| November/December 1981

  • Little relic

    Mrs. R. Leslie Ellis
  • Luellabelle with one coach
    Luellabelle with one coach in tow.

  • Little relic
  • Luellabelle with one coach

It was during the last stint of Air Force duty before retirement some eight years ago that in my travels I happened to spot an old Russell traction engine alongside the road up in Washington State. I saw that engine every time I happened by that way. And each time brought more nostalgia in pleasant memories. I then became acquainted with the owner, and then following many hobbiests; with the result that, since I had experienced about everything else of interest, maybe it was time to re-live some of the most pleasant moments and find one of these old friends for my own enjoyment.

So I began looking, but, you know they were very scarce! World War II and following had claimed most of them for the scrap drives. But adventure was in the search. I was to find that time yet stood still down in the southeastern section of the United States; for when I had opportunity to search there, people would tell me 'Oh. yes, Mr. So-and-so has one of those old engines over in back of his field.' Whereupon a venture over to that neighbor yielded the information that it had been possibly twenty years ago since he had disposed of the fine old relic to some scrap iron dealer!

But I was not to meet with dire distress! Back at the old hunting ground in Washington State, together with a couple fellow hunters who had managed to find a few such specimens, one of these fine buddies ventured, 'Well, I know where the remains of an old roller is hooked up to a greenhouse for steam heating.' So away we detoured to the community of Bothell, Washington, to Shorty's Greenhouse.

What I found there was the boiler and mounted engine of a 1925 Monarch double, road roller. Shorty was an expert welder, and apparently liked nothing else besides flowers, than cutting up and welding things. He had even made a cradle wherein could be driven an automobile with an ice-cracked block, and the whole vehicle be revolved into such position that its engine block could be electric-welded with no other fanfare whatsoever!

But the once-beautiful Monarch! She had served the city of Seattle some twenty years in rolling asphalt, and after her tour of usefulness put on the auction block for scrap. Shorty had saved her from that ugly fate. But he had removed the wheels (all the principle weight) and gearing and disposed them for scrap for more than he had paid for the entire engine. He then installed an automatic home-style automatic oil burner, together with an automatic water level control for the boiler, and piped her up for heating his greenhouse.

However, it seems that the oil burner was not capable of sustaining the 35 psi desired; so Shorty, believing that more air was necessary in the firebox (with all the grates removed) proceeded to cut a cigar box section in one side of the firebox for more air. And to augment things, he had installed four siphon tubes between the throat-sheet and the crown-sheet. But, thank goodness, the fine little double engine was all intact, and even a nice little four-tone whistle although rollers were very seldom equipped, with whistles.


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