HARRY WOODMANSEE AND STEAM SHOWS

Bill Lamb Remembers


| May/June 1995



A 1900 French'' locomobile.'''

Pierre Bos

735 Riddle Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220

'I don't know anybody who knows everything about an engine,' said William M. Lamb of Nicholasville, Kentucky. 'I don't care who it is even if it's a man who knows a lot there will always be something come up he won't know. I've seen it happen too many times. Nobody knows everything about engines. The only person I knew who did know all about them was Harry Woodmansee.'

To emphasize the point he had just made, Bill slapped his hand on the oak dining table in his daughter's Lexington mansion. Tall windows which extended to within a few inches of the floor let the sunlight stream onto a Christmas tree ornamented with gold angels. Bill continued, 'Harry was six years older than me. I knew him at least thirty years. All I can say about Harry is that he was always willing to help you, and he was always right. I never saw anybody who didn't like him. He never sat around and bragged, but he knew all about engines.' Bill's mustache curved up in a smile, he nodded his head once, and he winked.

'I was up north of Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the reunion on the farm of Jim Whitbey there on Carroll and Johnson Roads. Whitbey was a retired engineer off the Pennsylvania Railroad and a good man everybody liked. That's where I first met Harry Woodmansee. Harry had a small Case, and he did the hill climbing. And he was good at it! He'd go around the hill and build the suspense. He'd take the engine up halfway and stop and then take off againall so smooth! That's what made him good. I've seen him line up to a thresher while he was blindfolded. First, he'd be standing on the ground and looking the situation over. Then they'd put the blindfold on him. He'd pull himself up on the platform of the engine and proceed to line up perfectly with the thresher. He'd hit it every time! Harry had a sixth sense nobody else had.'

Sipping hot mulled cider, Bill commented, 'John Schrock did a good job in his tribute to Harry Woodmansee (in the January/February 1995 issue of IMA.' Bill seemed to peer beyond the cherry-red walls of the dining room to relive a past scene, 'If I wasn't running an engine at a show, I was where Harry was. I figured I could learn something. He could listen to an engine, and, if there was a knock, he didn't have to guess about it. He could tell you what was wrong with the engine. One time, he asked me, 'What do you think is causing that knock?' I said, 'I don't know, but I know darn well that, if anybody knows, it's you!' Harry let the owner and his buddies search and look for a while. Finally, he told them, 'Take that piston apart, and you'll find that piston is loose on the rod!' And he was right! Another time, he told a man, 'One of those stuffing boxes is loose on the valve stem,' and, by God, that's what it was!'

Bill glanced out from under dark eyebrows. 'One thing some people didn't know Harry Woodmansee was just as good on a sawmill as on an engine. He could saw anything you wanted out of a log!'