Then Came Along The Engine Built For Two

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Roy Boling and son. Randy, on the engine ''built for two''. Courtesy of Roy Boling, Route 1, Box 280, Hazelwood, Missouri 63042.
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A beautiful Reeves taken at the Threshing at Rollag, Minnesota. Courtesy of Arnold Pierson, 416-3rd Street S. W., Little Falls, Minnesota 56345.
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In what is now the cherished land of my youth. Fifty years ago as the writer stood on the operator's platform of this engine, a teenage girl's finger pressed open a shutter that resulted in the original negative, from which this print was recently made. L
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A scene at the A. J. Smith Farm in Little Falls, Minnesota. Courtesy of Arnold Pierson, 416-3rd Street S. W., Little Falls, Minnesota 56345.
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A picture of myself, Frank Stark, and the late Gustave Block. Threshing machine is a 20 HP Reeves engine and 32-50 New Idea Rumely Separator, taken in 1935. Courtesy of Frank Stark, Billings, Missouri 65610.
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Western Maryland Shay and Jersey Central Camel Back at B & O Museum at Baltimore, Maryland. Courtesy of Roy R. Hartman, 32 Maryland Ave. S. E., Washington, D. C. 20028.

Route 1, Box 280, Hazelwood, Missouri 63042.

From before my time and into the 1930’s traction engines
were a familiar sight and were extensively used in a section of
Missouri known as Saline County.

With improved design of the internal combustion engine and
changing methods of harvesting small grain by the late thirties
they had all but disappeared from the scene.

It had been more than thirty years since smoke from a traction
engine’s stack or the sound of their exhaust had penetrated the
air in that leisurely rural central section of Missouri, until
along came the engine built for two.

For those that may care to read along as I write I would love to
relate the pleasures that were mine last August the 21st as my son
and I drove through what had been the land of my youth, riding on
the engine built for two.

In that same locality, sixty five years earlier, my life had its
beginning. In the same region, all of sixty years ago, the traction
engine had found an exceptional fondness within me.

Before the Model ‘T’ made it’s debut in that
section, my parents, who were farmers, had as their means of
travel, the family surrey, drawn by a team of hefty corn and
oat-fed mules.

It had been in that surreys seat, at a pre-school age, as we
traveled to and from town, to visit an aunt or an uncle etc. that I
developed an intense interest in what I now look back upon as the
Grand Old Engines, that then sat along the roadway.

Many were the times, in that surrey seat, as we passed engines
along the way that I watched with the fondest of interest, as we
passed, and envisioned days that I hoped would come and in these
years that since have passed most of those early day wishes have
now come to pass.

With my father being not only a farmer, but also a thresherman
my chances were greatly enhanced and before grade school days had
ended I had experienced a closeness, not only in desire, but also
in reality, with the traction engine; a part of my life, that is
yet to be surpassed by another man.

Without question there have been others with more hours of
operational contact than I may have had, but there have been none
with a more consistent, almost heart felt interest in anything than
I have, for almost a lifetime, had in the traction engine.

I was, the hardest of losers and it was with a sad defeat that I
witnessed the end to the threshing custom and the discontinuance of
the traction engine.

The reciprocating steam engine was indeed my lure in life.
Though my preference has always been the traction type, for many
years I earned my living along side the stationary ones.

A saying! Perhaps nearly as old as the hills. ‘All good
things one day come to an end.’ So it was one day, with the
stationary engine also, in my life.

Confronted with that reality and realizing there was no use to
which I could harness one of the earlier manufactured traction
engines I sought to create a way that I could continue, for the
remaining years, with the traction engine remaining an interesting
part of my life.

I believed the answer to be to build a size, that I could run
along the roadway at speeds approaching twenty miles per hour. It
would burn coal as fuel by hand firing the boiler.

In what I now consider the most cherished years of my life I
found the most interesting to be those in which I had operated my
father’s traction engine, while we threshed and when I operated
the engine and hand-fired the boiler with coal. Such experiences
seemed to stand out the most.

After lengthy consideration and determining that I could obtain
a liability insurance coverage to operate a traction engine, in
traffic, along the roadway and clearing with the State Patrol that
1 would not be in violation, I set out to build such an engine, the
one I have referred to as the engine ‘built for two.’

By early summer of 1970 with the aid of my son, Randy, I had
such an engine ready for road testing.

Like anything built from scratch, created for a purpose not yet
used, changes in design and or construction were found necessary.
By mid 1971 we had the specially built engine ready for distant
travel.

Forty-five years earlier (1926) 1 had been a member of a high
school graduating class in a small Missouri town some two hundred
miles away. Until in the late thirties this had also been my home
town.

For a number of months, plans had been in the making to hold a
reunion of that 1926 graduating class and a date of August 22nd had
been selected.

It had been nearly thirty years since I had known but little of
that rural region in which I had been raised and had lived into
young manhood. Many times I had realized how I would love to re
travel those roadways of my early life and to visit with people
that had then lived there.

With my fervent love for the traction engine at an all time high
I realized that no spot on earth could tie anything closer to
another than could this region tie the traction engine to me.

Therefore I chose the occasion of the class reunion to return to
my native rural Missouri Region. It would be wonderful to re travel
those early roadways of my life that had since come to be
remembered as the happy ways of my life, and to use the engine
built for two as my vehicle.

A steak supper had been planned for the evening of August 21st
as a preliminary for the class reunion the following day. We made
our plans well in advance and early in the morning of August 21st,
while the sun shown bright, though its rays were not especially
hot, my twenty year old son, Randy, and I drove North from this
small Missouri town out into the region that had been the land of
my youth.

In the years of my acquaintance there the road we were starting
to travel upon had been only a good dirt road, but that morning
found us driving out on a fine black top; level and smooth and
resembling my impression of a turnpike.

This road, being among the first traveled in my life, brought
back many memories. As the miles of this fine road rolled up around
the wheels of our engine a pleasure was mine that is yet to be
exceeded by anyone. Traveling at a speed of sixteen or so miles per
hour we were able to visit many points of interest to me.

We were riding out into what had been the land of my youth,
doing so upon an engine that was of my own creation. One that I had
literally brought the raw material, from which the engine had been
built, in my car piece by piece and I had watched the engine grow
from nothing to a real live steaming reality. Nothing had ever been
closer to the heart to its builder than was this engine to
mine.

No engine ever ran better. None performed more smoothly. With
it’s exhaust sharp and an almost perfect roadway ahead the
engine ran as if it too were conscious of the mission we were
on.

Along the road we were then riding, I had many times earlier
traveled. Along it’s way there had been happenings of special
interest to me. One had been the time when my father and I had
traveled home with his new Advance Rumely Engine after unloading
same from a flatcar in the town Randy and I had just left. Out in
fields along this road I had many times threshed. It too had been
along this same way, in the surreys seat, that I had earnestly
wished for much of what has later happened.

As we sped on our way I realized I was simply riding back into
the beginning, from a mile post far along the way. Realizing that I
had lived the major part and was growing old but I was thankful to
my creator for giving me an opportunity to tie my life so closely
to the reciprocating steam engine.

No one knew of our plans and all were taken by complete surprise
and of course to have a traction engine come steaming down the road
at a speed of fifteen miles per hour was about as much expected as
was a dinosaur. I would not be able to convey the smiles, amazed
and perplexed, that came from people. Some ladies waved from the
front door, porches and yards. Some men walked toward the road.

There were numerous happenings that I could write about, but
space will confine to only these few.

While we were stopped, from a nearby house came a young lady and
she said, ‘I happened to see you coming down the road and not
knowing what this was I called my husband who works in town. He was
very curious and if you could wait a few minutes he and some of the
fellows are driving out.’ Soon they had arrived. However by
then other cars had stopped also. We had quite a crowd that was
hard to break away from.

In the early summer the Post Dispatch, a St. Louis paper had
printed a picture of the engine and myself in the colored picture
section of their paper. A local farm couple there subscribe to this
paper. The wife had been a girl back when I was a lad and we had
each attended the same country church. She recognized the name and
the next Sunday morning took the paper to that same country church.
Another farm couple, that were also kids back at that time were
also present.

As we drove along that day, Randy was frequently blowing the
whistle. This farmer hearing the whistle decided the whistle must
tie in with me. Since they lived on a different road to the one we
were driving along, he had his wife call a lady living on the road
we were traveling and ask her to have us wait until they could
drive around.

I saw a young woman walking toward the road from a house we were
approaching and I asked Randy to stop. She gave us the message.

We waited until this couple arrived. As you can well imagine our
meeting was a friendly one.

On one occasion as we approached a farm I recognized a man I saw
walking toward the road. He had been a young man in the
neighborhood when I was a lad attending grade school. When he
started toward the road he doubtless did not know it was me, but we
recognized each other as we approached. This meeting was also a
cheery one. Of course passing cars soon created another crowd.

I could fill several pages with other pleasant experiences, but
the days near ending, found us returning to the town we had driven
from in the early morning. We had driven through localities that I
had not been in since 1926 and most enjoyable had been my
experiences.

As we arrived back in town the hour was about six o’clock; a
Saturday late afternoon. Most people were at home. To reach the
motel where we would spend the night and where my wife and other
son were expected to be waiting we had to drive completely across
and through mid section of the residential area. A traction engine
had not been in that town in many years and none had ever traveled
down the street so fast.

You would have no idea how many people that came out into their
yards nor how many that got into their car and drove out to the
motel. If I were to make a guess on that number it would sound
fantastic to you.

Of course I need not write that we were quite late for the steak
supper.

That day had been my most eventful one, yet some things I had
been forced to cut short. Nice friendly people had delayed us so
many times.

Some twenty years back my father and mother had been buried in a
cemetery a mile out of town. I had planned to visit their graves,
but time did not permit then. My father was also a traction engine
enthusiast. I was certain that if they could each know that no way
that I might come would appeal to them as much as to come riding on
the engine built for two.

The next morning when I arose I built a fire in our engine and
when we were ready my two sons and I riding upon the engine
‘built for two’ drove across town and out the last mile of
the way to the cemetery.

One could not walk that route without being noticed, but to
drive out with a traction engine was even more conspicuous.

You would have been surprised if you had seen the number of
people that then came out to the cemetery also. One man rode a
horse there.

On our return trip cars stopped. Some took pictures.

Events of that morning and the previous day convinced me that
traction engines with their smoking stack and impressive exhausts
have left an indelible impression upon mankind that decades yet
will be required to erase.

Events at the class reunion later in the day were also
impressive, but as the day was nearing it’s end I thought of
the importance the traction engine has always been to me and I
realized earlier it had been those grand old engines whose wheels
had earlier been of iron and steel and whose torque had come from
steam that had furnished the first power that massively plowed open
the furrows, sawed the logs, and threshed the grain.

I realized that gone now are most of the engines as well as most
of the years of my life, but thankful indeed am I for the hours of
contentment they have up to now brought me. Then I made this
wish.

When my life has reached its last and final day I hope that I
can then still remember as I now remember the joy they have been to
me.

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