Farm Collector

I’ll Never Forget

Box 216, Rt. 1, Federal St.,Belchertown, Massachusetts 01007

I’d just like to make a few comments on the results of the
parade as best I can. The week before found me breaking my neck to
get everything in top shape for the two and one half mile run;
repainting, fixing and testing.

Doris Dickinson, a reporter for the Holyoke Transcript and
Springfield Daily News came down to write the fine story which I
have sent along. She spent a lot of her own time on research for
the project and surely gave us a lot of recognition.

The day before the parade we had arrangements made to move the
steam roller to the Clark Farm which was the starting point of the
parade. As I had to work until 3, my two friends, Ray Murphy and
Ray Wright came over to fire up the boiler. When I came home Bob
Nutting had his low bed backed up to a ramp which he made for
loading. With Ray Murphy at the throttle, he took a turn around the
yard and put that ten ton monster on the low bed as easy as you
park your car. Ray Wright and Bob chained her down for the five
mile ride to Granby, with the help of Highway Superintendent Mike
Sabin and his assistant, Sam White. My Dad and I followed the truck
in my car while Wright and Murphy were on the steam roller, waving
to all. To my surprise, it brought out the young and the old, with
disbelief at what they saw going by. In the northeast, steam
equipment is very scarce and has not been seen by the younger

When we arrived at our destination, a nice little crowd was on
hand to see us and ask questions. Mike Sabin got on one of his
bucket loaders and made a ramp in short order. Bob Nutting, who I
think can drive that trailer through a tea shop, had little trouble
backing up into a very tight spot. Then Engineer, Ray Murphy, who
still keeps up his old steam roller operator’s license, took
her off and parked her for the night.

Ray Wright and myself worked into the early morning hours on a
few leaks around one of the injectors. Next morning, we were up
early so we could build up the pressure and do some last minute
oiling and cleaning.

A lot of people stopped by to take pictures and to congratulate
me, for which I was very grateful-it all seemed worthwhile!

The big moment finally arrived and it took hours to line up all
of the floats in the parade as it was five miles long. No one in
this section of New England has ever had a nicer collection of
parade material than the Granby Centennial. The town people made us
feel like their friends and neighbors. We were in the Highway
Department Section which was in the middle of the parade.

After a short wait we got underway down Route 202 to Granby
Center through long lines of spectators, four and five deep. Ray
Murphy was on the throttle all the way and did a great job in
handling everything. I was supposed to operate half way, but with
all those people looking on–I lost my nerve. We received a nice
hand from the spectators all along the way. After 21A miles of
waving and shaking hands, we came to our destination where we had
to park on the side of the road and wait about an hour before the
low bed could get through so we could load.

It wasn’t long before Bob Nutting and Mike Sabin came down
the road with the trailer truck. It was our luck that Bob had his
15 ton International Bulldozer in the year and with one or two
passes made a loading ramp. Ray Murphy loaded the machine like it
was a toy and got a nice hand from the crowd watching (I think he
has a little ham in him anyway).

On the way home, we all rode the truck and enjoyed waving to
people along the way. When we arrived at my home, a number of folks
had come to watch the unloading. All went well and Ray parked the
steam roller in my back yard. For the most part of the summer,
people stopped by to look her over, talk and take pictures. This
was an adventure I’ll never forget.

‘Nothing can happen to you that hasn’t happened to some
one else.’

‘Buffalo Springfield’ Steamroller Of Another Era Will
Chug Along


Roaring and chugging along at 4 m.p.h. in the Granby
Bicentennial parade Sunday will be a vintage 1920 Buffalo
Springfield steam roller.

This unusual entry, which will be among the many floats was
restored from a junk yard hulk to a prize antique by Chester
Petrowsky of Federal St., Belchertown.

The four year restoration began in 1962 when Petrowsky and a
friend, Raymond Wright of Springfield, were discussing the
possibility of restoring a steam roller. Wright recalled seeing a
steam roller in the Belchertown Salvage Co.

The machine, thickly covered with rust and solidified tar, had
been rotting in the yard for seven years. Petrowsky purchased it
and brought it to his property by trailer truck.

Four Year Project

This was the beginning of a four year project by Petrowsky, who
almost single handedly rebuilt the entire roller. Taken apart it
was carried down the embankment to his cottage on Lake Holland.
Each piece was painstakingly cleaned down to bare metal by acid,
torch and just plain, hard work with hammer and chisel. It took
three months just to take the machine apart.

Boiler inspection stickers, dating back to the early 1920s were
found in the machine. They gave the number of the machine and the
Town of East Longmeadow as the owner at that time. The company in
Ohio was contacted for information on parts. Although the company
had records verifying it was built in 1920 no parts were

This was a new venture for Mr. Petrowsky, a 3rd Class Engineer
at the Belchertown State School. Buying equipment to do the task,
he taught himself to weld and machine tool the parts needed for the
machine. He had nothing to go by except his own intuition.

This massive 12 ton piece of equipment was used to roll the
roads in towns and cities and also as a power supply source. Its
huge steel wheels measure over five feet in width. The engine,
which uses soft coal to fire the boiler is similar to those used on
steam locomotives by railroads.

The roller, looking almost like it rolled off the assembly line,
represents some 5,000 hours of labor. Special steel tubes were
secured from a firm in Wisconsin for installation in the boiler.
The governor for the engine, a vital part, as missing. One was
finally located, also in Wisconsin, and purchased from another
steam engine fancier.

Takes Shape

As each part was finished and joined to another, the roller
began to take shape on the shore of the lake. At one point, when
the five foot back wheels were ready to be installed, the machine
as found to be too close to the house. It had to be moved over 18
inches. This was a two day job as it was inched over slowly by

The welding on the boiler by a certified welder was the only
outside help required in the restoration of the roller.

Petrowsky feels that the steam roller is the only one in the New
England area that is in running condition. The restoration opened
an entire new field to Mr. Petrowsky for since 1962 he has also
restored some 50 gasoline engines of the type called ‘one
lungers.’ He has seven restored outboard motors,, one dating
back to 1913. All have been restored to mint condition and are
displayed in his basement workshop, painted in attractive eye
catching colors.

Two tractors, an early Fordson and a Wallis, are in the process
many of these engines were unavailable and were machined by

Completed in 1966, the steam roller reposed by the lake until
several weeks ago. A group from Granby approached Petrowsky, asking
him to join the Granby Highway contingent in the parade. A rig was
dispatched and the roller was pulled up the steep embankment to the

Old Timer

Riding with him on Sunday will be an old time steam roller
operator, Ray Murphy of Northampton. He will also have Roy Wright,
the friend who started the project six years ago.

Many of his friends and neighbors said it couldn’t be done.
But it was and the roller will ‘roll’ along under its own
steam in the parade on Sunday. No longer an ‘eyesore’ it is
the source of a great deal of interest to passerby. It was fired up
with coal on Thursday evening and made the maiden run of its new
life a 12-ton monument to one man’s ingenuity and old fashioned
Yankee ‘make-do.’

It will give youngsters of today a chance to see the steam
roller of yesteryear, which kids of other generations watched while
roads were being built in New England’s towns.

We appreciate the permission given to us by the Holyoke
Transcript Telegram to reprint the above article.

  • Published on Sep 1, 1969
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