Iron Man Of The Month

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At 87, the veteran Glenn Hill of Bethel, Ohio, looks every bit the heroic locomotive engineer, at the throttle of the 20-60 Farquar which he reflued for the Ohio Valley Antique Machinery Show at Georgetown, Ohio. Each year he brings another engine. What w
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Cheered by the grandstand crowds during the parade of the Ohio. Valley Antique Machinery Association, Georgetown, Ohio, Glenn Hill, at 87, looks like the story book engineer. He stopped his 20-60 Farquar long enough for his ''pitcher''. Courtesy of Joe Fa
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Veteran engineer, Glenn Hill and his 20-60 Farquar head the parade of Ohio Valley Antique Machinery like a locomotive pulling a train throught he streets of picturesque Georgetown, Ohio. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.
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Glenn Hill, the 87 year old veteran steam engineer, peers out the right side of the Farquar Engine cab, while making the curve at the Georgetown, Ohio race track. Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

Union City, Indiana.

If ever a movie was to be made about the early American steam
locomotive, Glenn Hill of Bethel, Ohio, would make the
perfect-looking old-time engineer to run it. He stands straight as
a ram-rod on the deck of a steam engine with that all-knowing look
of the experienced engineer, at 87 his steady hand on the throttle
and reverse lever capable of making his iron horse obey every whim
of his stern and mighty will.

Although, as a farm lad, Glenn did dream of someday graduating
from his father’s horse-drawn plow to that of being the heroic
railroad engineer, he didn’t quite make it beyond that of being
fireman. But he did wind out a glorious career of throttling the
many steam threshing engines that came into his life over the years
as well as repairing and rehabilitating them into new-like machines
once again.

With loving care he can remove his artificial leg and crawl into
a steam engine boiler and twist around inside there at re-placing
the flues better than any man with two legs.

‘I can maneuver better that way inside a boiler because with
only one leg I have more room to get around,’ says he, having
learned to change the tragic loss of a limb into a blessing. A
tragedy that would have defeated many another man, Glenn Hill
accepted as a challenge to get the job done better. ‘I
don’t mind putting in flues if I’m not crowded.’

As a farm boy it was necessary that Glenn learn to handle and
work with farm machinery.

‘My father didn’t care a bit for machinery not even a
grain-binder’, says he. ‘Dad was just a farmer, and my
brothers and I had to work with the farm machines and repair
them.’

When I first saw Glenn Hill at the 1971 Ohio Valley Antique
Machinery Show at Georgetown, Ohio, he was running a Russell
Engine, which he later sold that fall. He seemed so devoted to his
throttle that I felt he’d surely be a most difficult individual
to coax off the engine deck long enough to interview. Besides, I
have found that some engineers are a bit crusty and reluctant to be
interviewed about their personnel idiosyncrasies pertaining to that
holy of holies called Steam. But, the following year there was
Glenn Hill, this time throttling the 1916, 20-60 Farquar over the
O.V.A.M. grounds. I was informed that he was the oldest engineer at
the show and, therefore, the most worthy to be written up. But I
still feared him, until the end of the show, when I finally
cornered him just as he throttled his Farquar over under the big
shade tree-the first time both he and the engine had wound down
long enough to be interviewed. And I found him the most gentle and
kindest of men-and not the crusty ol’ engineer I had
thought.

‘A Case was my first engine,’ he began in a deep, quiet
manner belying the day-long noise of hissing steam and wailing
whistles that had suddenly come to an end. ‘I bought a
half-interest in an outfit when I was about twenty-one. It was a
50-horse Case Engine and Separator. Then I sold the separator out
to the fellow and kept the Case which I used for a while and later
sold.’ ‘Originally I was a farmer used to ‘thrash’
‘n shred ‘n sawmill ‘n all that,’ continued Glenn,
prodded by my continual questioning when he’d run out o’
steam. ‘Had a Garr-Scott Sawmill with a friction clutch
friction pulley running against the face of another pulley-and you
could get any speed you pleased.’

(This was the same principle of friction-clutch which was
invented by the pioneer auto manufacturer, John Lambert, for use in
the early Lambert automobiles, first manufactured at Union City,
Ind., my hometown.)

‘We had two threshing rings around there and did lots of
‘thrashing’ for other people and shredded lots of
corn,’ reminded Hill. ‘I had only one threshing rig but
sometimes ran both rings. We’d do a hundred to a hundred and
twenty-five jobs a season, and I have done as many as four jobs in
one day, using the 50-horse Case Engine and Separator.’

‘Then I worked for another man two or three years running an
engine for him, threshing and the like and I was farming at the
same time,’ explained Glenn. ‘And then it was afterwards
-that I bought an interest in a Case Engine and Separator with
another fellow. Later he sold out and went to the city and I ran
that for several years.’

‘The combines hadn’t come in yet,’ reminisced
Hill.

It was during this time that Glenn Hill switched from steam to
internal combustion power to do his threshing and shredding and
sawmilling.

‘I bought a Rumely Oil-Pull Tractor and sold the Case,’
he went on. ‘The Rumely was a 20-40 and it handled about as
good as a steam engine. It was a lot more convenient all you had to
do was crank it and take off. Cheaper to operate didn’t have to
have a water wagon and team.

For a couple years Glenn Hill ran a steam roller for a
contractor just to keep the steam in his blood, during the switch
from coal-burner to oil-boomer.

It was his railroading experience that was probably the shortest
career in Glenn Hill’s life with steam engines. Though he
confessed it had been his boyhood dream to become, someday, a
railroad engineer, the season he worked as fireman on the old
Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad was pretty bleak, brief
and without the promotion to the throttle side of the cab as he had
hoped for.

‘One winter I hired out as fireman on the old C. H. &
D.,’ says he. ‘But my pay was so low I could barely pay my
board. In the spring more of the men came back to fill the jobs on
the railroad, and I didn’t get promoted to engineer, so I just
quit. It was during my work there that the Cincinnati, Hamilton and
Dayton was sold to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.’

Later, Glenn Hill began working for the locally-owned Municipal
Light Plant of Bethel, Ohio-a town of some 2500 souls. ‘We just
started on a shoe-string about,’ says Glenn.

‘We had no regular linemen,’ recalls he. ‘So I did
some of the pole climbing. One day a rotted pole fell down with me,
crushing my leg against a stone wall. That’s how I lost my leg,
and that’s what slows me down getting around,’ he chuckles
courageously.

But Glenn Hill didn’t really slow down nor did he get on the
outs with the local light plant by using his tragedy as a
legitimate grievance or gripe to disrupt operations.

‘I didn’t do any more pole climbing, but I did stay and
work at the plant,’ says he. ‘The generators were powered
by diesel engines from the start. We didn’t know a thing about
diesel but we got along pretty well with that light plant.’

It was twenty-eight years that Glenn Hill worked at the Bethel
Municipal Light Plant, ’til retirement. After that the steam in
his blood began building up pressure once again and, by the time
the safety-valve had popped in his brain, he had bought himself
another steam engine this time for the fun of re-working it,
running it a while then selling it to get another one to do
likewise.

‘Ever since I’ve been retired, I’ve been buying them
up, fixing them up and selling them,’ says Glenn. ‘Sold a
little 6-horse Farquar, a 10-ton Huber Roller, then a double Rumely
which 1 shipped back into Kentucky. Sold a Port Huron,
Keck-Gonnerman and others about a dozen in all. The Keck-Gonnerman
I sold about two year-ago.’

‘About the first thing you have to do is put in flues,’
explains Hill who ought to know whereof he speaks by now. ‘When
you buy one that’s been setting out, the first thing that’s
gone wrong is the flues.’

‘This past winter and spring (’71 and ’72) we
re-flued this Farquar that I’ve been running and playing with
here,’ he went on. ‘We don’t have a building-it sets
out and there were lots o’ days we couldn’t work and when
we could we didn’t work an 8-hour day only when we wanted to.
Oh, I’d say it pretty near ‘spoils a week’ to take the
old flues out ‘n put the new ones in ‘n go over it ‘n
everything.’

‘I keep this engine behind my place in town where I moved
from the farm. I can keep two or three engines where my wife and I
once had our garden.’

‘This Farquar Engine, Ed Fiscus and I own together,’
explained Glenn. ‘Ed’s such a nice fellow. His late father,
Lawrence, and I used to buy steam engines together. That Baker
setting out there on the grounds, he and I bought together, then we
bought a Case. But then I traded my interest in the Baker for his
interest in the Case.’ (That’s the way it goes, folks
you-all listen. D’ya hear?)

Whenever Glenn Hill is up on the engine deck throttling whatever
engine he happens to own at the time, he always has the willingest
of helpers from far and near ……..’boys’ (still liking
steam engines) that somehow never grew up. Kenneth White of
Williamsburg and the friendly, cigar-chewing inventor, Lloyd Sidell
of Georgetown, Ohio, were Glenn Hill’s constant whistle-tooting
firemen up in the cab of the smoke-belching, steam-hissing Farquar
at last summer’s Ohio Antique Machinery Show.

‘Always did like steam engines, even as a kid,’ confides
Glenn (as if we didn’t already know.) ‘Don’t like
tractors, although I’ve run them.’

Despite his big dream of becoming a railroad engineer never
materializing, Glenn Hill, who ran a real-for-sure steam locomotive
only a few feet forward and back on the switch-spur, actually saw
that dream fulfilled in the many threshing engine cabs he’s
occupied over the years. To any farm lad, young or old, he’s
still the heroic engineer of storybook fame who makes the engine go
‘chug-chug’ and the whistle go
‘toot-toot-toot’.

‘Every time I fire my engine up at home and blow the
whistle, the kids come running and get up on it and ride. I just
have fun,’ is the way Glenn Hill puts it. And we believe him,
without a single dissent.

‘I keep healthy by tinkering and keeping busy,’ says
Glenn. ‘Although I live alone, since my wife’s died, I
don’t mind washing dishes, but I don’t like to cook. Oh, I
can fry bacon or sausage when I get hungry enough.’ (What! No
bean soup, Glenn?)

‘I never complain, though. There’s too many young
fellows worse off than me.’

‘Don’t make it too flowery. I’m just a common
man,’ quoth he.

But we think Glenn Hill’s ‘uncommon’ enough that
we’ve reserved a special seat for him in our Iron Man Hall of
Fame so we can ‘set around’ and listen to him tell of his
many ‘love stories’ about his favorite engines, the mighty
Cases, and the host of other Iron Horses he’s labored in love
to perfect and sell, so he could buy more and do likewise. (Will
someone shout, ‘Amen’?)

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment