My First Steam Engine


| January/February 1959



Glantz Engine

Glantz Engine

626 North Minden Avenue, Minden, Nebraska

LeRoy Blaker was a childhood playmate of mine. After leaving our community the family moved out of the state. I lost track of the Blakers. One day looking through our daily paper I noticed an article that LeRoy Blaker had been elected National Thresher President of a Threshers Association. Since then we have kept track of each other. Mr. Blaker and his wife and sister, who was also a schoolmate, visited us last fall. I trust this article will be of interest to your publication

I WAS AWAKENED BY A hissing noise. Looking through the attic window where I had been asleep I saw a black monster, which proved to be a steam traction engine. It seemed so large to me but I was just a boy of nine or ten years. It was too early for me to get up so I sat by the window until it was my usual time to arise. Here before my very eyes was a steam engine. Now what do you suppose makes that thing run? Somehow I was determined to find out.

Being summer and no school I could spend the day watching this engine at work. I had heard of some of the boilers blowing up. One water hauler had been killed. That sort of scared me but I would be cautious so I found myself standing about 100 yards away. I was careful that nothing was in back of me, if that boiler should blow up it would give me a better chance to take off. The engineer in my opinion was a brave man. He seemed to have lots of faith in the boiler. The engine was laboring heavily under its load. The exhaust was very exciting. But why did it have to make that puffing noise? Without any warning the safety valve popped off which made considerable noise. I thought that must be the boiler blowing up so I took off. A farmer's horses hitched to a wagon had been frightened and were running away. The crew stayed around the machine and no one ran away or seemed to be concerned so I started back to the engine.

I was now close to the engine. I was getting more courage. At last I had one of my hands on the drive wheel. The engine was laboring quite heavily as it was rocking back and forth. It seemed to be determined to pull its load. Some time the exhaust was very loud, then a soft exhaust but it was music to my ears. I pretty much decided when I grew up I was going to be an engineer. By this time I had gotten acquainted with the engineer who appeared to be a nice fellow, so I began to ask questions. What makes it run? He said, 'putting water in the boiler and heating it to a point when it would turn to steam would cause a tremendous pressure. There is a pipe leading the steam to a cylinder and a plunger or piston as it is called fitted in the cylinder. The pressure forces the piston back and forth.' What regulates the steam to the cylinder? He said, 'I don't know, all I know is the steam forces the piston to one end. After the steam has done its job it is exhausted into the smoke stack where it helps to create a draft.' Well, that was something, but what causes the steam to do the thing at the right time?

During the next four or five years I asked a lot of questions but I never got what was a complete answer. One day I decided to build a little steam engine. I mentioned this to my brothers but they did not think much of the idea. What could a boy my age know about an engine and I was told I had better keep out of the blacksmith shop. Since I was the youngest of four boys it seemed I would have to obey the order but I planned to work on the sly. I told my two youngest sisters what my plans were but they must tell no one to which they agreed. I had decided to build a small steam engine 1 1/8' diameter by 2 inch stroke, single action. The valve had to be worked out as there was no place to buy small parts, then too my trouble was no money, which was no different than any boy at my age.