R. D. 7, Box 943, Terre Haute, Indiana
FILL 'LITTLE ENGINE' with a wash boiler full of water and four buckets of coal and she'll generate 90 pounds of steam, same as she did in 1900. The only difference is that in 1900 the inventor stoked her with an armload of wood.
That's when Morton G. Miller, machinist-inventor, of Summit Grove (Indiana) built the little engine because his father needed something to furnish power for operating machinery in their little farm shop.
'I only built things because they were needed', explains Mr. Miller when visitors exclaim over the unique little engine.
Born a quarter mile north of the Miller homestead from which his grandfather supplied black walnut wood to steamboats plying the Wabash, Morton always hung around machines. One day, watching a man repair a threshing machine, the boy asked more questions than the machine had parts.
When his legs grew long enough he hired out as a machinist's apprentice for 75 cents a day, and rode 4 miles to work on his 54-inch-wheel bicycle.
The little engine was his first invention. He patterned it after the old threshing machine, but one-third its size, used wheels from an old cultivator, and made fittings of sheet brass. A masterpiece in precision workmanship, the little engine weighed 850 pounds when fired up, ready to go.
Little Engine performed many duties, such as operating the farm windmill, and sometimes even furnished transportation. Since it had a seat on the back in those days, Morton often fired up and rode to town after mail, puffing along in high style at 15 miles per hour.
When he moved to town, Little Engine drilled his well, and up to 1919 furnished power to operate machinery in his own shop. At one time it furnished power for revolving a 6-ton steam shovel made by the young inventor.
Oiled, polished, with bright red wheels and a new coat of black paint on boiler and stack, Little Engine takes a side seat today except when Mr. Miller runs her out for inspection.
He still works six days per week in his busy shop, now powered with electricity. Since 1923, when Little Engine powered his shaper, lathe and drill press, Mr. Miller has accumulated 14 machines ranging up to $75,000 in value.
Although a roll top desk occupies a corner of his shop, he says, 'I never sit down and study. I have 200 customers and they keep me busy.' Mr. Morton G. Miller was 81 in August of 1957.