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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

Flattenator II

Flattenator II

"Crawford Paving Co." Another look at that Barber steamroller circa 1925 in D.C. Watch your fingers, kids. National Photo glass negative. View full size.

 

I yam what I yam

Now, what fun would a steamroller be without a steam powered whistle? Anybody spot a whistle on board? Old cabooses used to have whistles on the rear railing for signaling. The gears, nautical wheel, and oversized parts remind me of something between Rube Goldberg and Popeye.

The Governator

As one with warm memories of old-fashioned road equipment, I was enthralled by this photo. The one thing I couldn't find in the shot is the part that used to fascinate me most as a kid: the spinning governor with its three balls (much like a pawnbroker sign). The more the engine sped up, the farther the hinged arms to which the balls were fixed would swing out through centrifugal force, closing the steam feed. With the steam feed diminished, the balls slowed, dropped, and allowed more steam in. A remarkably ingenious but perfectly simple device.

[Those centrifugal governors have two balls. - Dave]

Steamroller

It's not two-speed -- it was a way of making it run smoother and quieter. The inner ring teeth are in between the outer ring. The "clutch" you are talking about is the steering gear -- these rollers are direct drive. The lever at the end of the crankshaft is the reverser.

The Barber Asphalt Company .. ..

The term "steamroller" is quite correct here, as compared to "road roller," which describes internal combustion engine rollers. This Barber Asphalt Co. roller, built in Buffalo, N.Y., appears to be a very close copy of the Buffalo-Springfield steamroller.

Barber Asphalt was not related to Barber-Greene, which never built rollers, but did build paving machines from the early 1930's, and conveyors and conveyor loaders from 1916.

Barber Asphalt was founded by one Amzi Lorenzo Barber (1843-1909), son of a Vermont Congregational preacher. After making good money in real estate, he became interested in Trinidad sheet asphalt in 1878, and founded Barber Asphalt in 1882. The company boomed with the increase in paving in the late 19th century, and by 1896 it laid nearly half the asphalt in the U.S., as well as having expanded into Europe. Barber was as good an industrialist as Ford or Rockefeller when it came to domination and lawsuits.

The first steam roller was built as early as 1865, by Aveling-Proctor in the U.K., and the last ones in the mid-1930s by Buffalo Springfield.

Crown Wheel

The large gear on the roller is a ring gear or crown wheel. We tend to call them ring gears, the Brits prefer the other. Must be sumthin' to do with the monarchy

Strange

I just love Shorpy. Every time I find something new.

Why would the pinion gearset not go completely around the wheel? If that sucker ever stopped not on the gear how the heck would you get it to move again? I can't imaging anything short of a locomotive having enough torque to engage that monster!

[It does go all the way around, behind the skirt. - Dave]

Steam 101

I'm no steam engineer by any means, but in all the steam vehicles that I have encountered, the engine rotation is reversed to back up. Stanleys, locomotives, ships, etc. have no reverse gear. Steam engines don't care which way they turn.

Steamrollers for Dummies

I'm pretty sure the long lever near the steering wheel is the forward/reverse control. It either allows the power to go straight down the driveshaft or then engages a planetary gear that reverses the direction of rotation for reverse. Steam vehicles don't have a clutch. They don't idle in neutral. You control the rate of speed by controlling the amount of steam allowed into the pistons. If the vehicle is stoppped the steam engine is not turning. This vehicle is why even today these things are called "steam" rollers.

Clutch

My new favorite Shorpy photo! I love the details of the drive mechanism. Is that some sort of clutch between the crankshaft and the worm pinion gear?

It appears to be a dog clutch that engages the steering wheel via the long chain. The lever behind the wheel is pushed or pulled to turn either left or right. I imagine incremental steering was done manually with the "ship's wheel."

The fix

I recall that you put your SHORPY stamp on those photos you've spent a great deal of effort restoring. If this is true, I would like to see a before-and-after of your work with a few comments about techniques.

[This one did not take much work. A recent before-and-after example is here. Another one is below. Click to enlarge. - Dave]

Still (steel) around?

I wonder if this is related to the Barber Green company that makes asphalt rollers today.

Wormy

That's a pinion gear, not a worm gear.

Ring Gear

I'm scratching my head here....Where's the rest of that big ring gear?

[Behind the skirt. - Dave]

Chimney liners

I've not seen such a variety of chiminey liners before including the sectioned ones on the right. I wonder what is the purpose for the narrow, three section and more rectangular six section liners.

I am thinking individual rooms surrounding the chiminey or on other floors above or below would have their own heating source individually connected to the central flue or chiminey.

That almost seems a "plumbing" pain and I am just guessing. Perhaps it is just reinforcement.

Workhorse at Rest

My new favorite Shorpy photo! I love the details of the drive mechanism. Is that some sort of clutch between the crankshaft and the worm pinion gear?

A few photos of similar beasts on the internets:

Ahoy matey!

Did the ship's wheel come standard or is that an add-on?

Nice Grease Spot, Too

What a beast! Just looking at it makes me want to count my fingers.

Big Wheels

I'll bet Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and Rat Fink could turn that thing into a real wheel-stander.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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