A Sunday Drive In A Stanley
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March 29, Sunday about 2pm I arrived in San Leandro, and parked my Jeep at the curb. The Stanley was sparkling clean in the sunshine, sitting there in Chris Roberts driveway.Chris was putting a few things away in the garage and stopped to greet me. I don't recall anything else going on before we got in the car,other than being informed that I would be driving today. Chris wanted to keep a close eye on the "winker", the small round indicator that was supposed to indicate the flow of steam oil to the engine by turning dark with oil on the occasional stroke of the pump. It is an indicator that only gives its signal intermittently and apparently its performance was in question.
Lucky me, though a bit nervous, I sat behind the wheel, closed the door, and looked at the array of gauges on the dash. Pilot pressure at 30, main fuel at 120 and steam pressure at 500, obviously the car was ready to go. What a dream, not a sound until I slowly opened the drain cocks and listened to the soft hiss of steam for 10-15 seconds to warm the cylinders and expel any water. I pushed the reversing pedal to the floor with my left foot, and advanced the steam throttle upward slightly and we began to move backward out the driveway. Backing into the street far enough, I let the reversing peddle rise and the change of direction took place in silence, and almost without notice we were moving on down the street. At this point Chris reached over and turned on the fuel supply for the main burner which lit with a light "thump", followed by the familiar steady howl of the giant vaporizing Baker burner, the Stanley's way of indicating that water is boiling, and all is well.
Well, it was a wonderful Sunday for steaming through the hills, and that is just what we did. In two hours or more we covered a lot of backroads that led us up a long slow climb around the hills above Lake Chabot where the Baker burner continuously signaled its vigorous and healthy operation by wailing a variety of notes like a passel of bagpipes. Chris began to show amusement at the way I could not stop laughing out loud most of the way uphill. Soon after cresting the hill, 500 pounds of steam was reached and the burner again fell silent while we coasted a good mile to level ground at the far end of the lake. I wheeled the big Brougham into the park entrance as if for a turnaround because it seemed full, then a space appeared nearest the lake, and we got to park and walk away, leaving the machine unattended.
It was windy near the water so we stayed just long enough to experience the sensations that are only possible when returning to a steam powered car. No fumbling for keys and chokes, and no grinding of starting motors and gears and no slipping of clutches while coordinating the throttle to avoid the embarrassment of a stall. Nope, none of that! The door closes with a solid click-clack, I observe the steam pressure at over 400, fuel and pilot normal, open the cylinder cocks just enough for the hissing clouds of steam to draw all attention our way as the reversing pedal is pressed and the throttle advanced just enough to roll the car into position to go forward, then I let the pedal rise enough to let the car stop. With the drains still hissing, I crack the chime whistle a good blast, then release the pedal, advance the throttle and steamed away with the drains loudly hissing-in-turn like a locomotive leaving the station.
All too soon the drive is over and I return the big Stanley to the same spot in the driveway where it sat silently just a couple of hours ago. I am very favorably impressed, this car is now operating dependably, like the fanciful descriptions written in the books of olde. Chris adds water to the main tank and moves the car into the garage where it will cool over-night, and automatically refill the boiler by vacuum. Congratulations to Chris are in order for the successful completion of so much dedicated hard work in the restoration of this fine Stanley to better-than-new operating condition. (It has the 30hp Bourdon/Baker boiler/burner ugrade installed)
Thanks Chris, I know that you are very proud of your Stanley and I am very proud just to be knowing so much about it. I know you are trying to help me to trap myself into getting one. Well it's working..............I am in negotiations .........!
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