mad dog in the mountain.' Surely, no one would wish to venture up the mountain under such dangerous circumstances!.
Thanks to Mr. Robert R. Jacobsen, superintendent, and his assistants at the Shenandoah National Park, the venerable steam engine will soon be restored and exhibited at the headquarters of the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association at Berryville. The same group of volunteers who brought her down off the mountain are already making plans to restore and place in running order this ancient beauty.