STEAM ENGINE: 'BIG TEA KETTLE ON WHEELS'
Robert Most collects 1880 style steam engines of which he has three that are being renovated. ''With a steam engine, it takes five minute to find the problem and a week to fix it,'' he says. Tribune photo by August Staebler.
Reprinted with permission of Leland Hawes, Features, Editor,
Tampa Tribune. Submitted by William L. Hetzer, 2309 West Comanche,
Tampa, Florida 33603
Robert Most collects steam engines.
Not scale models, but real coal burning, fire-breathing, 87-ton,
1880 style steam engines. He has three of them which are being
renovated and readied to ride the rails once again.
'The total purpose of my interest is to save and restore the
steam engines so that one day, they can be enjoyed by the public,
young and old alike,' the Tampa insurance man said.
'MY INTEREST is not in trains. Trains, per se, do not
interest me. The steam is what holds my interest.
'The steam locomotive is, in my opinion, the most
fascinating piece of machinery ever invented. It is a fascinating
invention and holds more universal interest than anything else ever
'It has a degree of nostalgia and fascination when operated.
And to see the people's expressions when it's being
operated it's just fantastic.'
BUT MOST SAID the steam engine's demise was not really
necessary. Rather, he said, it was the result of a new invention,
the diesel locomotive, and a fantastic amount of promotion by its
builders which took the steam engines off the rails.
'During the 40s, there was a massive promotion of diesel
engines. They went all out with portfolios, pictures, facts and
figures and that's what did most to drive the steam engine off
'There are many factors that went into it. Diesel engines
have advantages over steam. Likewise, steam has advantages over
HE SAID the diesel engine can be operated with fewer men, with
more needed for the steam engine. But the steam engine is a simpler
machine, with fewer problem areas.
'They say in a diesel it takes a week to find the problem
and five minutes to fix it. With a steam engine, it takes five
minutes to find the problem and a week to fix it.'