Letting off Steam

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Rick Rowlands stands on the Tod engine in 1995, prior to dismantling.


In Youngstown, Ohio, a working monument to the glory days of steam is slowly taking shape. The monument is a 4,000 HP Tod cross-compound merchant mill engine, possibly the largest steam engine of its type in the world. And if everything goes to plan, the enormous engine’s mighty flywheels will one day spin again.

The engine’s preservation is the vision of Rick Rowlands, a passionate steam enthusiast who has created a foundation and museum to house and protect the Tod engine he’s been diligently disassembling, moving and preparing for display.

A few specifications highlight the Herculean nature of the task: Estimated weight of the engine is 600,000 pounds – 150,000 of which is tied up in the flywheel assembly. The crankshaft is 23 inches in diameter, the connecting rod cap bolts are 6 inches in diameter with four threads per inch, and there’s a whopping 23 feet 5-inch stretch between the center line of the crankshaft and the cylinders.

Manufactured in 1914, the engine powered a six-stand, 24-inch merchant mill at Youngstown’s Brier Hill Steel Co. Decommissioned in 1979, the engine sat until Rick discovered the Tod and went to work arranging its recovery.

In 1996 and 1997, Rick and a crew of volunteers, affectionately dubbed the “Wrecking Crew,” dismantled the Tod engine and moved it to a storage facility. Since then, Rick has been steadily moving toward the day the engine will be back in one piece and ready for display.

Now, word comes that the Tod Engine Heritage Park, the facility Rick and volunteers are preparing to house the Tod engine, is open for viewing. Although the engine is still far from operational, the park has been opened to give supporters and fans of steam an opportunity to view the Tod engine as its restoration progresses.

Viewing will be possible from noon until 5 p.m. on Saturdays between May 28 and Sept. 3, and Rick suggests calling or e-mailing ahead – (419) 706-0113; rick@todengine.org – to make sure someone will be at the park. You can write the Tod Engine Foundation at 2261 Hubbard Road, Youngstown, OH 44505, and an excellent website detailing the Tod engine’s history and its restoration progress is at: www.todengine.org

Richard Backus



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