Reprinted with permission of New York Steam Engine Association Bulletin, Board of Directors. Submitted by Watty Wood, 3510 Laurel Drive, Holiday, Florida 33590
It all started when I asked Bob Marshall if he would let me take his twin cylinder 1912 Buffalo-Pitts out of the garage and get it running. Bob had bought this 16 HP engine about five years before, but he never found time to steam it up. Without question he said, 'Go ahead.' After a few minor repairs, finishing the cab, some paint and a few 'steam-ups', things started to happen for it seemed everyone wanted us in parades or at a fair.
The first event was a parade at the Penfield Sesquicentennial, where probably the only time in recent years an engine was driven in a town with lugs on. It was our first success with more to come. After that, we went to the Monroe County Fair for five days, then on to Hemlock for another four days ending up for the big show at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.
For an engine that had been declared obsolete many years before someone was wrong for the old Buffalo-Pitts had proven she had as much 'go in her' as the day she was built.
During the winter of 1960-61 we restored the old big 1922 A.D. Baker. This process included placing rubber on the wheels since we planned to drive it on pavement. This engine is one of the most powerful in the state developing 90 horsepower which is a lot for a steam engine. 1961 found us swamped with calls wanting us to have an engine in a parade. We started the season by going to Kendall, New York on a Thursday afternoon. Bob and I worked up a little steam, unloaded the Baker, and found ourselves in the middle of a celebration which lasted several days. On Saturday, along with Luzerne Ball and John Farrell, we steamed up and took part in the parade pulling a thresher. We ended up in the Firemen's Park where we setup and threshed a load of barley for the delight of the onlookers. That evening, when we were ready to load the engine, the truck backed into a small ditch for easier loading and got stuck. You guessed it! Luzerne Ball hooked the Baker on and pulled it out with ease. An auto also backed into the same ditch at another point and we pulled that out too. The people of Kendall were gracious and hospitable and served us all a steak dinner like the old days. We'll always remember our trip to Kendall.
A short time later we were asked to bring the Baker over to a celebration in Homer Prudom's hometown of Fairport. I'm sure it was a great day for Homer since he had just come home from the hospital the day before. The parade was a long one with a large crowd. On this occasion Homer Jr. joined me and we ended up with a good old fashioned ham dinner. I might say that just about everywhere we took the engine our hosts would inevitably give us a large dinner maybe we reminded them of the old days when they used to feed the threshers!
Our next stop that year was at Gates near Rochester where Al Turner volunteered to haul the engine to his home on Elmgrove Road. On Saturday morning Ed Faulkner and I steamed up and drove the old engine to the corner of Lyell and Howard Road the starting point. From here we paraded to the Gates Shopping Center on Chili Avenue. This turned out to be the longest parade we've ever been in, in fact, some of the marchers pulled out and didn't go all the way. It was no problem to the Baker and we received standing applause all the way and ended up winning a trophy which we promptly took back to East Bloomfield Headquarters and placed on the trophy shelf!
Mr. Turner brought his trailer in to the parking lot and there I loaded the engine to an audience of over a thousand on-lookers. Maybe not much of a feat, but a thrill to me.
On another occasion Harold Synder, Homer Prudom and I journed to Bethany Center. This little town was formerly the home of Dayton Nichol's father who was the local thresher many years ago. The parade was short but we had an enthusiastic crowd and you guessed it we were treated a delicious chicken barbecue! For old time's sake, we belted the Baker to the threshing machine that once belonged to Dayton's father. What a thrill for the local crowd after 40 years.
By now the old Baker and Buffalo-Pitts were rapidly becoming one of the most sought after parade exhibits in this part of the state. On one Saturday, Harold Synder and I drove the Baker to Lima, New York. The parade was not long, but there was a large crowd on hand. On this occasion our hosts treated us to an ox roast and ended up by giving us another trophy for the shelf! The following week Luzerne Ball and I drove the engine back home along Route 5 & 20distance of about 12 miles. It was a beautiful day and many times tourists stopped and took pictures as we lumbered along at 5 miles per hour.
In the following two years we made in-numerable trips and participated in many events. I remember the time Phil Rowley joined me and we took the Baker to Naples for the Grape Festivalan 8 hour trip. Leaving East Bloomfield, we journeyed south down through the valley to Bristol Springs. Here we took the high road to Naples. When we arrived at the big hill just this side of Naples, we unhitched our tank wagon, turned the engine around and hooked the tank on the front. In this manner we slowly backed all the way down the hill a distance of about one mile.
Because of the large crowd it was felt advisable to have three run the engine. Clarence Rounds was the fireman, Harold Snyder steering, and I was at the throttle. I might mention that our tank wagon was well loaded with N.Y. S.E.A. members.
After the parade, we were joined by Bob Marshall, Lester Norris, Ray Alexander, Ken McCormack, Clarence Rounds and wives and went over to the Redwood Inn for dinner. Although a good dinnerit couldn't compare with the home-cooked ones! It was another all day trip returning the engine to East Bloomfield one which by car would take only 30 minutes. Harold Snyder volunteered to accompany me so the trip wasn't too bad.
At East Bethany, New York the author is in the center and Harold Snyder and Homer Prudom St., at right. Gentlemen at left are local citizens.
When the distance is too great or the engine isn't equipped with rubber a flatbed trailer is used. Here we are moving a Case from Honeoye Falls to East Bloomfield.
As one gets older one becomes more sentimental and I suppose I could go on telling about other trips with the old steam traction engines such as trips to Canadaigua with Ed Faulkner, Harold Snyder or John Farrell, but I had better stop and tell about the one I remember most the one to Bergenmy home town. To me this was the best event of all.
It is hard to describe the thrill of driving an engine down the same street that my father was a thresher and this was his home. Here and there I could recognize an old house and other familiar landmarks. It was an opportunity to meet old friends (and there are not too many left) as well as several I went to school with. It was like living all over again.
Phil Rowley and I took in two parades, one at 2 P.M. and another at 7 P.M. It was dark when we left the village park after the last parade so the Sheriff gave us an escort back to the Wilcox farm where we parked the engine. Say, I almost forgot something. While we were driving the engine around the village a young man got on the engine and asked, 'Would I drive the engine over to his father's house and blow the whistle for him?' Although pressed for time, I couldn't refuse maybe I was thinking of my father.
As I drove the engine toward his house he told me his father was blind and crippled and unable to leave the house. We drove the engine into the driveway and blew the whistle. I then went in and said, 'Hello' and shook his hand. With tears in his sightless eyes, he thanked me and said what a wonderful thing it was to hear the sound of an engine and hear a whistle again.
With a 'toot' of farewell we left. It was 'goodbye forever' for that winter Billy White passed away.
Some may say or ask, 'What good do you get out of all the time you spend around those old engines?' Do you like pleasant memories of your youth? or have you watched a youngster's eyes as he gazed at a puffing engine as it moved down the street belching smoke and steam? I think you have the answer.