A New Chapter in the Life of an Iron Man

Roy Herr and Rough and Tumble A Life of Steam

| September/October 2002

Roy Herr and his 1923 Buffalo-Springfield steamroller, serial number 11,280, caught on film by Jack Norbeck at the Rough and Tumble Museum in August 2000. Roy bought the roller in 1956, owning it for almost 50 years before selling it last October when he cleared out his collection.

If you're in the Rough and Tumble Engineers Association circle, you probably associate steam with Roy Herr, who has been active in the association since its inception way back in 1950. Roy turned 92 years young this past June, and he decided the time had come to hold an auction and find new homes for his steam engine, road roller and accumulated engines and machinery, equipment that has been an integral part of Roy's life. But before this goes any farther, let me tell you a little about Roy and his life with steam.

Steaming Beginnings

Like many steam men, Roy's love of steam grew from childhood experiences. As a boy, Roy listened with rapt fascination to the stories his father's cousin, Jacob H. Brubaker, told about the early days of threshing. Jacob, a well-respected thresherman, was featured in a 1930 American Thresherman article, which noted that, 'Mr. Brubaker had the reputation of being one of the best machine men in the Keystone State, for he is able to get more wear out of his equipment than most men do.'

A thresherman and saw miller for 52 years, Jacob was also a firm believer in thresherman organizations, and he was one of the ringleaders of the Pennsylvania Threshermen and Farmers Protective Association that formed in the early part of the 20th century. This group collected $3 from each of its 3,500 members, using that money in its fight in 1915 to reverse a law that kept steamers off Pennsylvania roads.

Jacob used his steam engines in everything he did, and he was always quick to point out that any job was worth doing right. Jacob's focus on a sense of pride and honesty in one's work became a way of life for Roy, and with Jacob's strong influence it's no wonder Roy got hooked on steam-powered equipment at an early age. He was fascinated by the workings of these giant engines, amazed by their smoothness and quiet.

Even so, when Roy first started doing custom farm work for a living he used gasoline-powered equipment, not steam. His custom farm work involved soil tillage, baling, seed conditioning and cleaning and treating of seed grain to control seed-born diseases. This was seasonal work, so to fill the off time he went to work for the Arthur S. Young Co. of Kinzers, Pa. Art, as he was known, was a dealer in steam engines and threshing machinery, and it was at Art's shop that Roy learned the basics of welding, machining and steam boiler maintenance. Working for Art was another pivotal point in Roy's life.