Farm Collector

STEAM MEMORIES

1820 Ridgeview Drive Carlisle, Pennsylvania 17013

I was born and raised on the farm. In 1902 we moved to Kennidas
Valley. My dad had a Farquhar portable steam engine that he used to
run the saw-mill with. We lived there 3 years and then moved over
to Cumberland County. We farmed there for 15 years and then the
Country Club bought the farm. We did all the farm work with mules.
We always had a man come in to do our threshing, and I was
fascinated to see the steam engine pulling the threshing
machine.

After we quit farming, I went out to get a job. I went to
Altoona, Penna. and got a job firing on the Pennsylvania Railroad.
I worked there until I had enough money to buy a motorcycle. I then
got a leave of absence and rode the motorcycle home. Going over the
mountain on one of those hairpin turns I skidded and hit a tree. I
laid there several hours and a man came along and put me in his car
and took me to the hospital. I was there about 3 weeks. I had a
hole knocked in my skull, 3 broken ribs and my back almost broke. I
laid around all summer, and then went back to work firing again. My
first trip out was down-grade all the way and then we hooked onto
50 cars of stone and came back to the yard again. When we got back,
my back was just killing me, so I went into the office and
resigned. I went home again and after more rest I heard that they
were hiring again in the Enola train yards, so I went down there to
get a job. But I had to go and take a physical examination.
Everything went all right until the doctor put the paddle over my
left eye and I couldn’t read the chart, and he told me he
couldn’t pass me for train service.

This Case engine was once the property of D. N. Sheaffer. In
this picture, it is shown rolling over carpeting at the Masland
Carpet Company. This promotional scene was meant to endorse the
durability of the Masland product.

Then I was drafted for the army. I was sent to Camp Lee,
Virginia, and I was picked to go in the non-com officer’s
school. I took a 6 week course in 3 weeks. I was then sent to Camp
Annson, Alabama to train with the 98th but they didn’t get
there, as the Armistice was signed and they turned the train around
and took them back home.

I then went into partnership with my brother selling tires and
vulcanizing. Then we went into a car dealership selling Paige and
Jewett cars. We also stocked a lot of parts to fix up old cars that
we traded in, and other dealers came in to get parts, and that is
the way we got into selling to other dealers. But I still had steam
engines in my mind, so after we moved into the new building and
went into the auto parts business in a larger way, we put in a
modern machine shop. I bought a 40 HP Case engine and had it for
three years. A man from York came to see it and I sold it to him.
The engine once was used in a promotion by the C. H. Masland Carpet
Plant. The engine ran over a carpet that Masland had to show the
endurance of the rug. The picture appeared in their magazine that
they mailed to their customers.

Another job that I had with the same engine was when the heating
boiler at the Cumberland County courthouse blew up, and they asked
me to bring my steam engine up and heat the courthouse. I had the
engine there about 10 days, and the people in the courthouse said
it heated the building better than the furnace had. I had 3 8-hour
shifts firing the engine.

In 1954 we built a new auto-parts store and put in a modern
machine shop, and with steam engines still in my head, I went to
work building a steam engine. I bought just the engine that came
out of a milk plant. It was a 35/8 bore. I built the boiler out of
a gas pipe that they used underground to send gas across the
country. It was 30 inches in diameter, and had 16 2-inch flues in
it. Then I started in building the engine. I made everything else.
I worked a full year making it. This was the easiest steaming
engine I ever fired. I had it in quite a lot of parades and the
engine was always blowing off steam. I had it set to blow off at
100 lbs. steam pressure. I sure loved that engine. Then one day a
man came in the store and asked me if I wanted to sell my steam
engine, and I said no. Then I said I would sell anything if I got
money enough, and he asked how much I would take. I gave him a
price and he said he would think it over. So the next day he came
back and said he wanted to see the engine again. I took him down
into the basement and explained the engine to him, and he said he
would take it, and paid me in cash.

So I was out of a steam engine again, and I decided to build
another one. I found a man who had a 20 inch diameter boiler that
he would sell so I bought the boiler and started to build another
steam engine. I worked about a year on it. It had a water tank on
wheels, then an open coach with 2 seats in it, and a caboose. I
took it down to the steam engine show at Williams Grove in
September of that year, and it just made me sick trying to keep up
steam. The man who made the boiler had only 6 2-inch flues in it,
and when you would get a bed of fire in it you would cover up about
half the flues, and it would not steam. I had to burn hard coal in
it. It just made me sick, so I was talking to a fellow and I said I
think I am going to sell it. It wasn’t more than an hour later
when a man came around and said he heard that I wanted to sell the
outfit, and he asked me how much I wanted for it. I told him and he
said he would take it.

So now I am out of an engine again, but at my age I don’t
think I want to build another one, for I am now 85 years old.

  • Published on Nov 1, 1982
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