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
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
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.