In this issue are several stories about 'Steam Schools' around the country. This one was written by Dan Gehrnan.
Instructors: Butch Biesecker, Norm Gay, Ivan Zimmerman, Dave Adams, Jim Martin, Jim Conte, Grant Huddle, and all the steam guys at Rough & Tumble.
The text book: Rough & Tumble Engineering, by James Maggard.
Classroom: Rough & Tumble Grounds.
Supplies: Traction engines, wood, coal, flue brush, shovel, poker, etc. Also Little Toot - 15' gauge railroad (Grant Huddle).
First, we spent some time talking about safety features, building a fire, keeping good water in the boiler, keeping the boiler clean, water treatment. You know, classroom stuff.
After lunch, we formed small groups of three or four students and one or two instructors. Students now operate the engines. Learn to maintain even fire, safe water levels. Learn to shift forward and reverse with even, steady power. NO! Don't jerk the lever, just move it when needed. Timing is important. Even steering is a learning experience.
Okay guys, let's belt to the Baker Fan.
Some guys make this look easy. Well, for some guys it is easy. But not for the beginner. Remember, we are all beginners sometime. Why does the belt run off the outside? Move the front end over to the right a little. No, not that far. Now the belt runs inside on the flywheel. Stop, take a deep breath. Relax a bit, walk over and look over the pulley from the other end. See, the engine is too far to the right and the front end is too far left. Hop on and try again. Uh oh, losing pressure, so first tend the fire. Yes, I need to add some water and coal and run the blower a little. Finally the pressure is okay. Let's go. This time I'll line up that belt just so. Move up the crank left, then right. This looks to be about right. Back up, helpers are holding the belt 'til it takes hold on the flywheel. Block the wheels, belt runs outside, again! BUTCH, IVAN, NORMHELP! Push the front over to the right! You can't? Well then you line up this_ _ _ _belt! Let's say that was my first time.
Chester Lewis was kind enough to let us use his 1902 model O Peerless at Steam School. A fun and easy engine to run. Thank you, Chet.
Waiting for steam at the 1997 R & T steam school. Rough & Tumble's 75 HP Case 32-106 Massey Sawyer in background.
All the students did a fine job. We try to teach safety. Keep the pressure down, to just run around the grounds you don't need more than 65-75 pounds or so. If you run a thresher or sawmill then you build up more pressure. Don't pop that safety valve. It is for safety, not a regulator. The engineer is to be the regulator. If you can't regulate the pressure, go back to steam school. Some safety features are: safety valve, fusible plug, water column, tri cocks, and the pressure gauge. But the most important safety feature is still #1, the engineer.
I wish to thank everyone. The students for participating, Rough and Tumble for use of the grounds and equipment, Roy Herr for use of his Buffalo Roller and his input, Butch Bie secker for use of his engine and his excellent instructions. Instructors, helpers, all thank you.
And so I'll go steaming merrily on my way, Dan Gehman.
P. S. To participate in steam school, you need to be a member of Rough & Tumble. Then read The Whistle (the quarterly newsletter for Rough & Tumble) for dates and cost. The 1998 dates have not been decided at this time.
Following are excerpts from letters from individual participants in the 1997 Steam School.
By Grant Huddle
One would think that the main reason for going to steam school was to 'get my hands on the throttle of a steam engine.' Although this playful attitude is justification for most of us, this was not necessarily the case with my class. They had a need to learn.
They understood the responsibilities and demands of boiler and engine operation; at least if not before, certainly during the course the realities sunk in.
Even though I was the instructor of the most diminutive of engines, 'Little Toot,' a 15' gauge locomotive, most all basic principles are the same for bigger traction engines.
As one student put it, 'I'm kept so busy throttling, injecting, firing, blowing, starting, stopping, I'm glad not to have to steer!'
This engineer apprentice took the course only to see what it was for his father to go through as a steam plant manager, i.e. 'What difference does coal make in my firing, or what condition will my boiler be in after using this water?'
An auto mechanic instructor, production manager, and a chemist rounded out my group.
Yes, it is easy for some to open a throttle and 'run the engine.' But this school gives an opportunity for a collective group of individuals to start 'good habits' from a group of experienced engineers. Besides, I benefited by acquiring another engineer that got off on the right foot!
By Arthur R. Driedger Jr.
Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others is a favorite slogan of mine. And I never saw so many happy men as I did during the recent Steam Engine School at Rough & Tumble.
The instructors, from a variety of backgrounds, knew their work and were willing to share their knowledge, experience and engines with the students. The students in turn helped one another and took pleasure in firing the boilers, cleaning the tubes, removing ashes and reminding one another about watching the glass, the draft, the size of the fire and all the little arts and techniques to make these run efficiently and safely.
Rough and Tumble's 1903 RR Peerless. Students learn the work and dirt as well as the fun of engineering at steam school.
No question went unanswered and the instructors knew when to give confidence and advice and also knew when to step back and let the kids play.
I like Dan's remarks about having golden objects on the grounds with golden people taking care of them. But best of all was his sincere invitation to volunteer and get involved helping the owners of the engines or doing volunteer work wherever it was needed. He noted the need for workers in the stationary steam engine building, as well as the need for workers in the food line, and other places. I regret that I live as far as I do and that I cannot put more time into the organization.
Running an engine is more than meets the eye; it is not just fire, smoke and steam. Jim Conte pointed out the necessity of controlling the type of water; others pointed out the quality and size of the fire, the draft, pressure etc. Ivan Zimmerman and others let us play with their 'toys.'
Thanks to all for their efforts, time and experience. It will be a long time before I see that number of happy people again.
By Allen C. Gruver
Dear Ivan, thanks for all your help with the R & T Steam School.
Here is my 'student's view' of the course.
I remember as a child seeing the 'huge smoking monsters.' Not working in the fields, I'm not that old. The first place I recall seeing them was at the PA Dutch Days exhibit, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with my parents.
My first thought was, 'Wow, are they big!'
Many years later, I found myself drawn to the farm and old iron displays. I have always been fascinated with mechanical things. My thoughts at those times were 'Look at all the knobs, levers and valves, nothing is marked. How can anyone figure out how to run them?'
Enter the Rough & Tumble Steam School. What an opportunity! This school was operated by a group of very dedicated and knowledgeable men. Using the book Rough and Tumble Engineering as our textbook this school had something to offer anyone interested in steam. Stressing safety first, with enough stories to make us realize the importance of safety, and enough knowledge to know how to prevent us from becoming one of those stories.
The 'hands on experience' of course had to be the best part. Cleaning the flues, grates and smoke box is very necessary and demonstrates that it's not all fun and games. Building the fire and waiting for steam teaches a lot about patience. No turning a key here!
Finally the moment of glory. Being in complete control of 11 tons of 'huge steaming monster'; what a rush! Learning to operate with our ears, knowing how it should sound. Using our eyes watching how everything is operating, and constantly checking the water level. Having the knowledge of what all those valves and levers actually do and knowing that your instructors have enough confidence in you to be standing off on the sidelines while you are in complete control.
Thanks, guys, for everything!
By Barry Sheinin
I'd like to tell you that the July 1997 Steam Traction School was both overwhelming and spiritual. Let me explain.
Some boys go out and play ball with their fathers, but my father is not that type. He is a college graduate with a high IQ, for what it's worth, but with all his education he was a door to door milkman. He worked seven days a week from 1:00 a.m. to whenever he finished the deliveries and collected money. I guess you would call it the red-eye shift plus. As children we were on the 8:00 a.m. to school shift which meant having no time to spend with him. He would be sleeping when we came home, and we would be sleeping when he went to work. When my brother and I became old enough, between nine and ten years old, my mother would send us on the milk truck to work with him and spend some time with him. My brother worked one night and I would work the other night. One night I asked my father, 'How does the engine in the truck work?' He started to explain that first, I should understand how the steam engine works. He then proceeded to explain it to me with great accuracy and detail. He drew pictures and sometimes he would use model trains and pictures he found in books. After I understood the steam engine he went on to explain and teach me other engines. The thing is, I was always able to work on other engines and operate them but, because I was born in 1951, steam was all but gone. I went on and learned all I could about engines.
I have been a mechanic and diagnostician for a number of years and now I am a New York State Automotive Technical Training Program teacher (A.T.T.P.), so when I said that it was overwhelming and spiritual you can understand that the experience made me realize my father.
The Rough & Tumble steam class has given me the chance to really learn so much more than I ever realized about steam engines, and the hands-on from cold to motion is the closest to being a steam engineer.
It has made me realize my own understanding and has given me a better outlook on all things. At past shows, I learned about threshing to grain and I have been amazed at what 1 have seen over the years of my coming to Rough & Tumble Museum shows. It is wonderful that the Museum is so dedicated to what was and still is. The people could not have been more helpful or want ful to share in this great historical society.
I traveled from Brooklyn, New York, to come to this school, and it is a dream come true. It's in my blood. I hope to be more a part of this association. I plan to use what I have learned in my future classes that I will give as an A.T.T.P. Trainer.
Special thanks to Butch Biesecker, John Gerb, Tom Wilfred, Ivan Zimmerman, Grant of the 'Little Toot,' Jim Conte, Dan Gehman, Dan '1903 Peerless.'
There was a lot of learning to remember, so for those whose names I did not mention, a special 'thanks' to those as well.
By Ray Peppier
I am writing this after I got home from our last session with the steam tractors. Want to thank you for a most enjoyable class. I believe I learned a lot about a subject I knew very little about.
The only suggestion I would have would be to include a good sketch of a steam tractor with some good close ups of the crown plate, grease cup, exhaust valve etc.
Will try to include here a little paragraph you might use.
'I attended a very interesting three day (one Saturday for three weeks) course put on by the Rough and Tumble Engineering Society to learn to drive and maintain steam tractors. Since these tractors are unique and very scarce, anyone interested in these vehicles has a great opportunity to relate to them by attending this course. The group met the first Saturday morning and had a classroom session till noon. We were instructed in the design/operations of them and, more important, the safety aspect of them.
In the afternoon we went out to the engines which had been fired up by their operators. We reviewed many parts and functions of them.
The next Saturday each group on their engine, and under the supervision of the operator, cleaned the engine, built the fire, got up steam, greased and oiled it and then, in turn, drove it.
On the third Saturday this was done, but without the benefit of the tractor operator's supervision.
This course is down to earth and different because it is taught by instructors who own their own vehicles. Thanks again.'