34540 Sherwood Drive Solon, Ohio 44139
As I stared at the clock, which illuminated the fact it was 5:00 a.m. on January 1, 1995, I knew what I had to do! Slowly and quietly I dressed so not to awaken the host and hostess of the house and walked out into the dark rainy morning and there before me stood my 1923 Farquhar portable steam engine. It was the first of January but temperature was well into the fifties. Back in November my friend Hank Marsilio, a steam whistle collector, approached me with the idea of having a New Year's Day whistle blow. Since I have the engine stored behind his house, I really could not say no, even if the thought ever crossed my mind. After about 45 minutes of struggling with a dying flashlight I finally had all the hand holes in and tightened up. The water hose was stretched out from the house and I started to fill the boiler; while the boiler filled I stripped off the tarps, folded and placed them in Hank's garage. At 9:00 a.m. we started a fire, and by 10:15 a.m. the steam pressure gauge read 20 pounds. Hank and I stuffed the fire box full of wood and went to his business, H.M. Eagle Boiler, Welding, and Machine Shop Service on Steel Street in Youngstown, to get the steam whistle manifold he had completed the night before. When we arrived back to his house at 11:00 a.m., the steam gauge only read 40 pounds!
Feverishly we worked to get de cent pressure for the noon whistle blow. Luckily we can leave pieces long since my firebox is 2 feet wide and 4 feet long; as you might have guessed, my engine is rather large. The engine is 10 inch by 16 inch and turns a four-foot diameter flywheel and a six-foot diameter flywheel with a working pressure of 125 psi. The engine and boiler are in excellent condition and have been used very little since she was built in 1923 and carries a Pennsylvania certificate for 125 psi. Slowly the pressure rose and at noon we had 80 psi and Hank let loose his five inch three chime Powell. That was only the beginning.
Hank being a boilermaker by trade and holding A.S.M.E. 'R' & 'S' stamps, fabricated his own whistle manifold. The manifold was capable of holding 10 whistles connected to ball valves ranging from 2, 1, 1, 1, and inch, so various size whistles can be quickly attached or removed without having to shut down the entire manifold. Hank Marsilio is an avid steam whistle collector and currently his collection is about 30 whistles. He has a five-chime whistle off a locomotive from the Pennsylvania Railroad, which Was re ported to be heard ten miles away when we had a mini whistle blow in November.
'Blow whistles and they shall come 'after the noon whistle, we began to connect the whistle manifolds to my engine. Luckily Norm Baxter, a good friend from Howland Corners, came over to watch the whistle blow, but he was 'volunteered' to help us attach the manifold. Norm is no stranger to steam, he has been 'Boss' at the Geauga County Historical Society Century Village's Steam Sawmill for over 10 years in Burton. Just this past summer he purchased a 1917 16 HP Frick traction engine, which is now torn completely down; the boiler is at Hank's shop being rebuilt. The rest of the crowd were non-steam owners, and numbers varied throughout the day.
As night started to fall, we learned a Youngstown TV station was interested in taping the engine for their evening news. Brian Baxter (Norm's son), a good friend of Hank and I, stopped by and planted the idea of a spark show for the TV people. For those people who do not know, a spark show is where you put sawdust in the fire box and the action of the engine draws the burning sawdust through the boiler and out the stack. We did have one flaw in this idea no sawdust but necessity is truly the mother of invention, and so we used bags of dry leaves. We turned the blower on full and stuffed the leaves into the firebox. The leaves were sucked through the boiler and out the stack in an impressive sight! The TV people never did show their loss!
In closing, we will be blowing the whistle and having the spark show again. The whistle manifold will be up at the Burton show this year. It will also be available to those with whistles when the saw mill is operating at the Geauga County Century Village in Burton during their special event weekends.
Gas is for cleaning parts, diesel for stopping rust, and STEAM IS FOR HAVING FUN!