Hi! Greetings to each of you do hope you are enjoying the
activities of the summer. I’ll be expecting to get some of your
stories now for the future Iron Men Albums, don’t let me
We’ve had several writings from Billy M. Byrd of
Hopkinsville, Kentucky and I just wanted to mention we saw the
recent write-up of Billy in The Locomotive Engineer of the May 1985
issue. He certainly is a true iron-man when it comes to threshing
engines and to the railroad steamers and the later types of
engines. If you recall Billy was dubbed the Poet of the Throttle by
CBS News Charles Kuralt who featured him in his ‘On the
Road’ television series. Billy had his last run last July and
had all kinds of honor shown him for the great guy he is. He still
maintains his rail interests through affiliation with the Kentucky
Railway Museum and the National Railway Historical Society, in
addition to the Tennessee Museum. Non-rail interests include the
Historical Society of Hopkins County. He is also a Kentucky
Colonel, York Rite Mason and Shriner. Billy and his wife Jean live
at 369 South Harrig, Madisonville, Kentucky. They have three
daughters and six grandchildren.
As if he didn’t have enough to keep him busy, the colorful
retired engineer is working on a book of his memoirs. The title?
Why, ‘A Byrd’s Eye View of Railroading,’ what else?
Let’s hear more about that book, Billy!
I know many of you like to read the most interesting stories
from Well-springs of Wisdom. This one is called ‘Gratitude’
An ambitious young man called on his pastor and promised to tithe,
and so together they knelt in prayer to make the promise and to ask
God’s blessing on the young fellow’s career. He was only
making forty dollars a week at that time, and therefore tithed four
dollars. But before many years his income leaped into higher
bracket and he was tithing as much as $500 a week. He decided he
had better call on the minister and see if he could not somehow be
released from his tithing promise it was getting much too costly.
He told the pastor, ‘It was no problem when I was only tithing
four dollars every week but now it is up to five hundred dollars
and I simply can’t afford that.’
The old pastor said, ‘I do not see how you can be released
from your promise but we could kneel down and ask God to cut your
income back to about forty dollars and a tithe of four dollars a
week.’ What fools we mortals be?
And now on to some letters from our readers.
ARTHUR F. HARKER, 300 Bella Street, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania
16648 writes: ‘I am a proud owner of a 1923 Peerless steam
tractor engine. I show it at Rough & Tumble, Williams Grove,
Penn State, Alum Bank and Paldres. I am a member of these shows and
I am repainting and striping it and I would like to make it look
like an original. I would appreciate any pictures or information.
(So, come on fellows, if you can even lend him some pictures he
would appreciate it.) The late John Kaufman painted and striped
‘I have been getting the Iron-Men Album for a good many
years and am hoping the readers can help me.’
An interesting letter comes from JACK HUFF, Route 3, Wall Lake,
Iowa 51466: ‘Those articles about the African Queen are very
interesting to me for the simple reason that the engine I have
looks very much like the one that Humphrey Bogart kept kicking the
dickens out of in the movie. It has quite a history too. I
can’t pin down the exact dates but in about 1885 it was put on
the Racoon River above the mill dam as a scenic passenger ride bout
1 miles up the river. The mill and dam were washed away once and
destroyed by fire again in 1890. The boat was then moved to Black
Hawk Lake and was used as a tour boat until around 1925 or 30, when
it was in bad shape. So they dragged it out on the shore behind the
old ice house where it rotted down and lay in the weeds and brush
for many years.
‘One day the old gentleman that had run the boat came across
it and took the motor home and greased it all over and put it away.
About ten years ago, he passed away and I bought it at his sale. I
suspected the worst but upon dismantling it, I found it was like
new inside. The outside frame and moving parts are all brass and
polished steel. It is 6×6 with a Gould balanced valve and Stevenson
reversing mechanism. The only thing I changed was the corrugated
kick wheel for a heavy flywheel and that made it operate real
smooth. It is stamped 4-84 under the steam chest cover. I don’t
know who the manufacturer was as there is no indication of a number
or name. I know where the anchor whistle is so I’ll be working
on that soon. I thought this might be of interest to you as it is
to me, and it brings back memories to some of the old-timers around
here. The picture is of the engine after I cleaned and painted
WAYNE ROSE, Route 1, Box 193, Wolford, North Dakota 58385 works
for the Dakota-Hawk Museum at Wolford and at the present time they
are trying to restore a wooden 1915 ‘Yellow Kid’ Avery
thresher with a low elevator, either chain or belt drive. They do
not have any diagrams or literature on this machine. They would
very much appreciate hearing from you folks who might have any
information that could help them.
I thought I would share this letter with you from CARL M.
LATHROP, 108 Garfield Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940: ‘I
have just read your July/August ’85 Soot in the Flues and
specifically Frank Burris’ nice letter. I have sent him a
letter thanking him for his interest. Here are two paragraphs from
that letter that may be of interest to others.
‘I agree with you. I slipped a notch in referring to the
engine as a (decapod) which term is really a slang name, like Tar
Heel or Yankee, applied to a 2-10-0 the likes of which were
originally built by Baldwin around 1924 for the Russian
government’s light rail lines but which were never delivered
and finally found their way onto some American railroads. One of
the most popular, that I know of, is still running on the Strasburg
Railroad in Pennsylvania. It was formerly Great Western
Railway’s #1223 now #90.
‘While we are on the subject and since you do seem
interested, at no time during my 2000 mile trip through western and
central Turkey did I have any misgivings as to my personal safety.
Quite to the contrary, I found that the ‘man in the street’
was very friendly. They like us and that is a lot more than I can
say for some other countries where I have traveled and worked in
the past forty years.
‘Anna Mae, one of the greatest rewards from doing articles
for IMA or GEM is the establishing of friendships through people
writing to me as Frank has done. One such that I often think of was
with the late Carl Erwin for we corresponded regularly right up
until his death. Another is Walt Thayer and to think of the
coincidence of his living in Wanatche, Washington, a continent away
in the same town as my winter neighbor in Florida small world.’
(7 agree, Carl, many folks have become lifetime friends through the
medium of the columns and of course, the reunions.)
‘As a senior citizen volunteer photo lab technician for King
County in Washington, I keep an eye out for interesting historical
pictures,’ writes DUDLEY KEY, 8300 Beck Road N.E., Bainbridge
Island, Washington 98110.
He continues: ‘Here are a few pictures I copied from some
old sepia toned engineering prints. I hope you can use them. Maybe
a reader can explain the bar extending from the rear wheel hub and
slanting downward to the rear of the Avery engine.
Road building with river gravel by Port Huron engine, Auburn,
Washington, 1912. Maybe some reader can explain the bar extending
from the rear hub.
And from our friend, FRANK J. BURRIS, 1102 Box Canyon Road,
Fallbrook, California 92028 comes the following pictures and
descriptions: ‘Enclosed are three interesting snapshots with
the old Voight lander which bespeak the age of both these items.
They were taken back about 1942, and are scenes from the Southern
Pacific backshops Taylor Street Roundhouse where the big freighters
were completely dismantled, repaired, and then reassembled in
tiptop shape for another year’s hard toil up and down the
mainlines. The passenger engine received similar treatment at
another shop in the southeastern section of L. A. As my memory
recalls after those 43 years, the repair and overhaul estimates as
affixed to the work orders posted on the stalls were as high as
$60,000. However, when it is considered that this was the total for
about a million miles of dragging 100 freight cars up and down
grades and through the most-tunneled railway in North America, it
was very slight.
‘#1 is a scene in the dismantling/-erecting backshop. Here
all boiler appendages are stripped off and sent to detail sections.
The boilers are also removed from frames if necessary; and the
wheels and rods sent to the lathes, presses, and grinders. When the
crosshead guides are returned, they are polished like a mirror! A
critical thing concerning connected drive wheel assemblies is that
the diameters must be closely turned to the same diameters, else
continual slippage and wear are incurred. On ‘blind’
(inside) drivers, the flattened portions correspond to the
clearance portions inside the flanges of the control drivers. The
fireboxes of these beauties are quite apt to receive new flue
sheets and also crown sheets; since these locomotives all consume
oil for fuel, and oil is considerably hotter than coal under these
conditions. In the front line of this shot is one of the big
cab-in-fronters, so designed to minimize the smoke inhalation for
the engine crews when traversing long tunnels. A transfer table
rather than a turntable is utilized to convey these engines from an
incoming track to their respective parallel stalls.
‘#2 is another view from the floor, of the big girl in front
line of #1. Leading (double, under the cab) trucks, and trailing
(single, under the smoky end) trucks are seen amongst the air and
water pumps and other accouterments strewn over the shop floors.
One may wonder whether each of these old girls will get all her own
parts back again? No booster engines were utilized with these
reversed 4-8-8-2 engines, since they had tremendous tractive effort
without. It may be noted that this species also was endowed with a
double smokestack. Atop the stacks was a smoke deflector, operated
from the cab, for use in tunnels to prevent her very hot breath
from scorching any overhead woodwork within the tunnels or snow
sheds. Also it may be seen that these giants were of the
simple-cylindered arrangement, since compounded engines were too
slow, loss of efficiency was made up by superheating steam and
other improvements. When these articulated engines were placed in
passenger service over some of the heaviest grades, they were
balanced out for a good 60 mph. Oh yes! Daughter #1 accompanied me
on this trek she was about six years old.
‘#3 is a view amongst the wheels and guides, rods, etc., in
the SP Taylor Street ‘Roundhouse.’ Note that this shop is
really a ‘square house’; but no one had better ever refer
to it as such. Here drivers are fitted with new rims as necessary,
and sets of drivers are trued to the same diameters. The guides are
put through shapers and polish-ground to mirror finish. New brasses
are inserted in rods and finish reamed. These engines were built
largely by the Big Three: Lima, Baldwin, and American. Some of the
first experimental types were built by SP at Sacramento and other
shops. They were also built before the era of roller bearings in
the main journals and rods, as were many of the later engines.
While in service, these big engines could have their drivers turned
by simply having attached a framework containing cutters against
each driver rim, and then towing the locomotive back and forth by
means of a cable and stationary towing engine over a distance of a
few hundred feet. This quick servicing setup was installed near
Oroville shops in northern California. Journal bearings were of
course also accorded a fine grinding finish. When one of these
locys (variously spelled lokies, etc.) came back off the overhaul
line, she was really all fitted out as new, brand spanking! It just
is a reminder to me that I once worked in a very small example of
such a facility when a mere kid of 16 back during WW#1 while
manpower shortage also brought into the shops the first of
Women-Power! But, like many other fellows of that time, I was
totally unaware that steam engines would not be with us always;
else I might have stayed on. But I did get to shovel as many as
35-40 tons of coal per day before joining the machinist and
boilermakers at that small shop, before the recession of the early
20s which sent me through a vocational school and to J. I. Case for
a spell at Racine. Then some of my guardian angel relatives
convinced me it was time to go back and enroll in high school. And
after making that good institution in three years cum laude, I have
been going to colleges and universities ever since whenever the
opportunity availed, until now, when I am engrossed in computers.
Oh well, it is said that a little education can be a very bad
thing! See you next time! P.S. Whoops! Another slip of my pen,
since I do all my typing and proof reading: in the July/August
issue, the Turkish engine was a 2-10-2 and White’s
classification of ‘Sante Fe’ is for the same
A most interesting bit of information comes from MEL
VINHELLWINCKEL, 1022 North Elm, Luverne, Minnesota 56156: ‘A
couple of years ago a group of us were discussing the old Eclipse
steam engine, owned by the Ayers Collection, after it completed its
parade route during the Prairie Village Jamboree at Madison, South
Dakota. This engine must have been well designed, built and had
good care to have survived for almost 100 years was a comment we
all agreed with. Then this statement was made, ‘You can still
buy parts for Eclipse steamers from the Frick Company.’
‘The subject was changed and nothing further was said. I was
gullible enough to think that maybe just maybe, what the guy said
was true and figured I would find out for certain SOMEDAY by
writing. That SOMEDAY turned out to be April 29, 1985. The answer I
received along with part of their promotional material is
‘The Frick Company is well entrenched in the field of
commercial refrigeration. The next time you see your favorite,
pretty young figure skater or burly hockey player flash across the
arena, chances are good the ice was manufactured by the Frick
Company, Waynesboro, Pa. Let’s hope you won’t see them
sitting in the rink!
‘I would guess there is, or at least was at one time a
connection between the statement our acquaintance made and Mr.
Strayer and his organization; since they purchased drawings,
patterns and inventory.
‘Thanks to Mr. M. W. Garland and the Frick Company for the
interesting information they compiled and supplied!
‘I’ve also enclosed a snapshot of Madison, South
Dakota’s 100 year old Eclipse engine.’ (Thanks, Melvin, for
this data and also thanks to the Frick Company.)
The following is the letter received by Melvin from the Frick
‘Dear Mr. Hellwinckel: Yours of April 29th was duly received
and your interest in Frick Company products is greatly
‘Regarding steam engines, Frick stopped production of same
about the time of WW II. Frick steam engines for use by others were
first sold in 1852 by George Frick. He had made engines previously
for his own use. In 1861 a plant for manufacturing steam engines
was built in Waynesboro. In 1882 the first of a lie of
refrigeration machinery was designed and placed in operation in
‘From then until the present, refrigeration machinery,
particularly of the industrial type has been the progressive part
of the business. The last of the steam engine designs was a Poppet
type Uniflow engine.
‘Steam engine drawings were sold to others in the late
1950’s. Parts are not available from Frick Company.
‘The Steam Engine Society located at Williams Grove, Pa.
purchased some of these drawings. The last known address was c/o
William S. Strayer, R.D. 1, Dillsburg, Pa. 17109.
‘Frick Company continues as a leading manufacturer of
industrial refrigeration machinery and enjoys an enviable
reputation in that field. Enclosed is some literature covering
present day activities.
‘I trust the information given may be of assistance to you.
You have permission to use any of the data given above. M. W.
Garland, Senior Consultant, Frick Company.’
RUSSELL H. CURRY, 94 Queen Street, Box 389, Lakefield, Ontario,
Canada K0L-2H0 writes: ‘Could you please advise if that book
you quote in your column-‘Wellsprings of Wisdom’ is still
in print or for sale?’ (Well, Russell, I doubt if it is, unless
you find a store that has some available yet. I tried a good while
ago to get another one. I had bought quite a few at a News Center,
but they had no more and at that time they were not being printed.
It is written and compiled by Ralph L. Woods, The C. R. Gibson
Company, Norwalk, Connecticut. Hope you can find one. I think it is
a great little book.)
And a few thought provokers The hand that lifts ‘the cup
that cheers’ should not be used to shift the gears. A man who
rows a boat doesn’t have time to rock it. Pray as though no
work could help, and work as though prayer could not help. Deal
with the faults of others as gently as your own. You always have
time for things you put first. Bye-bye for this time, hope you are
having a great summer. Love Ya All!