In 1928 the last of a long line of steam engines rolled out of the shops of Geiser Manufacturing Co., Waynesboro, Pa. Geiser engine no. 18298 was effectively obsolete from the moment the first rivet was driven into its boiler, and in fact it was never completed, relegated to the grounds of the Geiser factory where it sat until about 1940.
'Ole Puff,' as this engine came to be known, has a well documented past. Its first owner was Samuel Stoltzfus, an Amish gentleman who is said to have purchased her around 1939 from the Geiser Manufacturing Co. Samuel, who lived in White Horse, Pa., worked for a man who rebuilt boilers, engines and traction engine running gear out of a shop in Kinzer, Pa. Samuel's boss also sold new Geiser equipment, and following a fire at the Geiser works Samuel's boss took him to the Geiser plant to see if they could salvage an engine.
According to Charles Doty, Mt. Union, Iowa, no. 18298's third owner, there were still five engines at the plant at the time of the fire. Samuel purchased Geiser no. 18298, and the Geiser factory got some of the old carpenter shop crew to build a canopy for the engine before loading it up on a flatcar for delivery to Kinzer. The engine was delivered without its pre-heater, which at some point had been removed and sold.
At some juncture (just when is unknown) Samual named the engine 'Ole Puff,' and the name has stuck with the engine ever since. Samuel kept the engine until his death in 1970, at which time his widow advertised it for sale. In 1972 the engine was auctioned off and was purchased by Melvin 'Brownie' Grubb, Steelton Pa. Melvin and his family then launched into a restoration of the engine. Work performed by the Grubbs included:
1978 Two new flues 1979 Six new grates 1980 New cab 1984 Six new handhold plates 1986 One new pop valve; one new piston (8-3/4-inch by 2-1/2-inch); one set of rings; new stainless steel connector rod; two new water tanks; new deck; six new handhold plates
In 1987 Connecticut residents Charles and Frances Doty became the third owners of Ole Puff when they purchased her from the Grubbs. She stayed with the Grubbs until 1988, when Charles and Frances trans ported her to Connecticut. The Dotys subsequently moved to Mt. Union, Iowa, where they placed Ole Puff in a nice, climate-controlled garage. A combination of health problems and too many toys prompted the Dotys to place an ad in the July/August 1997 issue of Iron-Men Album announcing Ole Puff's availability. Aside from normal maintenance, the only restoration work Ole Puff saw under the Dotys' care was application of new paint.
Phil and Melanie Lanzarotta, Leaburg, Ore., became Ole Puff's fourth owners after Phil saw the advertisement in Iron-Men Album and knew they had to have her. She was their dream steamer, and still is. Phil and Melanie called Charles and Frances and made arrangements for the purchase and the shipping of Ole Puff (as well as a set of spare driver wheels) to Oregon. On May 16, 1998, Ole Puff was loaded onto a truck at Mt. Union, Iowa. Greentree Transportation Co., Pittsburg, Pa., took care of transportation duties, and on May 19 she arrived at Antique Power land, Brooks, Ore., home of the Great Oregon Steam-Up
Ole Puff has been a super addition to the Great Oregon Steam-Up since her arrival, and as the only Peerless on the show grounds (there are only a few Peerless steam engines on the West Coast) she is in a class of her own.
Ole Puff still resides on Antique Powerland grounds, where the Western Steam Friends steam school students use her for practice. Children from the local school district have a special day at Powerland to see all the equipment there and discover what a working history looks like, and Ole Puff pulls a wagon full of kids around the grounds to their great delight. We had one gentleman who wished to ride with her through the annual parade at Antique Powerland on his 97th birthday - he got his ride and really enjoyed it.
Phil and Melanie Lanzarotta's history of Geiser engine no. 18298 raises some interesting questions, not least of which is the issue of just when Samuel Stoltzfus purchased her. The history passed down to the Lanzarottas suggests Samuel purchased Ole Puff in 1938 or 1939 after a fire at the Geiser plant. However, available resources point to 1940 as the year of the disastrous fire that shut Geiser down for good, suggesting 1940 as the year Samuel purchased no. 18298.
In a history of Geiser published in the January/February 1970 issue of Iron-Men Album, author W. J. Eshleman claimed that no. 18298 was put together by Geiser's receivers in 1939 (Geiser had entered into bankruptcy proceedings in 1939) and that it left the factory dressed in a simple coat of brown paint.
Perhaps confusing matters even more, Geiser production records in the possession of Geiser history buff Mike Rohrer suggest Geiser no. 18298 could have been built as late as 1930, although Mike is sure it was built in 1928, as believed.
The Lanzarottas are keen on maintaining an accurate account of Ole Puff's history, and they encourage anyone who knows more about no. 18298 to contact them with details. Further, Ole Puff, which has over the years been certified for operation in Connecticut, Iowa, Oregon and Pennsylvania, is starting to feel her age. The Lanzarottas fear a new boiler is in her future, and they welcome input and help of any kind in ensuring the continued survival of this seminal machine. - Editor
Ole Puff has found herself mentioned in the hobby more than a few times over the years, including the following:
Iron-Men Album, November/December 1969, page 50: For sale - 50 HP Peerless steam engine. Emerson-Brantingham. Christ Stolzfus, Gap, Pa.
Iron-Men Album, May/June 1970, page 51: For sale 50 HP Peerless steam traction engine. Emerson-Brantingham. David L. Stoltzfus, Gap, Pa.
Iron-Men Album, January/February 1970, page 3-8: 'A Short Chronological History of the Geiser Manufacturing Co.,' by W. L. Eshleman. Includes a picture of 'the last Peerless engine, no. 18298, owned by Samuel Stoltzfus, White Horse, Pa.'
Iron-Men Album, July/August 1970, page 55: For sale due to death of owner 50 HP Peerless steam traction engine, no. 18298. The last Peerless traction to leave the factory in 1939. Refer to Geiser Manufacturing Co., article January/February 1970. Mrs. Samuel G. Stolzfus, Gap, Pa.
Iron-Men Album, May/June 1973, page 26: Photograph of 'the last Peerless steam engine, no. 18298.' Photo courtesy of W. J. Eshleman, Lancaster, Pa. Page 41: 'The Story of an Engine that Could Not be Fixed,' by William Hall. The second paragraph of the article states: 'The Last Engine Built by Geiser was no. 18298.'
Iron-Men Album, January /February 1975, page 14: 'Annual Maryland Steam Show a Success Again!' by Marshall L. Matthews. The second paragraph of the article states: 'The last Peerless engine made was one of the attractions. It is owned by Mervin Grubb, Steelton, Pa.'
Iron-Men Album, May/June 1975, page 24-26: 'The Blue Mountain Antique and Steam Engine Association,' by Doris J. Grub. Picture of Ole Puff on page 25.
Williams Grove Steam Engine Association Bulletin, August/September 1983. Ole Puff on cover.
Iron-Men Album, July/August 1997, page 44: For sale: 1928 50 HP Peerless steam traction engine with canopy, excellent condition, last engine out of factory 'Ole Puff' is its name, third owner, $15,000. Steel wheel water wagon with pump and hose, $15,000. Newer drive wheels without spokes, $1,000 OBO. Charles and Frances Doty, Mt. Union, Iowa.
Contact steam enthusiasts Phil and Melanie Lanzarotta at: P.O. Box 340, Walterville, OR 97489, (541) 896-3904, or e-mail: email@example.com