Wayne Fisher of Puslinch Ont. Is the proud owner of a 1913 – 76 HP Sawyer-Massey Steam Traction Engine. That engine and I (Sherwood Hume) spent a week together in a very cold December of 1962.
The story started about September of '62 when Gordon Smith of Orillia asked me if I would go with my truck & trailer to Stan Renolds at Wetaskewin Alberta, to bring home a steam engine. Now I was a young fellow with a 1958 GMC 630 Truck and a King Trailer, and I needed all the work I could get. I thought about it and one night phoned Gord Smith and said I would go and we arrived at a price. I made the necessary arrangements at home, and decided that my wife's Father, Frank Ruddell would go with me. So on the fourth of December 1962 we set of for Orillia to get loaded. We arrived at Gord Smiths shop about 8: AM and Gord had everything lined up. We were to take 2 steam engines on the load out west, however when we arrived Gord had another steam engine to go. It was a portable engine made by Haggert Bros. In Brampton, Ont. I sort of reluctantly agreed it would go on, but was against my better judgment. So we put the small portable on the gooseneck, wooden wheels and all. Then pulled on the two traction engines, I think one was a Waterloo and the other a Goodison, both about 17 and 20 HP. Not too big. Pulling the first on backwards with the winch with the front end over to one side of the trailer. Next came the second one with the front end over to the other side of the float trailer. We had to remove both inside front wheels and put the end of the axles on a big block of wood so that the boilers would pass each other a bit, in order to get it all on. We had lots of chains & binders and soon had it tied down. After receiving paper work we were ready for the long trip ahead.
Now we were driving a 1958 GMC 630 gas engine truck, with 503 cubic inch engine, 6 cyl in line, very small by today's standards. There were no cell phones if you had trouble, and not a whole lot of winter maintenance on the Highways. We started up # 69 Hwy and there are some good long hills there. We were down to second gear in low range and getting nowhere fast. I stopped on the side of the road and wondered what to do. Would we turn back or try to go on. We had to do something different. I remember Bill Watson (Bim) telling me that there is no power if the points in the distributor are too close. So I pulled the cap off to have a look, I could hardly see the points move With no feeler gauges or anything but a screw driver I opened the points on the adjustment just a little. We'll try again. It didn't seem like the same truck, lots of power to make the hills, and away we went. To Sudbury and on to Sault St Marie, we were doing fine. We decided we would go on a while (bad decision), so we pulled out and headed north from the Sault on # 17 Hwy. .
About 2:00 AM the next morning we got as far as Montreal River, and the big hill. I had snowed and the road was slippery. We made it up almost, but not quite, when we spun out, and there we were. What to do now. Frank got out and guided me with a flashlight and I backed it down. About a mile, we wondered. Backed up another mile to get a run at it, but to no avail. So we backed down again, same hill, same mile. We sat on the middle of the road hoping someone would come along. No body did. After about an hour or two a Dept of Highways came along. Got Trouble Boys! Yup not enough traction. Well he had a load of sand and if we want the road sanded you get in the back and shovel out sand, and he would drive. He did and we did. When we got to the top of the hill, he went on and we walked back. Well this time the truck trailer load & us all made the hill. What a night that was. The next morning we made it to Nipigon got some breakfast and a Motel Room and went to bed. Later that day we took off again and headed west. Passing Thunder Bay and on to Kenora, and the Manitoba boarder. On the scales at the Manitoba Boarder we were away too heavy on the drive wheels so we couldn't go on. What to do? In the morning we went back to Kenora and asked someone what to do. We went to a Contractors yard and after hearing our plight, he agreed to help us, for a price. He started up a Unit Crane (about –10F ) and lifted the portable off the gooseneck. We put it on his smaller truck and took it over to Motorways yard and made arrangements for them to take it to Calgary. (For a Price.) We got on the road again and back to the scales. We were still a bit heavy on the drives, but not much. If we were to move the two remaining engines back about a foot it would be alright. So we unchained and with chains and binders and a long pipe we managed to move them back enough to satisfy the scale man We were most of the day there at the scale. On to Winnipeg and a truck stop at Portage La Prairie.
For the next few days we got along fine. We arrived in Calgary one morning and found Motorways Yard. But how to reload, no crane here, not even a big forklift. So we hauled the portable out of the van onto the dock, pulled the van away and jackknifed the trailer up to the dock and with some planks and lots of men to plush we got the portable reloaded again. But now we were too heavy again. But we started off and stopped a the truck stop to ask about the scales up ahead. No body would talk. I guess they had been warned not to, however finally found a trucker outside that said they were closed and usually are at that time of day. So we took off again. We motored past the scales and on to Wetaskewin.
We found Renolds yard and next Stan Renolds and he was a friend indeed. We left the truck there and went to a Motel, came back the next day about noon to unload. Unloading and reloading was fairly simple. We loaded the Sawyer Massey 76 HP Steam Engine that Wayne Fisher has now. It was not too cold just a nice winters day. Spent that afternoon looking at Stan's collection. About 10-12 airplane hangers full of stuff and about 65 acres full sitting outside. It was Awesome! He had tractors & engines I never heard of and gas engines by the acre. I never saw so much antique equipment before or since. We stayed there again that night and started for home the next morning. It sure felt good to be headed home.
The trip was long and hard and we pushed the truck and ourselves as hard as we could., finally made it back to Ontario and back to Husky House at Nipegon. At Nipegon you have to made a decision, are you going back 17 to the Sault or going north # 11 to Hearst. Because of road conditions we decided to go # 11 threw Hearst. So we turned north up # 11 Hwy and got along fairly good. It was snowing but not too hard we thought. It turns out it was snowing about a foot an hour, with a wind of the lake. At a small town on the Main Street, in the middle of the road we hit a big drift about 6 ft. high. Everything came to one shuddering halt. When the snow settled and we could see out again we saw a light in a building. Walked over there with snow up to my rear and found a coffee shop. Sat down and asked does Dept of Highways plow that road once in a while? The response "OH Yes, they'll be along about tomorrow or the day after, you ain't going nowhere till they come so just make yourself comfortable. There was no hurry there. But as luck would have it in about an hour there was the snowplow truck. Now I don't know what kind of a truck it was but it was about twice as big as our truck, and was I ever glad to see them. They plowed up to and beside our truck and got a big chain and hooked on. They backed up and we came out of the resting place. We thanked them and they went one way and we went the other.
Our trip took us on up the road to Beardmore Service Station to buy gas. There was about 6 in of frozen snow & ice on his lot and our tires were a bit warm from traveling with a load. As we stopped at the gas pumps for gas the warm tires settled into the ice.We filled with gas and paid the man, and then tried to move, it was no go. The tires had made two nice little holes in the ice and we were stuck there, after some considerable negotiation he charged me quite a bit of money to draw me away from his own pumps. I said I'd never go back there again, and I never did. The evening was young and we decided to go on a while yet. Got along fine till we were 58 miles west of Hearst, there were lights and a tow truck trying to pull a trailer from the bush. The truck and trailer belonged to a broker trucking for Gill Transport from Montreal. He had a load of 600 sets of Chinese dishes. The trailer had been in the bush about 2 days, and in the mean time the Indians had taken off the tarp, and emptied every box of dishes, and then put the empty boxes all back on and the tarp back over it. There was not one dish left on the whole load. The poor owner operator was devastated. But that's the way life is out there on the road, it sure ain't easy.
Later that night we made it into Hearst, we were tired and hungry and the Husky Truck Stop looked awful good. It was very cold about –35F. We were afraid to turn the truck off, for fear it wouldn't start in the morning. So we found out the local GM dealer would let people put their vehicles inside for the night for a small fee. We unhooked from the trailer and took the truck to his shop for the rest of the night. Next morning went to get the truck (had to have it out by 8:AM) and got breakfast, etc, and were on our way once again. Had a very uneventfull trip the rest of the way. Stayed at North Bay and the next day on to Orillia, where we met Gord Smith and Allan Byers, got unloaded and headed for home. Got home on the 21st of December, just before Christmas. That was the longest hardest trip I every made out West. Made many more after that, but had newer better equipment and summer time.That makes the difference.
Gord Smith brought the engine to Steam-Era the following year and for several more years after, He sold a ½ share to Allan Byers and eventually sold it all to Allan.Allan later sold the engine to John McKay of Ridgetown Ont and he has since sold it to Wayne Fisher. But every time I look at that Steam Engine yet I think of the week we spent together, there seems to be some kind of attachment. Hope you have enjoyed the story and maybe if you do, I'll write another, someday. Thank you for your time to read it.