Memories from the Area of the Steam Engine


| March/April 2004



Exerpted from Iron-Men Album, July/August 1975.

My first memory of steam was riding on the 10 HP Peerless 'T' ['Q'] engine, built by Guiser [Geiser] Company of Waynesboro, Pa. The old engine was always known in our family as 'Old Bet.' It was bought brand new by one of my great uncles, Chapman Jones, along with a friction-feed Guiser [Geiser] sawmill. My dad, Ernest M. Bailey, used it for custom lumber sawing and sawing firewood for the neighbors, with a cutoff saw mounted on a large sled that he had built on runners sawed from a crooked oak log. The sled was hooked to the steam engine by means of a heavy log chain.

The neighbors would cut and haul large piles of wood close to their wood houses. Several neighbors would help each other, as it took two carrying long wood to the saw, one sawing, one pitching it in the wood house, one firing the engine and at some places, one carrying water to the engine. The engine was fired on the knotty pieces of wood that would have been difficult to split.

My father bought one of the first ensilage cutters in our part of the county, in company with some relatives and neighbors. He furnished the power with the little steam engine. The cutter was a 'Blizzard,' and on certain days when conditions were just right, you could hear that cutter roar for 3 miles.

We installed a good-size steel burry crusher, and ground ear corn and small grain for the neighbors. This was usually a full day's grinding. We had the engine set in the field and took a wide board off the side of the building to run the belt through. I fired and took care of the engine on this job, as we only ground feed on Saturdays. We picked up our water from the spring branch nearby, with a steam jet and a large hose.

Another vivid memory of mine is the time we left Old Bet and the boiler parked close to the Gamands department store the evening of Halloween. The next morning they were both parked on the concrete store porch with the water drained out of the boiler. It took us almost a full day to bail up the boiler with water, carried in buckets, and get up steam to move them. The porch had a metal roof with wood sheathing, and the smoke stack was so close to the roof that the steam had to be brought up with a very low fire to keep from burning the porch. The porch was just wide enough to pull the machinery onto, and the other end had a set of steps, so that the machinery had to be backed off the way it was brought on. We always thought that some of the young men that helped carry water to fill the boiler were in the group that drained it out, but we never knew.