Stunning, Stupendously Steaming Stanleys!

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Posts: 157
Joined: Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:15 pm
Location: Morristown, NJ

Stunning, Stupendously Steaming Stanleys!

Post by oldcarfudd » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:53 pm

This year’s eastern steam tour featured a return to Auburn Heights, the Delaware home of the Marshall Steam Museum and its extensive collection of Stanleys. Tom Marshall’s grandfather, a mill owner and paper manufacturer, built the family mansion in 1897. Tom’s father, a Stanley dealer back in the day, began repurchasing Stanleys in the ‘40s. Tom and his wife, Ruth, have turned the mansion, its acreage, and the now-extensive car collection over to non-profit organizations, together with endowments for their preservation.

Several HCCA tours have visited Auburn Heights, but this was the first time in 11 years that the museum had hosted the steam tour. Nine of the museum’s cars were scheduled to participate in the tour on various days, and there were 39 other steamers registered. With two host hotels, routes between them, two excellent banquets, six days of route plans and destinations, and several trouble truck drivers whose services were in considerable demand, the 14-member committee had its work cut out for it. And it came through in fine fashion.

Early arrivals were offered a 29-mile trip to the Antique Ice Tool Museum. The Sunday night Fire-Up banquet included strolling waiters with excellent hors d’oeuvres. Particularly impressive was that there were enough young families to have a children’s table for those kids who didn’t think it was cool to sit with grown-ups. Given the sad fact that 24 participants on the 2007 Auburn Heights tour had since died, it’s good to see that the steam car world has an influx of younger members.

For steam nuts, the Most Important Name in these parts may be Marshall; for everyone else, it’s du Pont. We visited several properties established by that pioneer Delaware family. On Monday we were graciously invited to tour Granogue. It’s a 17-bedroom manor house on 500 acres with antique furniture, family heirlooms, and a magnificent 1200-pipe organ that was in full resonant voice for our visit. And it’s still the family home of Irénée du Pont Jr., the great-great-grandson of the company founder. Then it was on to Auburn Heights, where we had lunch, toured the home, rode the 1/8-scale steam train, gawked at the car collection, and enjoyed Tom Marshall’s reminiscences while he autographed copies of his new book.

On the return trip, I was following Roland Evans and his daughter, Lisa, in their 1906 Stanley EX. It was pulling away from a light when it stopped dead. Clunk. A bolt had disappeared, allowing a rod to be bent and jam the engine. Since a Stanley has no neutral, when the engine is jammed, the car can’t move. You can’t even push it off the road. Eventually Roland was able to disconnect enough bits that the car could be pushed – if Lisa lay on the running board and held other bits out of the way.

Tuesday morning we visited the National Iron and Steam Heritage Museum, familiar to some folks who have driven the BBC tours. We had a good lunch at Just Mom’s. I’m told the group went on to a restored 19th-century mining town, and then to a private collection of model gas engines, model steam trains, and four Stanleys. One of the Stanleys was a low-mileage original that recently surfaced on eBay, and was driven on the tour. But I can’t attest to any of this, because I had a serious car fire, probably due to inadequacy of The Nut That Held The Wheel. Fortunately, I was being followed by Brent Campbell and Nick Lupion. Nick is young, agile, and knowledgeable; he leapt out of Brent’s car, grabbed my fire extinguisher, and blasted it at all the places that needed blasting, thus saving my car from becoming a crispy critter. Many thanks, Nick. Hagerty thanks you, too! The next morning, I bought two more fire extinguishers. By the way, Brent’s car is one he built himself; it’s an exact replica of a custom design made for Raymond Stanley, son of one of the founders of the company.

That evening, back at Auburn Heights, Terry Amsley told stories of his father, Carl, who restored, repaired and reproduced a lot of Stanleys. Terry says there are a lot of “Stamsley” steamers around!

Wednesday’s tour was to historic New Castle, Delaware’s colonial (and first state) capital. Then it was on to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which cut hundreds of miles off the sea routes from Baltimore to New York and Philadelphia. The locks were refilled by steam engine. Again, I saw none of this. My fuel system was so carboned up that I limped home after a few miles. After my car had cooled off, I cleaned out the fuel system in hope of running better the following day.

Thursday. Success! A 78-mile drive through Amish country to Strasburg, where the last three BBC tours have been held. Attractions were the Strasburg Rail Road (yes, RR is two words, and there were steam train rides), the Railroad (one word) Museum of Pennsylvania, and the National Toy Train Museum. Might you be getting the impression that our destinations were steam-oriented? On the ride home, I stopped at an Amish farm to ask for water for my steamer, which was graciously provided. I then gave rides to a couple of young Amishmen and many children. One young man was reluctant, but when I asked him: “When do you think you’ll get another chance?” he hopped aboard with alacrity. They wanted to hear the steam whistle, which I didn’t blow until after their horse was safely out of the way. Many people went to the lights-and-fountains show at Longwood Gardens, another property established and maintained by members of the du Pont family.

If Monday and Thursday had shown us the du Ponts after they became successful, Friday’s tour took us to where their saga began. Hagley museum, on the banks of the Brandywine, is where Éleuthère Irénée du Pont started his gunpowder works after fleeing the French revolution while he still owned his head. The initial, and later the principal, power source was a water mill, but as the business grew, this was supplemented by a steam engine. (Is there an echo in here?)

The Blow-Down banquet was a fine affair. (Blowing down is what you do to a steam car after a day’s run, to get rid of accumulated crud in the boiler.) Ruth Marshall was given the Flora Award for the woman who most supports her husband’s steam activity. (Flora was F.O. Stanley’s wife, who accompanied him on many adventures, including the first automobile ascent of Mt. Washington in a tiny steam car in 1899.)

And then it was over.

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Re: Stunning, Stupendously Steaming Stanleys!

Post by FullerMetz » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:48 am

Again! Thank you for a wonderful tour report! (I am pleased to see this back! Hope you had a saved copy?)

Posts: 157
Joined: Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:15 pm
Location: Morristown, NJ

Re: Stunning, Stupendously Steaming Stanleys!

Post by oldcarfudd » Sat Aug 18, 2018 7:15 am

I hadn't saved the article after posting here. But I had sent it to Tracy Lesher as an e-mail to see whether she could use it for the Gazette, When she found she had no space for this non-HCCA event, I posted it here. I forwarded that old e-mail to Brad, who had been able to salvage the pictures (but not the captions, of which no copy exists; I invent them as I put pictures into their place in the post). I hope this doesn't happen again!

I've wondered why more people don't post tour reports here. It's not hard once you catch on. You have total control. You can put up to 25 pictures in a post, you don't have to mess with their file size (unlike, say, the MTFCA web-site), you can insert the pictures wherever and in whatever order you choose, you can write your own captions, your work appears instantaneously, and people can (but, unfortunately, don't seem to want to) add their own thoughts and pictures. Several years ago, the website wasn't allowed to print more than a few pictures and a brief summary of any tour that John Meyer might want to put in the Gazette. That has long since changed. I used to write for the Gazette, but I walked away after an article I wrote was edited with a chain saw that left it reading like gibberish written by a chimpanzee (NOTE: I'm not one!). Now that Tracy is the editor, I'm back to the Gazette, but I'll still put stuff here from time to time.

Gil the Elder

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