R. D. 3, Cadiz, Ohio
If there ever was a boy as crazy about steam engines as I was I never heard of him. I would run a mile in my bare feet and hide in the bushes to see one go by. The road forked about one-half mile from our place and I never could tell which road they would take. This did not give me much time to change positions.
One summer there was some fellows threshing in our neighborhood with a 10 hp. Russell engine and a Massilon separator with a picture of 'The Boss' on the side. The whistle sounded closer every day and my excitement increased with it. Finally the day arrived that we were going to thresh. I helped to haul the oats in, and stacked them, the day before.
That evening I heard them go up the hill to the neighbors. I went to bed that night but might as well have stayed up. I tossed all night. Never slept a wink. I observed the next morning the bed looked like there had been a dog fight in it. Right after dinner they started for our place. They had to come up a hill through some timber. There was one very steep place but solid. Some of the fellows who were waiting to help thresh, said it sounded like they were hung up. Away they went. I was worked up to a frenzy by that time. When we arrived on the scene that little Russell was putting on a 'Wild West Show'. Standing on its rear wheels and the front ones dangling in the air. I took note that the engineer didn't seem to be afraid of anything.
One man grabbed an axe and cut a hickory pole and chained it to the smoke box. By that time the pop valve was carrying on at a great rate. Not knowing much about the world in general, much less the working principles of a steam engine, I thought to myself, she was mad as a wet hen. With 5 or 6 men on the pole the man at the throttle opened her up. She meant it that time, if you ever heard a little Russell bark, that one did.
It was not long until we were threshing. The engineer had chicken for dinner at the neighbors and must have been happy. Every little while he would crow like a rooster. A few years after two of my friends bought a 10 hp. C. Aultman-Star.
I helped the quite a lot baling straw and other jobs. At the same time trying to get all the first hand information I could along with some books I bought.
One morning the engineer and myself went before daybreak to get fired up as they were in a hurry to get finished. He told me to hold the lantern so he could see to clean the flues. I opened the door and was looking in when he shoved the scraper through a tube and jerked it back. I suppose the dust and commotion was too much for an over-sized screech owl that had put up for the night on the exhaust pipe. He decided to go to 'another seaport' and flew right into my face. Not being prepared for such an emergency, I dropped the lantern and broke the globe, much to our dissatisfaction.
These reunions sure bring back memories of the old days. I was also at Mt. Pleasant and handled the 25 hp. Russell engine that was auctioned off. I am employed as engineer on the C.I.&L. Railroad (The Old Monon) and have been for the past 34 years. Ernest Cox, 1200 Cincinnati Street, Lafayette, Indiana.
The next year they sold the engine. The man came after it and before he got started away a stay bolt let loose in the ash pit. The buyer took up over the hill and never did come back.
They put in a new stay bolt. It had always been a hard engine to fire even with a new set of flues. By this time I had figured out what I thought the trouble was. But was careful not to divulge any information. I always wanted that engine and now was my chance. After much dickering I was the sole owner. For the vast sum of $40. My entire life savings. I was to bring it home the next day. Another night of no sleep. Description of bed unnecessary.
I got it home with no unusual happenings, except the crank pin got to smoking. After 3 or 4 hours sleep I was chopping wood. Laying back of our house was a big cross-grained locust log that we had worked all day trying to split it into posts and after much speculation gave it up.
I decided to hitch the little Star to it and haul it out and roll it into the hollow. It was a heavy log for its size and adding to it was the iron of all the wedges we had, including some we borrowed from neighbors.
I pulled as close to the hollow as necessary. Unhitched and rolled the log in. The ground had started to thaw on top. When I started up, the engine commenced to slip in all directions. First thing I knew I was headed for the hollow. I thought about jumping but after a quick survey I saw that landing conditions could stand improvement. Alter a short consultation with myself I decided to stay with it and see which end went into the hollow first. By a streak of luck the hind wheel caught on a stone which stopped the proceeding but threw the front end down hill. The first thing I knew steam was pouring out the fire door. The man who invented the soft plug for a boiler never was given any credit for keeping the black wagon away.
I found out by reaching in that my collection of wrenches didn't amount to anything, as none would fit the plug. I happened to think of an idle buggy wrench, laying down by the ash hopper that I had swiped from under the seat of an old yellow-wheeled buggy we had traded to one of the neighbors for an old saw.
Armed with that buggy wrench and a piece of an old hatchet, I started in head first. The fire door was square and not very large. I, being 6 feet two inches and rather heavy, by a lot of squirming and making faces, made it. But only to find room scarce and no air to speak of I decided to let the plug go for the time being and see what chances were for getting out. I started out feet first, got half way out and hung up. I thought I would go back in but did not go far until I saw I would have to make other arrangements. My left hip pocket containing a flat pocketbook and package of Red Horse chewing tobacco, was fast on something. No amount of twisting would get it loose. I was having other troubles. Where was there a welder that would be interested in cutting the side out of the boiler? I ripped my galoshes loose and shed the trousers. Hoping company would stay away.
After getting the plug out and repaired I had to dig a ditch big enough to lay a gas line to get it out.
Now back to the firing troubles. I now had a chance to experiment. I reduced the exhaust nozzle which gave it more draft and the firing trouble was over.
After some years I sold it. As time went on I wanted it back. The owner said I could have it to use. So I started to fill it with water. After a little while I noticed a wet place below the fire door. I picked up a harrow tooth and gave it a slight tap and it went though the plate into the boiler. I heard a blacksmith say one time, that 'everything had its last day'. The little Star had ended its career. But I am not too lonesome for I have a 16 hp. Baker and a 16 hp. Russell for company.