Buffalo-Springfield and Waterous Road Rollers Find Home

The magnificent giants too often forgotten: A story of Buffalo-Springfield and Waterous road rollers

| July/August 2001

Collector Ross Johnson of Mississauga, Ontario, sold one and donated two road rollers to the Muskoka Pioneer Power Association. They are two Buffalo-Springfield road rollers: a five ton, serial #14015, coming off the line on September 17, 1927, and a larger fifteen ton model, serial #16000, born on August 12, 1933. The larger unit is complete with scarifier. The third unit purchased is ten-ton Waterous steam roller, serial #B 6402-10, dated May 15, 1920.

Johnson couldn't let any of these big toys go to scrap, if at all possible. He was born in 1924 and raised in Ontario. In his younger years, he worked at all manner of jobs while going to school. One project was working with a paving company on the Queen Elizabeth Highway, which opened in 1939. The equipment fascinated him. A Navy man during the war years, he participated in many Atlantic crossings and was awarded the Medal of Honor. He returned to Ontario and after several related jobs as a stationary engineer, he progressed to the top job as Operations Superintendent at the Lakeview Generating Station of Ontario Hydro.

Ross was a very generous boss, always wanting the best for his staff. He often took them on fishing and camping trips in his personal aircraft, having obtained his commercial pilot's license some years earlier. Ross had several talents music, art and carpentry, just to name a few. His home is a testament to these talents, with his large collection of music, his paintings on walls, and many pieces of custom made furniture. Ross married Barbara MacDonald in 1955, and they have raised three children.

Purely by accident, someone brought an old steam engine to Lakeview. It was to be a "Sports and Social" project, and it was restored. That was the beginning. It seemed that his best challenges were "The Bigger The Better." He found and restored a Bucyrus Erie steam shovel, a chain driven Mack truck (also now owned here in Bracebridge), a Mack Army tank hauler and a Caterpillar 60 dozer, to name just a few.

Up until 1984, Ross had one of the largest collections of steam engine farm and construction equipment in North America. About that time Ross fell ill, and it was necessary to dispose of most of his collection to private collectors and museums in Canada and the United States. He couldn't part with his road rollers, and had planned a museum in Parry Sound. This did not materialize, and Ross' health continued to deteriorate and he passed away in 1996.

Ross Johnson was acquainted with several members of the Muskoka Pioneer Power Assocation, based in Bracebridge, Ontario.  When Barbara was dispersing the estate, she remembered this organization and its members. Ross Johnson was a relative to Ron and Sybil Hicks of Baysville, and Ron spoke to Doug Duff and Glenn Kirton about this equipment, and they, too, became close friends of both Ross and Barbara. Barbara presented a proposal to them.