ZZ Geiser Steam Engine

ZZ Geiser steam engine may be the only complete one left, according to owner.

| July/August 1984

Governor's Grant Farm, RFD #2 Clarksville, Tennessee 37040

The ZZ Geiser steam engine featured on this issue's cover is owned by Frank G. Children, Governor's Grant Farm, RFD #2, Clarksville, Tennessee 37040. See story this issue about the Childers' engine.

All my life I had heard tales about Blue and Lanier Boddie of Lafayette, Kentucky. Most especially I had heard of their three thousand plus acres of fertile farmland and Malcolm (Blue) Boddie's huge steam engine. Naturally, I was quite excited when one beautiful fall day in the early sixties my good friend, Wallace Freeman, of Cadiz, Kentucky, suggested we go by and look at the engine.

As we drove out Highway 107, Mr. Freeman told me the Boddie Brothers had divided their big farm in half and that neither had ever married. He said the story was that the two brothers only got together once a year at Christmas time when they would spend a few nights together in the old house built by their great grandfather in the early 1800's. This log and frame home was located on Lanier's side of the farm, but Lanier lived in a two-room cabin in the front yard. We turned off Highway 107 onto a narrow gravel road and soon approached a frame tenant house on the left, a long pole shed on the right, and Blue's house just beyond the shed. Blue lived in what was said to have been an old corn crib. It appeared to be one room covered with very weathered rough oak siding and a tin roof. There were a few concrete blocks on the roof to hold down the tin where the wind had blown it loose. The small porch was piled high with all manner of scrap iron and junk.

Wallace Freeman and I were sitting in the truck in the middle of the road taking it all in when a man in overalls and an old hat came out of the tenant house holding a very long butcher's knife. 'Ain't no loafers allowed 'round here,' the man said as he approached our truck feeling the edge of the knife with his thumb. Thank goodness, Wallace knew Mr. Dawson, and we were told we could look at the engine. Unfortunately Mr. Boddie wasn't at home.

The engine was in the pole shed. The shed must have been built after the engine was in place as the canopy was right against the sloping rafters. The shed was crammed full of old equipment including what was left of the big Frick sawmill the engine used to pull. The smoke box door told us the engine was a Geiser, made in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. It was later determined to be a model ZZ, serial #12478,120 HP, manufactured in 1907. At that time it was the biggest engine I had ever seen. It mean sured 23 feet long. I ran a tape in a flue and found it to be 127' long. There were, however, only 64 tubes, which isn't a lot for so large a boiler. The right front wheel was removed and leaning against a post. The axle was supported by a concrete pillar.