Courtesy of Sheldon Jones, Fire Tower Road, Hyattstown, Maryland 20734 Side view of portable engine running fan. Fan appears to be invisible due to the speed it is running.
Firetower Rd., Hyattstown, Md. 20734
After meeting Mr. Riztman on 14 September 1968 at the 13th Anniversary of the Maryland Steam Historical Society - 1968 in Upperco, Maryland, I decided to do as he suggested and write a letter which may be of interest to him and his readers about myself and my business, Torque Power Live Steam Models.
I have just turned twenty years old and have been asked by many people how someone as young as I am became interested in the steam engine hobby. The only thing I can say is that it is just in my blood. I am the third generation of the old time mechanic in my family. My late grandfather owned and operated several steam sawmills in West Virginia before the depression of the twenties. My father, as a young man, worked in a foundry where he operated a vertical engine and boiler which ran a blower that supplied air to the furnace. In later years he went into the furniture business and is now in the guitar manufacturing business.
In 1964 my father and I went back to West Virginia where, after several days of hunting, we found a five-horse power vertical engine in the sawmill at Cass, West Virginia. It was in the basement of the sawmill and was partly buried. I have now been told that the engine is a C. O. Dutton and I would like any information anyone has on this engine. I have the engine running but not completely restored yet. About 75 miles from Cass I found a five-horse power boiler. The boiler was in good condition and I rigged up this boiler to run the Dutton engine. I just recently found out that the boiler is a Gieasor domestic and that it is very old. The engine had been removed and its mounting bolts had been cut off flush with the boiler and hammered. I would like to have an engine for this boiler. The engine could be in any condition just as long as it is restorable. I would appreciate any help your readers could give me.
I have also acquired a vertical engine which I believe to be six-horse power. The engine mounts on the side of a vertical boiler. I have been told this is a Leffel engine and that it was mounted on wheels so that it could be turned horizontally and pulled with a team of horses. I would like any information on this engine that I can get.
In the Fall of 1964 I became ill with a nervous condition which was to keep me from finishing my public school education and ill for the next three years. I had private teachers which came to my home but I was never able to get a public high school diploma.
It was in the Spring of 1965 that I restored the Dutton engine. In the Fall, after having attended my first steam show and seeing the many models on display, I decided to build a model of the Dutton engine. It took me six months of spare time work to build it. I enjoyed it thoroughly and the hobby helped me greatly in my recovery from my illness.
In the Spring of 1966 I wanted to build a model steam tractor. I soon found out that most of the models were English made and that the American models of traction engines were out of my price range. But that did not stop me. It took me a year but I managed to build one out of scrap metal. I finished it in the Spring of 1967. I took it to the Early American Steam Engine Society in Stuartstown, Pennsylvania; the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association Show in Berryville, Virginia and the Maryland Steam Historical Society Show in Upperco, Maryland.
I must point out at this time that I got my experience in shop work from tinkering around in my father's shop. As long as I can remember my father has had a shop in which I could tinker. He, always taught me the basics and left me alone to learn the rest from experience which is the best teacher. My father has often told me that if he had a dollar for every contraption I had built as a child he would be a very wealthy man.
I have had many hobbies, most of which I am still active in, but none as important to me as the steam engine hobby.
After talking to many modelers and studying what was available in model steam engines, I found out that there was a need for a sensibly priced line of American model steam engines. Since I was not in school and needed something at which to make a living, I decided to start Torque Power Live Steam Models. The name is derived from the form of power steam produces and the fact that my models were to be hard working models.
On January 1, 1968 I officially started Torque Power. I had ahead of me to completely set up a machine shop and foundry. My father gave me a storage building near my home in which to set up my shop and foundry. It took me four months to get my shop set up and even now I am still adding to it.
In my shop I can do most anything in machinery work and I have facilities for foundry work of up to 120 lbs. of brass and 35 lbs. of aluminum. I also do pattern work for anyone who wishes it. I cast most everything I can. I find it easier to cast, for example, a pepcock and then machine it rather than machining it from solid stock. My castings come out so that all they need is a little clean up work and the machining operations performed on them. I make all my casting in sand molds and to do this I have developed many special processes which are strictly my own for miniature castings.
My models are not copied after any particular past make but are of my own design. I have made these models so that they can be easily made in a home hobby machine shop. The models have a real old timey look as you can see in the pictures I have enclosed. The engine in the photos is my first - a portable engine and boiler. The engine has a 1' bore and 11/4' stroke and is cast of alloy aluminum or brass. The governor is a working 1/16' iron pipe size and is styled after the Pickering Governor. The boiler has a 4' shell and a completely water jacketed firebox with ten 5/8' fire tubes. The boiler is made of brass tube and sheet on the outer shell with cast brass end plates and all copper firebox and fire tubes. It is riveted and has butt strap joints for looks only. This does not give or take any strength from the boiler. It can operate anywhere up to 100 lbs. but I recommend setting the pop-off at 70 lbs. The portable engine is mounted on wooden wheels which dates it as being a very early engine. I call this engine the Traditional.
I have a traction engine which will be out in about six months. The traction engine uses a sprocket drive. The traction and portable engines use the same engine and boiler. By doing it this way I can keep the cost down on both models.
These engines come in a varied range of prices. The engine and boiler may be bought separately and rigged up in any fashion the modeler wishes. The engine alone comes mounted on a cast base in single, twin, triple and four cylinder versions. I hope to add to this line of models as time goes on. Some future items are: locomotives, gas engines, model gas tractors, and also sealed models for the experienced modeler.
I am very proud of my pressure gauge which I make myself. It is an American style gauge, 1' diameter with brass flange and 3/8' thick. Also, I am proud of my whistle, copied after a buckeye whistle. I call it a screech proof whistle which uses a reed in it to give it a bass note in a miniature whistle. And, I am also proud of the working governor which allows the engine to run small saws and cut wood. In the photos you can see the engine running a fan which it does very nicely.
I would like to thank all of those who have sent in for catalogs and for their patience. I have not gotten all of the material made up on it yet, but I am doing it as fast as possible. I do not know of anyone else who produces everything for their own models as I do. This takes time, especially when setting up for mass production of a product.
This past summer I traveled to all of the steam shows I could attend. The people whom I met gave me a great deal of encouragement. I have a younger friend, Donald Madison, who worked for me this summer and he traveled with me. He helps me in my shop and foundry and is learning to be a model builder. He is shown in one of the pictures, running the first traction engine I made, at the Maryland Steam Historical Society Show this summer.
It has been reported to me that 80% of all skilled workers in the U.S. will reach retirement age by 1970. Therefore, the day is coming when there will be plenty of jobs but no skilled workers to fill them. In some fields of work this has already happened. With only a few people in this country who can perform mechanical and other forms of skilled work, the true mechanic and skilled worker who can perform on the job will surpass the so-called educated modern man. The true mechanic will receive the status which has been taken away from him by modern society. It was the mechanic who built up this country industrially and otherwise. The fascination of model steam engines may bring more interested young people into the hobby and to the mechanical fields of work.
I would like to get as many people interested in model steam engines as I can, especially those in the younger generation who can much more easily afford one of my model steam engines than the real counterpart. I believe if more young people would become interested in model steam engine building there would be more well-trained mechanics. Industry is in need of skilled workers but not the kind who, today, come out of colleges with no practical experience. To build a model steam engine requires the use of many machines and hand tools. After building a model steam engine you have some experience in layoff work, machine work, and learning how to achieve good fits in working parts. I hope that what I am doing will keep the hobby alive in my own generation and in future generations.