108 Garfield Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940
Happiness Is An Old Steam Engine. Titus Brubaker Sr., is shown filling grease cups aboard his 1903 Peerless engine. This engine sees a great amount of action at the various shows in the area.
Fortunately there was a tractor parked conveniently to the sawmill and I slid into the seat to be in a good position to watch the demonstration. It was then that I realized that I was watching three veterans of steam powered sawing with over two hundred years of experience. The occasion was the twenty-first annual reunion of the Early American Steam Engine and Old Equipment Society's Steam-O-Rama, July 13 to 15.
This historical society was organized in 1957 by Paul E. White. For three years they had operated in temporary locations around Red Lion, Pennsylvania. However, since 1960 they have been in their permanent location just off Route 24 north of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. It is an excellent site on high ground overlooking the rolling hills of Pennsylvania in the area south of York. Now that they have a 'home' it has been practical to erect some substantial facilities. And it has also made it possible to install their sawmill that I had come to watch.
The mill is one built by Geiser Manufacturing Company of Waynesboro and has the serial number 5989. It has a 48' circular blade. This day the power was being supplied by a 1903 Peerless Model RR of approximately 12 horsepower. It is owned by Titus Brubaker St., of Rohrsburg and can usually be seen at the Rough and Tumble Engineers grounds in Kinzer. Today, Titus was the engineer and the sawyer was Eli Williams. Eli had a one-man board of experts in the person of Manny Nafe looking over his shoulder. So you knew that you were in for a good show.
The project was to make some 'roofers' from some well-seasoned oak logs. There were a few remarks passed over the loudspeaker about cutting out toothpicks but these veteran operators paid no attention to any distractions, but went about their business. Titus was the senior man of the group at 89 years of age. Eli and Manny wouldn't admit it but they are in about the same time frame compared to the muscle-bound youngsters that they let feed the logs to the carriage. It shows real management capability to let the other guy do the heavy lifting while you use your superior knowledge in the heavy thinking department.
There was much whirring of the saw blade cutting into dry oak and the rattle of the carriage on the return trip. Gradually the pile of roofers grew and the logs diminished. First, trim up the log and face it to get the most boards out, then run the boards through in piles to cut out the roofers. And, all of the time hardly a word passed between the crew. Each knew his job and did it. I was interested to watch Titus Brubaker on the engine. It seemed to me that he was busy tending water and putting in a shovel full of coal now and again without hardly even noticing the action on the mill. But somehow, if an adjustment had to be made to the saw guide, for example, the mill stopped as it should and then started. No shouting and hollerin' back and forth. Just an easy flow of work typical of the thousands of board feet of lumber that has been cut on rigs of this type. They have survived the large band mills and still are very much a part of our national scene. In fact, Manny Nafe has had several of these mills in operation in the area in recent time.
I wonder why it is traditional to do the family wash on Monday, the ironing on Tuesday and so each day has its' assigned task. Well, I can remember Monday as being wash day because as a child I can remember having to turn the crank of an old wooden tub corrugated agitator washing machine in my grandmother's kitchen. That was one of the few times that school seemed like a better idea. Well, Renoll Hall has a better idea. He has trained his dog, Mabel, to power the family washing machine on a treadmill. This one is a First Prize Dog Power machine built by the Vermont Farm Machine Company of Bellows Falls, Vermont. The patent date on the unit is January 8, 1884. Mabel just has to be the biggest 'ham' that you will ever see. When she hops up on the treads she will just stand there looking around for some encouragement from her audience. If they look interested, she will start to trundle along with now and then a bark as if to say, 'You can applaude.' For, when she stops on command, she actually expects the audience to applaud, which of course, they do. Several times during the course of the show she will put on her 'act' but there came a time when the wash was finished that she just simply did not want to get off the tread-belt and sat down as if going on strike for bigger dog biscuit rations.
The Geiser sawmill makes 'roofers' as a demonstration with Eli Williams as sawyer and Titus Brubaker Sr., as engineer on the 1903 Peerless.
Mabel willingly supplies the power for the family wash on this Vermont farm machinery company first prize dog power while Renoll Hall works the controls.
Mabel 'strikes' for higher rations for work on this Vermont farm machine company first prize dog power. Renoll Hall, her trainer, is the negotiator in the dispute.
Stuart Leiphart unloads his scale traction engine from his truck for the show. This beautifully crafted engine was built by this former machinest of the A. B.Farquhar Company.
I think that one of the reasons that she does the demonstration as often as she does is so that her trainer, Renoll Hall, can get out of the job that he has found himself in at the big copper pot where the apple butter is made. It takes a long time to make apple butter. The cut-up apples are cooked for about twelve hours over a wood fire that seems to add a bit of distinctive flavor to the butter. The hard work to the job is that the mixture is constantly stirred for the twelve hours and one turn can get very long if a relief does not show up. So when the announcer calls for another dog power demonstration Renoll has reason to turn over the wooden paddle to someone else for a while.
In a three-day show not every piece of equipment gets there the first morning. But, not so with Stuart ('Jake') Leiphart from nearby Spry. Also, not everyone has the space for a full size steam traction engine. Jake has solved this problem through building his own engine which he can carry around in his pick-up truck. Many of the owners and operators of steam engines are doing so as a consequence of having used them for years on their farms or in doing threshing or sawmilling. Jake, on the other hand, has a different background. At age 22 he apprenticed as a machinist after having worked in the boiler shop of the A. B. Farquhar Company in York. He worked for them until 1923 and saw many parts for their machines come into reality under his care with his skill. Thus, it was natural for him to take on the job of building his own steam engine.
So, he drove into the grounds with his engine in the back of the truck and was among the first exhibits to arrive. The engine was soon offloaded with ease and a fire started in the boiler. The very act of unloading gives one some inkling of his inventiveness for in addition to the obviously necessary ramp there is a built-in winch system that lets it down gently....not a 'store bought' winch either. Every piece has had an earlier ancestry in some other use but now pressed into another service. For those interested in fine workmanship it is possible to just stand for a while and take in the detail. The engine, the boiler, the tanks, everything superbly crafted either by machining or welding.
It is a poor day when you can't learn something. As I watched the engine begin to heat up and a bit of pressure show on the gauge there was a little leak around the water glass. Jake said, 'Don't worry, that'll take up.' At first I thought that he meant that as the parts warmed up and the differential expansion of glass and steel became effective the leak would stop. Not so. He had a special boiler compound that he had added when he filled the boiler. Now if you have worked around low pressure boilers any time at all, surely there is going to be another boiler compound salesman pressure you into trying his latest development. Most of them turn out to be tanin in one form or another or even maybe sodium metaphosphate which your wife buys at Oakite. Of course, if you want to talk 2400 pounds pressure then its maybe hydrozene. After a little talking, Jake confided in me what it was and I guess that it is okay to pass along the knowledge....no warrantly implied. He dug around in the tool box and came up with a can of McCormick's 'ground ginger!' I always thought that ginger was only good for making ginger bread.
Speaking of bread let's get over to the cornmeal operation run by M. C. Dellinger from Red Lion. He and Renoll Hall and friends have nice business at the show in course and stone ground cornmeal. They have a little hand operated shelter but from there on it is a powered operation. The course grinding is powered by a 1 HP Hercules engine. However, the bigger operation for stone ground meal takes more power and for this they use a 5 HP Hercules engine. This mill is a real collector's item. It is a Samuel Lieberkuect Number 210 made in Hellam, Pennsylvania. With the little horse and a half pop pop poping away and the old 5 horse Hercules banging away it takes some doing on the hand sheller to keep up the feed of shelled corn to the machines.
When I see Titus Brubaker puttering away filling grease cups on his engine and maybe Jake Leipert firing his engine that is when it is obvious that happiness is an old steam engine. But, we should not lose sight of the fact that there are other powers. Naturally, the gas engines come to mind, but I have something else in mind and that is the old hot air engine so successfully used in water pumping. And, now on the threshold of possible revival as an automobile engine through development underway at the Ford Motor Company. These engines are of a class generally shown as Stirling cycle engines after their inventor, Robert Stirling. This cycle was developed and patented in 1816 but never really got the attention that the internal combustion engine received. Nikolaus August Otto's 1876 invention of the spark ignited internal combustion engine and later developed by Rudolf Diesel in 1892 of the compression ignited internal combustion engine have overshadowed the hot air engine as we know it in our Steam-O-Rama type meetings. However, this highly sophisticated thermodynamic process which was conceived by a Scottish minister of the gospel has, in today's circumstances, several properties that suggest that it should be revived.
It has good full load efficiency, say 30% compared to 26% for spark and diesels and an even better part load performance than they have. Its power to weight ratio is acceptable and its overall output is some better since auxiliaries can be less in some instances. However, at the moment the greatest interest comes from the fact that it burns fuel at essentially continuously optimum conditions thus resulting in less air pollution.
Allen Ruhl demonstrates the operation of his Denny Improved Ericsson Hot Air pumping engine. This machine was built by the American Machine Company of Newark, Delaware.
Well, now that I have told you all that I know about hot air engines with a lot of my own hot air, let's get down to cases with a look at a marvelously restored Hot Air Pumping Engine in the form of a Denny Improved Ericsson engine. This was manufactured by the American Machine Company of Newark, Delaware, around 1900. It has been successfully re-manufactured by C. Allen Ruhl of New Freedom, and makes a beautiful sight at the show. The pile of wood in front of the engine suggests that he uses that as fuel, but based on my observation and just between us friends, I think that he fires it with the butts of those 'cegars' he smokes.
Any 'heat engine'.....gas engine, diesel, steam engine or aircraft gasturbine....extracts work from the flow of heat from a high temperature heat source to a lower temperature heat sink. In the case of most of the engines at the show, they simply blast to the atmosphere thus using it as their heat sink. The pumping engine very quietly uses the water that it is pumping from a cool well as its heat sink. There is hardly a sound when this machine is working. Maybe your future automobile will be quieter and cleaner if Ford and N. V. Phillips Gloeilampen fabricken in the Netherlands are successful.
When I started to write this article I really 'put my foot into it,' as the saying goes, assuming that I could get together all of the facts and pictures to make it 'hold water.' However, I think that I am not as far into a potential problem area as a resident of nearby Bel Air, Maryland, is when he tells the newspaper that he has been following up on accounts of sightings of 'Bigfoot' which began in the area in 1972. There have been mysterious slaughterings of chickens on farms in the vicinity and even the finding of large footprints which he has preserved with plaster casts. On one occasion up along Big Muddy Creek some campers had had rocks mysteriously thrown at them. Since I had planned to stay in my trailer while in the area, I didn't think that that sort of activity was exactly one of a friendly countryside. But I figured that a 7%' tall humanoid weighing, he estimated, some 350 pounds wouldn't like my cooking so I was probably safe. When I make a trip into an area for something as specific as the Steam-O-Rama, Hook for other things to add to the interest and to complete the trip. Bigfoot wasn't, however, in my plans.
Philadelphia Electric Company's high temperature gas cooled nuclear reactor as viewed from their Information Center at Peach Bottomnear Stewartstown, PA.
There are other things to do in the same area that should be of interest to those interested in old engines. Nearby, the Philadelphia Electric Company has a nuclear information center at Peach Bottom. This is the location of the experimental high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) and where they have two 1,000,000 kilowatt nuclear generators of the boiling water type (BWR). These are in a beautiful setting along the Susquehanna River and well worth visiting. The fuel may be more exotic than coal or wood or straw, but it is still a steam cycle. So, though I had been watching with interest the steam power of the past it was also interesting to visit a plant with steam power of the future. An American flag was slowly fluttering in the breeze with the experimental reactor in the background as I looked from the Center's observation platform. I couldn't help but think, 'I trust that flag is strong enough in the future to keep the powerful force of the atom harnessed for peace not war.'