Iron Man Of The Month

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Here comes a train, right down the middle of the road and no railroad tracks to run on. Roscoe Shiverdecker at the throttle of his R. D. S. Special No. 9 heading across the reunion grounds at the Darke County Steam Threshers. Son, Johnny, looking over his
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Engineer Roscoe Shiverdecker (Shivvie to all his Friends, but Iron-Man to us) oils up with his official oiler. The 32-volt steam headlight generator and bell both came off locomotives, carbide headlight from an old auto. Looks good all over, Roscoe! Shive
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That's Roscoe Shiverdecker, engineer, heaving black diamonds up into the tender of the old R. D. S. Special No. 9 at the Darke County Steam Threshers, Greenville, Ohio. Tender has a capacity of 500 pounds of coal and 300 gallons of water. Courtesy of Joe
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Iron-Man Roscoe Shiverdecker is both engineer and fireman on the old R. D. S. Special No. 9. Roscoe is shoveling black diamonds into the gaping locomotive firebox, with a fresh cigar clamped between his ''store plates''. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union



CHOO, CHOO, CHOO, CHOOOO. . . .! ‘Look, Mirandy I’ll be
dad-burned if there ain’t a train a-comin’ right up the
middle o’ the road and with no railroad track to run on,’
yelled Si, jumping off o’ his seat on the old grain binder and
racing to the house to get the ‘Missus’.

‘Lordy I ain’t seen no such sights since we picked up
cousin Emmie, down at the village depot,’ sighed Mirandy.
‘I only hope it doesn’t scare ol’  Topsy ‘n
Ted to run off afore you get the wheat bundled.’

It’s always a big day when Roscoe Shiverdecker fires up his
big steam locomotive and sets out, down a country road, to do some
routine steaming of neighborhood tobacco bedsor to drive his fiery
steed over to the Great Darke County Steam Threshers Reunion, at
Greenville, Ohio.

Besides being the most important hero to all the kids along the
way who wave at the heroic engineer, as he steams by with bell
clanging and whistle wailing Roscoe Shiverdecker enjoys other
marginal benefits from having a steam ‘road’ locomotive to
do his chores of steamin’ ‘bacco beds throughout western

‘I can go thirty to thirty-five miles an hour up the road to
whatever job I’m working at,’ says Roscoe. ‘And when I
drive it to the Darke County Steam Threshers, I don’t have to
bother with loading and unloading it on a low-boy.’

Then there are other advantages to having your own road
locomotive, such as Roscoe has, like not having to buy a license to
go from job to job, or to the reunions.

‘I’m treated just like a tractor so long as I have a
‘slow-moving sign’ on the locomotive and don’t run her
over twenty-miles an hour,’ chuckles hiverdecker.

‘Everybody that sees the old R. D. S. No. 9 Special at the
Darke County Steam Threshers boasts they’re gonna make one like
it,’ says Roscoe. ‘But they never do.’

And one can well understand why, after hearing Roscoe
Shiverdecker tell of the work and problems in building Old No. 9.

I did all the work and planning on this road locomotive, in my
shop back of the house,’ explains Roscoe. ‘The boiler is a
20-horsepower Frick, the engine a two-cylinder Soule Steam Engine
bought from Chet Hiler. The engine came from Meridian, Mississippi,
where they still make ’em new.’

‘I spent two years just planning the locomotive before I
even began putting it together,’ says Iron Man Shiver-decker.
‘With the help of my son, Bob, now 17, we put a jacket on the
boiler, then bolted everything together and in place, added some
more frame to mount the tender, and then we had Rolland Hofacker of
Greenville come out and do the welding.’

‘The frame is all in one piece,’ explains Roscoe.
(According to my understanding of steam locomotive construction and
classification, this would make it an 0-4-4-T type, similar in
construction to the small transit-type locomotives and the famous
line of Mason-Bogies which consisted of a solid frame that
supported both engine and tender. The former ran commuter trains on
the elevated railways in many of the larger cities of our nation in
years past, while the latter plied the narrow-gauge rails of the
winding Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad in the fabulous
days of Colorado Silver Mining Bonanza. May that outstanding expert
on steam locomotives, Ernie Hoffer, add his official blessing to
this and the great Orrin Seaver pronounce his Benediction to what
we have said. Amen.)

But, regardless of what pronouncements and judgments may be
handed down from the august chambers of steam locomotive
officialdom, the fact remains that Roscoe Shiverdecker has put one
over on all of us by doing the unique and unusual. He has made a
darned good functioning steam road locomotive that, with bell
clanging and whistle wailing, and pop-off blasting, it can
literally scare the daylights out of the unsuspecting as it rounds
the curve of some country road, as well as leave both old-timers
and younguns bugeyed as it passes. And who knowsit could scare
Uncle Si’s team into kicking up its heels and run through the
old strawstack, out through the pig-lot and down the road with the
old grain binder before he even gets his jag o’ wheat bundled.
Who knows-?

For Roscoe Shiverdecker’s road locomotive looks for all the
world like a real-for-sure railroad engine, comin’ down the
turnpike road, snorting fire and defying everything in its way with
engineer Roscoe at the throttle waving at the womenfolk and
kiddies. It’s terrifying enough to make even Uncle Jake swallow
his cud and bust his cane, Hettin’ out o’ there.

Not only did Roscoe make the thing look like a locomotive
engine, in the general lines, but he also built up a very
convincing cow-catcher (pilot to an engineer), which is a direct
warning of annihilation to every stray cow that might wander onto
the Old R. D. A. No. 9 Special roadbedand he added the other
accoutrements such as bell, headlight and steam generator to finish
it off with a real, rootin’ tootin’ railroady appearance.
We are indeed quite convinced that the authenticity of the
Shiverdecker steam locomotive could even fetch a tear to the eye of
that railroad veteran, Toni Paulin, and rouse him into racing for
the cab to grab the throttle and run it for himself. And we’re
mighty sure that Roscoe would be only too glad to rest from his
day’s labors to let him do just that. (Maybe well see this for
ourselves, someday).

‘That bell came off a locomotive that used to run through
Roy Tribbey’s father’s farm, the old carbide headlight
(which came off an antique auto) is powered by a genuine locomotive
switch engine generator of 32-volt capacity, manufactured by the
Pyle National Co.,’ explains Iron Man Shiverdecker, ‘The
whistle is off a Baker Engine.’

The tender was built in Roscoe Shiverdecker’s ‘back
shops’, behind the house.

It carries a capacity of five-hundred pounds of coal, and the
tender tank holds three-hundred gallons of water,’ says he.
‘When fully loaded, the locomotive weighs around eight

The Frick boiler carries 130 pounds of steam pressure, which
Roscoe uses when working tobacco beds. But when playing, he needs
only around a hundred pounds pressure. The locomotive-type cab that
Shiverdecker built, as well as the stack, put the finishing touches
that really make Old No. 9 appear like the genuine railroad
article. There’s the cab vent in the roof, the front view
windows, allowing access to the boiler walk-ways, in case some
wandering child may venture out onto the ‘rails’ and the
heroic engineer, Roscoe, might have to rush forward and make a
dramatic rescue out on the point of the onrushing pilot.

The only things missing are the tall, flanged drive-wheels and
the connecting-rods, the driving-rods, the exposed valve-gearing
and crossheads in their guides. But even these latter are there,
should the inquisitive railroad buff stoop to make a closer
inspection and discover them all intact right beneath the boiler.
Even some of the more ancient steam locomotives had their
Stephenson Link Motion and Slide Valves and driving-rods similarly
concealed between the drivers, rather than on the outside as became
the practice later among locomotive builders.

The one big digression from railroad principle is that Roscoe
Shiverdecker did have to install a steering wheel. For without
rails to run on, and guide the flanged wheels, which Old No. 9 does
not have, Engineer Shiverdecker does have to do the steering to
keep the R. D. S. Special from winding up in a ‘cornfield

It’s not difficult to understand why Roscoe is always the
center of all eyes whether he happens to be steaming tobacco beds
or going from one job to the nextor when he’s driving over a
steam engine reunion grounds or coming down the main street of
Broadway in Greenville as the main conversation piece in a civic or
historical parade. With Shiverdecker at the throttle, and all the
rest of his family either up in the cab, or helping to load coal
and water into Old No. 9, it’s often a problem to know which
ones are related to the engineer and which are just hangers-on
trying to snitch a free ride on the R. D. S. Special. Bui, when it
comes to shoveling in the black diamonds, into the gaping firebox
doorwe can almost bet it’s Roscoe with a fresh cigar clamped
between his ‘store plates’.

Roscoe Shiverdecker’s venture into building and running his
own steam locomotive is only a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ idea,
however. For him, the yanking of a steam throttle began at the
early age of boyhood when he used to help his father, John
Shiverdecker, run his old Aultman-Taylor Steam Engine.

‘Threshing and steaming tobacco beds has been a tradition
with our family,’ recalls Roscoe. ‘My Grandad, Dave
Shiverdecker, started it, then my father, John carried it on, and
steam got into my blood and never left it.’

Iron-Man Roscoe Shiverdecker is both engineer and fireman on the
old R. D. S. Special No. 9. Roscoe is shoveling black diamonds into
the gaping locomotive firebox, with a fresh cigar clamped between
his ‘store plates’. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City,
Indiana 47390.

‘When Dad quit, he wanted to give me the old
Aultman-Taylor,’ says Roscoe. ‘But I didn’t want it
then, so he sold it for junk and it was cut up.’

But Roscoe soon got the fever of steam in his blood once

‘That old Aultman-Taylor was like new, and the thoughts of
it being cut-up for junk got me so that I up and bought me a
20-horse Advance Rumely off of Grandpa Mattis. I had that engine
about eight to ten years, steaming tobacco beds.’ recalls
Shiverdecker. ‘Then I began buying and selling engines for a

The fever really hit Roscoe. He once owned five different
engines at one time.

‘I had an 18-horse Frick Engine which I took around to the
shows, then sold to a guy in N. Carolina,’ recollects
Shiverdecker. ‘Then I bought a little 12-horsepower Frick which
I later sold to Percy Sherman (of Iron-Man Fame) at Palmyra,
Michigan. After that I got me a 22-horse Keck Gonnerman Engine
which I sold to a fellow in Cincinnati.

One of the real beauties that Roscoe Shiverdecker showed at the
reunions was a half-size model Garr-Scott which he bought off of
Harry Britton, that was made over an 18-horsepower double
Garr-Scott Engine. This was the little ‘eye-catcher’ which
sported the red scallop, like the fabled ‘buggy with the fringe
on top’. And Roscoe’s boys used to put little ol’
Garr-Scott through its paces at the sawmills and on the fan tests,
just to show off at the various area reunions throughout Ohio and
eastern Indiana.

‘The 23-90 Baker that I got some time ago, I still have.
It’s like new and I use it to steam tobacco beds near home,
because I can’t drive it down the roads for a distance like the
Old No. 9 Loco,’ says Roscoe. And yet there was still another
steam engine in the ‘love affair’ of Roscoe Shiverdecker
and his beloved ‘Iron Horses.’

‘I got me a little half-size model of a Greyhound Engine.
Its boiler was rolled in St. Marys, Ohio, but the engine was then
built in Coldwater, Ohio,’ muses Roscoe. ‘That engine had
the stamp of the Ohio State Boiler Board.’ (I reminded Roscoe
that it probably was the only engine that had ever generated steam
in ‘Coldwater’.)

‘I tore that engine all down and rebuilt it,’ says
Roscoe. ‘It had only three-quarter inch piping throughout and
couldn’t handle enough steam to give it the power it needed. So
I replaced the smaller three-quarter piping with inch-and-a-quarter
size, and I put on a heavier fly-wheel, rebuilt the clutch and

Although Roscoe Shiverdecker almost forgot to mention the small,
quarter-size model of an Advance Engine, which he used to ‘play
with the did not forget to praise his entire family for all the
help they give him at cleaning, repairing and painting his steam
engines, including the old R. D. S. Special No. 9.

‘My wife, Helen, helps to paint the engines, and my
daughter, Sharon did the painting and lettering on my Baker,’
says ‘Shivvie’, with a bit of pride in stride.

Now that son Gary is in the military service, next-in-line
brother Bob, 17, has taken over with the helping of Iron Man Roscoe
Shiverdecker in rebuilding his engines. And that leaves Steve, 11,
and Johnny, 8, to hang around Dad’s shop, so they can learn how
to work on the engines. And, of course, help Dad show ’em off
at the steam reunions.

And sister Sharon has also been known to ‘show off’
Roscoe’s engines at the reunions.

‘I’ll never forget the time Mildred Ary (the only lady
who up to that time had balanced a steam engine on the
teeter-totter), was having a time of it balancing Harold Ary’s
big Garr-Scott,’ chuckles Roscoe. ‘Sharon then drove our
little 12-horse Garr-Scott up onto the teeter and balanced it right
off. ‘As Iron Man Roscoe Shiverdecker says it’ There’s
nothing like steam-once it gets into your blood, and it’s been
in mine ever since I was a kid in rompers.’

And as we say it ‘A seat of honor to Iron-Man Roscoe
Shiverdecker in our Iron-Man Hall of Fame for his tireless energy
in rebuilding and repairing, as well as preserving so many
prototypes of the historic Iron Horse-. Also our praises for
planning and building the R. D. S. Special No. 9- and running it
‘on time’ to all the parades and reunions.

If  the railroad wouldn’t give him a locomotive to run
he just up ‘n made one. From plowboy to railroad engineer
that’s Shivvie up there, tootin’ his whistle ‘n

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