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
When was Ole Puff made?
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 IN PUBLICATION
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,
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: