Over The Hill Trucks 3 Haywood Avenue Rutland, Vermont 05701
Our principal interest, as our trade name indicates, is antique trucks. For nearly three years Bob Giddings and I have followed up on countless leads as we journeyed through the Vermont countryside searching for old trucks. During the late winter of 1985 I was talking with a farmer from Benson about the likelihood of finding any chain driven trucks in the area. The only one which he could remember was an International 'high wheeler', which hauled canned milk from farms in the area. As he recalled, on one steep hill, the driver had to unload the cans of milk, since the small truck didn't have power enough to make the grade. He would then drive the truck to the top of the hill, and then carry the milk cans up to the truck.
However, that truck had long since disappeared. The farmer went on to say, that if there were any chain drives left in the area, the Galick's of West Haven would have them. So I made a note of this particular lead, and decided to wait until the snow had melted, the mud had dried, and the temperatures were a little milder before I would check it out.
As it turned out, I made my first trip to the Galick Brothers' farm on July 4, 1985. It took me awhile to locate the farm, since the only practical way to get there was to travel some distance into New York State, and then reenter Vermont on to the road which leads to their farm. As I slowly traveled down the narrow dirt road, which was heavily overgrown with brush, something caught my eye. It was protruding over the top of a clump of dense sumac and grape vines. 'No, it can't be,' I said to myself as I backed up. However, there was no mistake, it surely was a smoke stack.
So I got out of my car, walked over to the dense growth of brush, and yet it wasn't more than three feet from the edge of the road. The boom was missing, but the rest was relatively complete. The boiler, water tank, three steam engines, drive gears, and levers were still inside the wooden cab. However, all of the gauges, piping, and associated parts were gone. The unit was tipped slightly down hill, with the roadside track having settled about five inches below grade, and the field side track was almost ten inches below grade.
I continued along to the farm. John Galick answered my knocks at the door. John is the oldest of the brothers at 94. He suggested that I talk with Steven (age 86) concerning the trucks. Steve was out in the barn yard. I found Steve, wearing soiled coveralls, with his hands covered with grease. He had been repairing some piece of machinery. He told me that they did have a chain driven truck. It was a 1913 Chicago Pneumatic. However, they had used its two cylinder engine for their motor boat back in the 30's. The only remaining parts of the Chicago were the front wheels.
Steve and I talked for a considerable period of time, and I learned much about these enterprising brothers. After I had checked on an old Brockway in the upper pasture, I returned to the barn yard to talk further with Steve. At that point Tony, the third brother, arrived from checking on a damaged water line. Tony is 82. I asked about the Brock-way, but soon our conversation turned to the Osgood Steam Shovel.
Steve noted that they had built the road, almost three miles in length, which I had traveled to the farm on. They had purchased the shovel from the Ohio Power Shovel Company of Lima, Ohio on September 4, 1931. The shovel had originally been used in the construction of the Conklingville reservoir (NY). Then it appeared on a street construction project in Whitehall, NY. When Steve found the Osgood, the contractor was attempting to load it onto a railway car in Whitehall. However the shovel didn't have pressure enough to climb the ramp on to the train. Moreover, the contractor didn't want to face the expense of overhauling the tubes. So Steve contacted Ohio Power Shovel Co., and offered to buy it. He closed the deal on September 4th, 1931, and purchased the complete unit with payment of $600.
Steve made some hasty repairs to the steam shovel by simply blocking off the damaged tubes. He and Tony fired the Osgood up with coal, and headed through the streets of Whitehall to the shoreline of South Bay on Lake Champlain. Since there weren't any roads into the farm, the only way to get the shovel to Vermont was across the lake. They borrowed a flat bottom barge; loaded the shovel on board; and pulled the shovel to the Vermont side with their small motor boat (powered by the Chicago Pneumatic).
The shovel was used extensively for three years, as the Galick's built the road to their farm. It was fueled only by firewood, which they cut on their property. During these years that the shovel worked, it was tipped over once and had the cab partially burned off on another occasion. Although Steve did acquire a complete set of replacement tubes, they were never installed. Eventually, during WWII, he sold the tubes to a nearby contractor. Shortly after the road was completed, the shovel was parked alongside the road, and it was never used again. For more than fifty years it sat as a monument to its accomplishment of building an 'impossible' road.
Listening to their story unfold it became quite clear that these brothers took a great deal of pride in their accomplishment. I asked Steve if they had any further plans for the Osgood. He mentioned that he had thought of bringing the shovel down to the barn yard. Never expecting that they would consider selling the Osgood, I nonetheless asked the question. Tony quickly interjected, 'Well, we don't use it anymore...' To my surprise it was generally agreed that they would further consider the sale, while I would discuss the matter with Bob. I knew that Bob would be thrilled with the idea of owning the Osgood.
Two days later we returned to further talk with the Galicks about the shovel. We also had to move the 1928 Brockway which we purchased from them. After chatting for a few minutes, an agreement to sell and a sale price were established. Steve firmly established that he would take care of preparing the shovel for movement. He would cut the brush and pull the shovel onto the road. Even though we suggested that we should do that work, he persisted in his viewpoints.
From that point nearly eight weeks would pass before the Osgood was finally moved to its new home. The next time we visited the farm, Steve had begun to cut the brush. This was around July 17th. By August 1st the brush was completely removed, and for the first time in years the cab was completely visible. In addition, Steve had laid out a steel cable between two steel tackle blocks: one chained to a sturdy tree, and one attached to the shovel. He had attempted to pull the Osgood with his John Deere 4010, but the JD was only able to nudge the big hulk forward about a foot. The tracks would not climb out of their sunken beds, and it only plowed ahead pushing dirt in front of it. It was not surprising that the tracks were frozen solid after being parked for more than fifty years.
Steve now realized that the shovel would have to be jacked up from its sunken position and blocked up. He and Tony would undertake this slow and strenuous process as temperatures allowed. Moving heavy hydraulic jacks, heavy timbers, and jacking would not be an easy task in 75 to 85 degree temperatures. Remember now, these brothers are 86 and 82 years old. Yet no matter how much we attempted to persuade them to allow us to do the work, they continually insisted on doing it themselves.
In a way it was easy to see that the big machine was a part of these two men. It meant very much to them. Over the years they had several inquiries from people who wanted to buy it for scrap purposes, but they turned these offers down quickly. It was as if they seemed relieved to know that the old shovel would now be preserved rather than destroyed.
On the 17th of August, Bob and I returned and worked with the brothers jacking and blocking the shovel. A considerable amount of time was spent freeing up the roadside track. We worked together that day until the noon-time sun again made it too hot to work. As we left, only the ditch side track remained to be freed. For the next ten days, high temperatures and occasional rain prevented the Galicks from doing any work. However, on Wednesday, August 28th, it was ready to move. We decided that the following day would be the moving day.
We had studied the planned moving route on several occasions through which the over-sized load would pass. The shovel itself was about twelve feet six inches in height. Naturally there were a few low hanging telephone service cables to be contended with. However, our major concern was the bridge crossing the Poultney River, which connected the Galick built road to New York State. The turning radius would be very tight for the Mack R Series tractor with its low bed trailer. Nonetheless our measurements seem to establish that it could be done by cutting some roadside brush to give us more swinging room. The very real problem was the possibility of getting belly-hung on the approach to the bridge. It would be real close.
Thursday, August 29th, was a bright, fresh, sunny Vermont morning. As we crossed the bridge, headed for the farm, we stopped to check the clearance under the low bed trailer: less than one inch! We knew but didn't quickly admit to ourselves that we were in trouble. Besides, there was no other way out, except the way the Osgood had originally gotten in there. We continued down the road, passed the Osgood, and continued on for another mile to turn the truck around in the barnyard. As we returned to the shovel, Steve and Tony had already begun to hook up the cables and tackle blocks. When all was ready Steve fired up the JD 4010, and pulled on the Osgood. It slipped easily from its fifty year old parking place and rolled onto the road. Steve then used an Allis-Chalmers HD-6 bulldozer to align the Osgood with the low bed trailer. The blocks and cables were repositioned, and the JD-4010 pulled the steam shovel with ease onto the trailer. This entire process was completed in less than forty mintues.
As we chained it into position, we also advised Steve of our concerns about getting 'belly-hung' on the bridge. He and Tony agreed to follow us with their small MF tractor, just in case we got into trouble. We approached the bridge cautiously. Bob allowed his big Mack truck as much swinging room as possible, and headed onto the bridge. As he crept slowly forward we could see that the trailer tires would run on the edge of the steep slope along the river. Perhaps they would just kiss the concrete bridge abutments. Then the truck eased to a hault with the sound of steel scraping into the gravel road. Our fears were confirmed. The trailer was belly-hung.
Although our better judgments told us this would happen, we also speculated that the old shovels didn't want to leave the farm, or perhaps it didn't want to go into New York State. Steve was quick to head back with the MF tractor to bring the HD-6 bulldozer to the bridge. When he returned with the dozer, he initially tried to lift and push the trailer with the dozer's bucket. This didn't work. Ultimately after experimenting with some other techniques, we decided to place a plank ramp in front of the trailer tires, and then push the trailer forward to get a more uniform lifting and pushing force. This worked, and the Mack lurched forward with its heavy load.
We bade farewell to the Galick Brothers. As we journeyed towards the Osgood's new home, we dodged all the low hanging utility cables without any problems. However, as we crossed back into Vermont, we weren't able to dodge the scales, which just happened to be open. The thing of it was, we didn't know how much the old shovel weighed. Needless to say, there were two bodies in the cab of the Mack covered with a cold sweat. Much to our relief, we were only given a quick visual check by the authorities, and allowed to pass.
The rest of the trip was much less uneventful. The Osgood No. 985 was safely delivered, and is now awaiting restoration. Someday smoke will again pour out of its smoke stack. Undoubtedly this will follow countless hours of work. Although the boom was not attached to the Osgood, it did come with the deal. It was found about a half mile away from the Osgood, covered with vines and fallen rock at the base of a cliff. Moreover, the twin cylinder steam engine affixed to it was not damaged. When the Osgood is completely restored, it will bear the names of the Galick's, who owned it for nearly 54 years. These brothers have been a living part of the mechanized era all their lives. They purchased a 1911 Huber tractor new. They owned a 1913 Chicago Pneumatic truck, a 1916 Federal, and two 1916 GMC trucks. This really doesn't begin to scratch the surface. Moreover, they have managed to preserve some of this antiquated equipment through the present time. An honest yet simplistic opinion of the Galick Brothers is that they're incredible!!!