Steam on a Dare

| September/October 1971

1706 Mayhew Drive, Wheaton, Maryland 20902

Readers of this publication may recall that in the March-April 1970 issue, there was published an account of a certain Aultman-Taylor that chose with human assistance to literally have a real 'blast' on New Years Eve by going calling. At that time, this writer who also drew up the account of the midnight revelry was sufficiently light headed enough to make a friendly wager with the engine's owner Billy Hall, of Burtonsville, Maryland. This wager to drive the engine eight miles down main state highways and park it in the driveway of the home of the daughter and grandson of the engine's original owner must go down in steam traction history as certainly one of the most hairbrained, idiotic, and most thoroughly enjoyable capers ever to involve a steam engine.

The Aultman-Taylor was originally purchased by Joseph Miller of White Oak, Maryland in the Silver Spring area in 1912. The engine was disposed of at auction in the early fifties and was subsequently obtained by Bill Hall and today remains active on his farm in Burtonsville, eight miles north of White Oak. On Tuesday May 12th 1970 I was awakened at 7 a.m. by a phone call from Billy and his only words were. 'You got your checkbook ready? We've got steam up and we're going to White Oak.'

Still unbelieving that he was at all serious, but knowing better than to doubt him completely after the New Year's Eve caper, I arranged to take the day off, pulled six hundred feet of motion picture film from the freezer plus rolls of still film, wolfed down breakfast and arrived on the Hall plantation by 8:30 a.m. With Bill was his able bodied assistant engineer, Eddie Adams, and both wore grins that were of a cross between the leacherous and the sadistic. After all, a check was riding on the success of the mission and due to the fact that the engine's steel cleated wheels have been illegal for road usage since the late thirties, this writer was perhaps wearing an equally sadistic grin. Being equipped with a Dodge RT I felt that a quick getaway could be made in the event of trouble with the local constabulary. When boiler pressure reached 125 p.s.i. departure was made.

At this point some mention should be made about ultimate destination for the mission. The target was 1316 Milestone Drive, White Oak, Md. and the victims knew absolutely nothing of the impending visit by the green, black and red monster that many years before had worked on the very same ground it was supposedly to return to on that day. Only the Miller's young son Doug, an ardent steam enthusiast knew that when he returned home from school that after noon there might be a visitor in the driveway and he kept the secret well.

When the engine pulled onto old route 29 to begin its journey, it was soon evident that macadam and cleats do not mix well on a hot day. Almost immediately the engine became the star attraction for many motorists who took refuge by the sides of the road in order to view the passing behemoth. Passing one modern subdivision we encountered a man busily applying a new coat of paint to the trim around a front bay window of his home. Having his back turned to us he was not aware of our impending presence until true to form, our engine owner let loose with both whistles. For some reason our itinerant painter suddenly put a streak of white paint diagonally across the window glass, but fortunately had the presence of mind to run into the house and in a second was back with a camera firing away at us. Thank the heaven's above that that was all he was firing at us.