President, Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine
S. N. 918, Tanner & Delaney Engine
Co., Richmond, Va. W. E. Tanner,
Pres., Alex Delaney, Supt.
Seen at its resting place for
about 80 years.
The recent discovery on the side of the Blue Ridge Mountain of
an ancient sawmill site and the rusting hulk of its engine has led
to the acquisition by the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine
Association of a Tanner and Delaney engine of 1880’s vintage.
The engine was located on land of the Shenandoah National Park and
could not be removed without permission of the Park Service. After
hearing the Association’s proposal to move the engine and after
examining its credentials, the National Park Service gave
permission for the engine to be moved and, in accordance with
National Park policy, entered into a ‘definite renewable loan
agreement’ with the Association.
The project for the removal of the engine began at 8:00 on the
morning of December 3, 1982, with eleven volunteers, two 4-wheel
drive vehicles, one John Deere dozer, one dump truck and lowboy and
several chain saws. By 6:00 in the evening, about two miles of old
wood road had been cleared of dead trees, some as much as 32 inches
in diameter. Since the days of its operation, the engine had become
entangled in a growing tree which had found its place beside the
firebox and around the axle. The cutting of this tree and all other
clearing operations were strictly supervised by a park official.
Jacking the engine and replacing its rear wheels, which were
salvaged from the creek, ended the first day’s work.
The final stage in the removal began at 8:00 in the morning of
December 4 and was facilitated by the use of a 955 track loader.
The engine was tied to two large logs to support the front end and,
by noon, was on its first lap of a two-mile journey down the
mountain, accompanied by fourteen volunteers and all of the
equipment involved in the project. In addition to the twenty-five
volunteers who participated in the removal, the wife of one
volunteer furnished lunch for both days. Altogether, from its
longtime resting place in the Blue Ridge mountains to its new
headquarters at Berryville, the engine was moved about forty
The age of the engine, which bears serial number 918, is
estimated to be nearly one hundred years. It was used to operate a
Frick sawmill #4977 from about 1900 until 1930. The Tanner and
Delaney Engine Company which manufactured the engine, operated out
of Richmond, Virginia on a charter which was granted them in the
spring of 1882. They continued in production until late 1886 or
early 1887, when they were overcome by financial difficulties.
Prior to the war, the partners, William E. Tanner and Alexander
Delaney, had worked for Tredegar Iron Works. When their partnership
failed, the two men went separate ways and their shop was taken
over by William R. Trigg and was to be called the Richmond
Locomotive and Machine Works. The best judgment as to the age of
engine #918 is that it was manufactured between 1882 and 1887.
The engine was located near Chester Gap, about 400 yards down
stream from Indian Run Spring and about thirty feet from the stream
itself, thus affording plenty of water to run the engine.
Conversations with several older citizens in the area indicate that
the mill and engine were operated by a Mr. John R. Keller and owned
by Holmes Edward Boyd of Berryville, Virginia. Courthouse records
show that in 1901 Mr. Boyd purchased from the estate of George
Compton a 700-acre tract of land including Indian Run and the
headwaters of the same for the sum of $1,400.
All indications point toward the fact that the engine, in
addition to its lumbering operation, may have performed another
duty, that of furnishing steam for the manufacture of spirits to be
used for human consumption on cold winter nights. An elderly
gentleman at Chester gap recalled that one could always tell when
spirits were being run, because the word was passed down the
mountain that someone ‘had seen a mad dog in the mountain.’
Surely, no one would wish to venture up the mountain under such
Thanks to Mr. Robert R. Jacobsen, superintendent, and his
assistants at the Shenandoah National Park, the venerable steam
engine will soon be restored and exhibited at the headquarters of
the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association at
Berryville. The same group of volunteers who brought her down off
the mountain are already making plans to restore and place in
running order this ancient beauty.