Remembering Ralph Hull, Steam Engine Enthusiast

Uncle Ralph

| July/August 2000

This letter is written in memory of, my uncle, Ralph Hull, who passed away February 5, 2000. Ralph was well liked, a kind person, and many of you knew him as the first president of Williams Grove Steam Engine Association. The rest of this letter I wrote about five years ago but never sent it in to Iron-Men Album but I feel I need to let you know that I thought a lot of my uncle Ralph.

I was born and raised on a farm in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Our neighbor had a sawmill and he ran it with a Frick steam engine. I was always fascinated when he would come over toward our farm to get water out of the creek that flowed between our farms. It was also very exciting when the thresher would come to our farm to thresh the grain, although at that time when I was about five years old, they used gasoline tractors to run the thresher, about 1940.

My father worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad over at Enola, close to Harrisburg. He worked in the building which they called the 'round house'; it got that name because it was shaped in a circle and they had what was called a turntable. They would pull those large steam locomotives on the large turntable, turn it to an empty bay and drive the locomotive into the round house for repairs. That was what my father did. He was a railroad mechanic and pipe fitter. Later on, when steam engines were replaced by the diesel engines, he worked on them until he retired.

My uncle Ralph Hull was an engineer on the railroad. I can remember when I was about 12 years old Uncle Ralph would take me along on a Sunday afternoon up above Dillsburg to the little village of Brantsville. There were about four main railroad tracks through that little village. Also, there was a water tower where those big steamers would sometimes stop to fill up with water. There, Uncle Ralph and I would sit all afternoon taking pictures. I have boxes of snap shots of those monsters. So I guess you can see why I had steam engines on my brain ever since I was little.

As time went on and after I got married and had a steady job, I thought someday I would like to own an engine of my own. I don't know how many of you ever knew the late Samuel Osborn, who lived back of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, and who had a lot of engines, threshers and antiques. If there was an engine for sale, Sam knew about it. I will never forget one Friday evening I visited with Sam and he told me of a Frick 8V2 x 10 that was for sale. The engine was down at Kinzers, Pennsylvania, at Arthur Young's where they just finished putting another boiler on it. The man that owned the engine lived way up above Harrisburg, his name was Dunkenburger. So, about 10:00 p.m., Sam and I started up toward Harrisburg. When we arrived, Mr. Dunkenburger was in bed, and we got him up and about 2:00 a.m. I bought the Frick, serial number 21397.

After we got it home, the work began, wire brushing, scraping, and finally painting. After about a year of restoring we were ready to fire it up. The late George Hull, my grandfather, and my two uncles, Uncle John and Uncle Ralph, all assisted me because I didn't know much about firing and running an engine. It really ran good, so we decided to take it to Williams Grove Steam Engine Association. The second or third year after I took it to the show a man from New York wanted to buy it. The price was good so I sold it.