Steam Engine Heaven at Mineral Beach in Finleyville, Pennsylvania

Mineral Beach in Finleyville, Pennsylvania has been the home of the Tri-State Historical Steam Engine Association


| January/February 2000



Mineral Beach steam engine

This issue's cover picture is a 1910 35 x 120 HP Nichols and Shepard #11149 as seen at Mineral Beach in September, 1999. This is only one of four 35 HP Nichols left in existence. Ken Martin of Library, Pa., is engineer.

Photo by Kevin M. Small

There is a place called Mineral Beach in the beautiful hills of western Pennsylvania. What does a beach have to do with steam engines you ask? Well, for the last fifteen years, Mineral Beach has been the home of the Tri-State Historical Steam Engine Association, featuring engines such as Gaar-Scott and Aultman Taylor. Mineral Beach is a public swimming pool facility that is owned by Willis R. Abel and family, located twelve miles south of Pittsburgh in Finleyville, Pennsylvania. Mineral Beach, built in 1924, got the first half of its name from a well containing mineral water that was initially used to fill the pool. The 'Beach' part of the name came from the sand that once surrounded the pool. Many steam engine shows across the country are known by the name of the town in which they are located, but I like to call this show 'Mineral Beach.'

There are 30 steam engines at Mineral Beach. Steam engine friends from all over the United States come to Mineral Beach every September to be a part of this wonderful gathering of steam engines, friendships, good times, and laughter. The memories I have of this show will last a lifetime.

At the 1991 show, there were 10 steam engines, (all un restored) that Willis had acquired from Colton, Washington, earlier that year. These engines were owned by Chris Busch at one time. Chris was associated with the early steam shows of the Pacific Northwest before his death in 1964. He had steam shows near Colton in the 1950s and early 1960s. Some of these 'new arrivals' at Mineral beach in 1991 were a 25 HP Aultman-Taylor, a 25 HP Case (with 36' drive wheels), a 60 HP Case, a 15 HP Case (with an original steerable tender), an 18 HP Gaar Scott, and a 22 HP Gaar Scott. A very rare engine also is a return-flue bevel gear drive Aultman-Taylor tandem compound. I did not think these engines would run for the 1991 show, but Austin Monk, John Schrock, and Vic Johnson thought they could and so, they went to work on the 18 HP Gaar Scott. Carlos Reyes gathered up some valves, a steam gauge, hand hole gaskets, injector, and steam cylinder oil. Whatever John and Vic needed, all they had to do was yell 'Hey Carlos!' I was the engineer on the 110 HP Case that year. When I noticed these steam engine guys around these engines, I parked the 110 and went to see what they were up to. It did not take me long to figure out they were going to make the 18 HP Gaar Scott run.

I wanted to help them with the Gaar Scott, (who wouldn't?) so I crawled into the firebox to remove the old brick arch. John and Vic were working on the piping, oil pump and the engine. I also cleaned out the dirt and scale in the boiler and then put the hand hole plates back in. The engine was stuck, but it did not take long before it was fired up. Soon the water wagon arrived and the boiler was filled with water and wood, and the fire was lit in the 18 HP Gaar Scott. With 80 lbs. of steam, this engine moved under its own power for the first time in 40 years! The best part of all was the crowd of people watching us work on the engine that would soon be coming back to life. We were all very happy with the 18 HP Gaar Scott.

The very next day, they went to work on the 22 HP Gaar Scott with the same intentions and results, too! Although, John had to find more parts for the 22 HP because he took some of those off to use on the 18 HP the day before! The 22 HP engine was belted to the Baker fan and did not disappoint anyone! That was the highlight of the 1991 show for sure! Between the 1991 and 1992 shows, the 25 HP Case had some boiler work done. But that was all that was done. At the 1992 show, John and Austin went to work again on the 25 HP Case.

And, like the 18 and 22 HP Gaar Scotts, the 25 HP Case was a crowd pleaser. The friendships I've made at steam shows are what I treasure the most. However, friends like to play tricks on each other at these shows, too. Not so long ago, Red Falconer, from Virginia, was trying to get steam up on the 25 HP Russell he was firing that day. He had a good fire in the Russell, but no steam, after an hour or two. Upon opening the smoke box door and finding a bucket (with a hole in it) jammed up in the smokestack, the accusations began to fly! Here is Red trying to enjoy himself at a steam show and someone is making it harder for him to do so! And so the guys from Michigan are blaming the 'other' guys from Virginia (you know who you are). The 'other'' guys from Virginia are blaming the Michigan gang, and Red is pretty much blaming everyone between Lake Michigan and the Atlantic Ocean! I guess our friend was not too upset. He took the Russell up to the picnic pavilion for some steam-cooked sweet corn. If those 'unidentified' persons pull any more pranks on Red and his Russell, we will have to use another engine to cook the sweet corn!