703 Curtis St. Mason, Michigan 48854
Several years ago, I made a trip to Alberta, Canada, and
purchased a boiler for a 110 Case steam engine. About a year later,
my good friend Vic Johnson purchased a 25 HP Gaar Scott engine from
the Reynolds Museum. Now after these two trips, we had to make one
more to get these objects home. Vic and I got to discussing this
with some friends from Ontario. Finally after many phone calls, we
decided to leave on the third of March.
On the day arranged, Elmer Robinson, Ralph Henderson, and
Ralph’s brother Donald, showed up at my place and after lunch
we left for Vic Johnson’s. Now Vic has a real nice 1964
Peterbilt semi tractor and a drop deck trailer, which is what we
were going to use. When we got to Vic’s, he had a new truck
loaded up on the trailer, which he had agreed to haul to Oregon,
Illionis to have a spray tank mounted on it for the Napoleon, Ohio
company he works for.
We left Napoleon at about 3:00 in the afternoon. I was riding
with Vic, and Elmer, Ralph and Donald were following in Elmer’s
car. It was a dreary afternoon, with some rain and snow; however,
with our high spirits and anticipation of another good trip, we
knew everything would be okay. We got to the turnpike and headed
west. By the time we got to Chicago, we decided we should stop and
eat some supper. Now some people don’t take the time to eat
when they are traveling, but meals are one thing we do not miss. We
got quite a laugh out of Elmer because when we pulled into the
truck stop, Elmer followed us into the truck lot. When he got out
of his car, he decided his was the only car among 200 trucks, and I
believe he was right.
After supper, we started west again. This time Ralph rode with
Vic, and I drove Elmer’s car. We got to Oregon, Illionis
sometime shortly after midnight. We had a bit of a problem finding
a motel room, but after the third one we tried, we got rooms for
The next morning when we got up, everything was covered with
ice, and it was still raining and freezing. Well, the boys from
Ontario thought we should hold up until the weather straightened
up, but Vic and I decided we should go on. We told them that we
would go and unload the truck, and they should meet us at the
restaurant for breakfast.
When we got to the plant to unload, we found out that we
couldn’t get in until after 7:00, so we decided to go back and
eat breakfast. When we got turned around, we found that it was so
icy, that we couldn’t get up the driveway. We just sat there
until they let us go to the dock and unload. After we got the truck
unchained we had to carry some fine limestone and threw it on the
trailer deck so the wheels could get enough traction to get the
truck unloaded. By the time we got the truck unloaded, driveway had
been salted, and we went for breakfast.
During breakfast we decided that we would go north and stop at
Freeport, Illinois to see friends Ron Pieper and Mike Altoff, and
Mike’s dad Louis. I was still driving Elmer’s car and Ralph
was riding with Vic. By the time we fought the freezing rain and
ice to get to Freeport, it was lunch time. During lunch Vic said
that his tractor was breaking traction and he needed some weight on
the drive wheels. After throwing around some ideas, we decided to
go to Farm and Fleet and purchase a large tarp, which we laid on
the trailer over the drive wheels. We bought 2700 lbs. of sand from
a ready-mix company, and had it loaded onto half of the tarp, we
used the other half to cover it up to keep it from blowing.
We then said goodbye to the Freeport folks and started west and
north. We left Freeport via US 20. Now for those of you who are
familiar with Route 20 between Freeport, Illinois and Dubuque,
Iowa, you know this is not the nicest road to travel when it is
icy. We got to Dubuque all right and headed north on US 52. Still
driving Elmer’s car, I was following Vic in the truck. It was
raining so bad that the shutters would freeze shut on the truck,
and it would overheat, so Vic would stop and knock the ice off.
While we were stopped, we would also clean the ice off the
windshield, which the defrosters could not keep up with. After a
long day of fighting ice and snow, we finally got as far as
The next morning, it was cold and snowing when we started out.
We went to Montgomery, Minnesota and waded through about three feet
of snow to look at steam engines. By now you realize that there is
nothing that a died-in-the-wool steam engine man will not do to get
or look at engines. This day the wind was blowing at about 35 or 40
miles per hour, and it was still snowing as well as blowing snow.
We would sometimes get into blowing snow so bad that I couldn’t
see any farther than the back end of Vic’s trailer.
We finally got to the Twin Cities and headed west on Interstate
94. When we stopped for lunch at a truck stop, Vic got stuck in the
parking lot. I went out to help him, and after a lot of shoveling,
we got him out. While we were eating, we decided to go to Forman,
North Dakota to look at some more engines. This time I took the
lead with the car, because I had been there before.
It is flat across that part of Minnesota and there’s not a
tree within a hundred miles to slow down that wind. The snow was
blowing across the road at about a height of four feet. This made
it almost impossible for me to see, so after awhile Vic passed me.
Because he was sitting so much higher in the truck, he could see
much better. When we finally got to Interstate 29, we decided that
we had better forget about going to Forman, and stay on the
interstates. We went north to Fargo and then west on 1-94 again.
Before leaving, Vic had installed new belts on the truck, and now
the belt drives, the water pump, and alternator started to
When we got to Jamestown, North Dakota we stopped for fuel.
While we were there, we also tightened the belt. After supper we
started northwest on US 52, towards Carrington, North Dakota. We
didn’t get ten miles until the belt gave us more trouble. Vic
decided that the belt had slipped enough so that it glazed over and
we would have to put on a new one. We found the little bar that had
a good sized parking lot, we parked the truck and went inside. We
ordered a drink, and asked the owner if we could leave the truck
there until morning. He said there was no problem, so we got into
the car and went back to Jamestown. We got hold of the Cummins
dealer, and he said they had a belt for us. After we dropped Elmer,
Ralph, and Donald off at the motel, Vic and I went and got the
Next morning when we got up, it was clear and cold, about 29
degrees below zero. We ate breakfast and then left to replace the
belt on the truck. When we got there, we hooked jumper cables from
the car to the truck batteries. While we were letting the batteries
charge, Vic and I were changing the belt. When Vic hit the starter,
it was so cold it wouldn’t release, but before I could get the
ether can to give the engine a shot, it did release. The next time
I was ready, and the engine started without any problem. It was so
cold that the engine oil could not pass through the lubrafiner
filter, and started forcing its way past the gasket. It dripped
onto the running board, and built up like a stalagmite, to the
height of about four inches. After the engine got warmed up and
quit leaking, we started on our way.
This time Vic was alone in the truck, and I was driving the car.
After awhile I noticed that Vic was rolling along at a pretty good
clip. I mentioned this to the rest of the boys in the car, and
Elmer wanted to know how fast we were going. I told him we were
going just about 80, and he didn’t think that was such a good
idea. However, we were headed for Crosby, North Dakota to look at
more engines, so nothing more was said.
Well, soon Mother Nature intervened again with more snow, and
once more we had to change our plans. We decided to forego Crosby,
and headed north across the border into Saskatchewan, Canada. As we
went through customs, the young lady could not understand why I was
driving a car that belonged to Canadians, or why they would go all
the way from Ontario to Michigan to get me to come back into
Canada. We explained to her that they were from southern Ontario,
which is just to the east my Michigan home.
As we were going up through Saskatchewan, we decided we had
better split up due to all the bad weather, we were now somewhat
behind schedule. Again we got into another one of those blowing
snow storms, where you could hardly see.
All of a sudden, Vic pulled over to the side of the road and
stopped. We pulled up behind him and I got out and walked up to the
truck. About the first thing that I said was, it sure is quiet, and
Vic said it’s not running, either. I asked him what he thought
it was, he said he didn’t know, but all he had done was turn on
the lights, and the engine died. The first thing he did was crawl
under the truck and short across the starter. We found that the
engine would crank over, so we knew that the batteries were all
right. Now we knew we had lost contact in the main power lead into
the cab, and that had caused the fuel solonoid to shut off.
I told him what we had decided about splitting up, with us going
on towards Saskatoon, and Elmer and the others going towards
Piepot, as there was a boiler there he wanted to look at. Vic
thought this was a good idea, so while he was getting some wire to
fix our problem, I went back to the car and got my luggage and
shaving kit. I worked under the truck, and hooked up the new wire
there, and Vic was on the inside of the cab hooking it up there.
Elmer had pulled the car up in front of the truck and parked.
All of a sudden, I heard something and looked up in time to see
them leaving us sit. Now, here we are sitting along the road,
it’s snowing and blowing, and still about 20 below zero, not a
house in sight, and the truck not running. When we got the wire
hooked up, the truck did start without any trouble, so away we
went. We got as far as Saskatoon that night. We got a room at a
motel, and plugged the truck in, so it would start the next
morning. The sand that we had put on in Illinois was one solid
chunk of frozen material and there was about two inches of ice and
snow on everything. The mirror brackets were about three times
bigger than normal.
The next morning you could tell there was a change of weather in
the air. It was a little warmer, and you could feel a real dampness
in the air. After we crossed over into Alberta, we started to see
some ice fall off the truck.
We had a pleasant drive into Edmonton, where we stopped for
lunch. When we climbed out of the truck, we didn’t even put our
jackets on, quite in contrast to the previous few days. After we
ate, we went out to load my boiler. We gave the boys who loaded the
boiler the sand from Illinois possibly the only Illinois sand in
Alberta. When we got the boiler loaded and tied down, we headed for
Wetaskewan, where we unhooked the trailer and headed for a motel,
and some well deserved refreshment.
The next morning Elmer and the boys met up with us again out at
Reynolds Museum, and boy did we razz them about letting us sit
along that road when the truck quit.
The boys at Reynolds started up a D-7 Cat, and loaded the
engines on the trailer for us. Vic and I then went to a scales and
shifted the engine until we were legal, weight-wise. After several
tries we were satisfied, and went back to Reynolds, where we slid
the engine sideways on the trailer until the left wheel was even
with the left edge of the trailer. We then proceeded to remove the
right wheel and stub axle from the engine. This enabled us to get
the load under eight feet in width, which makes it so much easier
than having to get over width permits.
When we were about done tying things down, Elmer, Ralph and
Donald bid us goodbye and started for home. Vic and I left soon
afterwards. We decided to go back as far as Saskatoon to spend the
night. Well when we got there, another surprise they were having a
curling tournament in town, and you couldn’t get a room within
a hundred miles of the place. We reinforced ourselves and started
on east; about 2:00 we finally found a motel with a vacancy sign
and got ourselves a room. We literally fell into bed, but were kept
wide awake by a freight train switching cars. Finally it left town
and we slept until 6:30 when we got up and left.
That afternoon we got to Jack Behmish’s place. We spent some
time with him and his family, then left, getting stuck in the
driveway. He had to help us out.
We got as far as Bob Anderson’s and stayed there with Bob
and his wife that night. The next morning they gave us breakfast
and Bob took us to the show grounds at Austin. We looked at all the
engines, then hit the road again. We had no trouble getting through
customs, as everything was in order.
That night we got into Fargo, North Dakota where we stopped at
Larson Welding and had a good visit with Jim and the rest of the
boys. Jim loaned us a vehicle so we could go to a motel without
having to take the truck. After breakfast, we headed out again. Our
goal for that day was to reach Sumner, Iowa and Randy
Schwerin’s place. We got there in late afternoon, and had
supper, and stayed the night. We left there the next forenoon, and
we were going to try to reach home that night.
We were making real good time, and everything was going fine, so
I thought I would get a nap while Vic was driving. You guessed it,
I hadn’t been in the sleeper long, when we blew a tire, and I
had to get up and help change it. After changing the tire, we
headed on down the road towards Chicago again. We stopped on the
south side of Chicago, got some fuel and supper, and once more
headed down the road towards home. We got to Vic’s place at
midnight just ten days and 4,000 enjoyable miles since we left. We
have had many trips since, of which I will write someday.