Blog

A blog about my the history, acquisition and operation of my 1911 Model 62 Stanley Steamer.

Back down the Road

Well it has been a long winter off the road but we flashed the the Stanley up this morning and with a few minor adjustments had her steaming down the road. We clocked about 40 miles and it rained so hard that I was sitting in a puddle of water even though the roof was up but all things considered the Stanley ran like a top. 

 The last time the Stanley was out was my wedding in August. Life has been busy since this momentous occasion so I haven't been in the garage as often as usual. It was on display with our 1912 Oakland Model 40 and 1911 RHD Model T Touring. The venue lent itself to beautiful photography, some of which I have included below.

 

1911 Stanley Model 62 @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C  

1911 Stanley Model 62 @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C  

1911 Stanley Model 62 - Rear @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C  

1911 Stanley Model 62 - Rear @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C  

1911 RHD Model T Ford Touring @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C

1911 RHD Model T Ford Touring @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C

1912 Oakland Model 40 @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C

1912 Oakland Model 40 @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C

1912 Oakland Model 40 - Radiator @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C

1912 Oakland Model 40 - Radiator @ Painted Rock Winery in Penticton B.C

All wrapped up

I'm happy to say that I have successfully re-insulated the boiler with modern ceramic insulation. It was a big job but well worth the effort. I also replaced the main and pilot fuel lines with small 3/16" and 1/8" stainless lines well I had the smoke bonnet off. A substantial reduction from the 5/16" and 1/4" copper lines that I had been running. I had assumed that these changes would have decreased the operating pressure that my steamer would be running at. My thought pattern is as follows. If you decrease the line diameter and length, when the steam automatic cycles off there should be less fuel in the lines to clear out and thus shut the burner down down sooner. This should lower the operating pressure of the automatic.

In practice this is not the case. The main burner cycled off at much the same pressure as always. However there was an interesting side effect to re-insulating the boiler. After the main burner cycles off the insulation actually holds the heat so well it increases my steam pressure by an additional 50psi. A welcome surprise if I do say so myself.


Re-Insulating the boiler

For as long as I can remember the Stanley has had a puffy blanket wrapped around its boiler. It is a hot water tank blanket to be accurate. The reason for it being there is to provide insulation for the boiler. You see, unlike an internal combustion car where over heating is a concern, Stanley's are much more efficient when they are kept hot. Although the blanket has been a loyal steed and survived many a blaze the time has come to part ways. 

 Beside the obvious fact that the blanket is not era correct, it also didn't actually wrap all the way around the boiler. There was a section of approximately 5" that was left completely exposed. This provides an area for heat to escape and thus made my Stanley less efficient than it could be. I will be replacing the blanket with two layers of high temp ceramic insulation then wrapped tight with FiberFrax paper. This will give the boiler a nice uniform appearance and increase the efficiency.   

 On another note, now that the blanket has been removed there is a lot more room to work around the boiler. Given this easy access I decided that it was time to replace the main and pilot burner fuel lines. My car has been running 5/16" copper tube for the main fuel and 1/4" copper tube for the pilot. These line are really overkill for a 10 HP car. I have decided to re-plumb the main fuel line with 3/16" Stainless Steel Tube and the pilot fuel line with 1/8" Stainless Steel Tube. I've also found a way to shorten the main fuel line by 18" which will provide much better control of the stray vapors released when the steam automatic cycles off.

Smilin' Ben not Smiling Ben.

The history of my Stanley before it having been owned by Phil Foster had long been relegated to a series of names and dates that I had mined from information kept in the B.C. Archives and a few older individuals in the car club that could remember the history. The information was always a little vague and I had accepted that was the best I could get.

 When the 1949 PNE Parade picture turned up in my e-mail from the Vancouver city archives it held a piece of vital new information. When the image was blown up to full size there was writing on the passenger side door. "Smilin' Ben Used Cars Victoria & Nanaimo". The statement in itself isn't anything to write home about because I knew that Smilin' Ben was Dexter Lewers and his name had come up from the B.C. Archives. The diamond in the rough was the spelling of it. I always thought it was Smiling Ben not Smilin' Ben. The research I had done in the past had turned up nothing so I had always conceded that Dexter Lewers was a little bit of a mystery. But armed with that new information I set to work to see what Google could dredge up.

 After some searching I stumbled across an article written about the "The Cherry Bank Hotel". In the comments section a lady had posted a rather detailed history of the restaurant Dex's Rib House that was located there in the 50's and 60's. She also mentioned in her comment that Dex (Dexter) owned a pair of car dealerships in Victoria and Nanaimo under the name Smilin' Ben Your Used Car Friend. Vancouver Island isn't that large so I felt confident that I had found a relative of Dexter Lewers who may know something about my Stanley.

 I sent this lady a message asking if she or anyone in the Lewers family could remember my Stanley.  The response from her husband was enlightening to say the least...

Dear Mr. Findlay,
In response to your e-mail of Jan 8 I’m depending on my recall to try to fill in the blanks on the history of your steamer. I am now in my eightieth year for your info. Sometime after the end of WW2 on a regular family Sunday drive my father Jack, who was Dexters older brother, spotted the Stanley in a barn on Gorge Rd. in Victoria. The car was suspended from the barns rafters hanging about a foot off the floor and hardly recognizable from the road. As my late father was a car guy, and my grandfather Lewers living in Winnepeg at the time , had a Brooks Steamer. Dad pulled our Hudson over immediately and in a loud voice said “ My God I think I spotted a Stanley Steamer in that barn”, with that he immediately got out of the car and proceeded up the driveway to the barn. An older man in overalls came out of the barn while my Mother, my Sister and myself had been told to wait in the car,(a regular practice of my Father) an eternity later Dad returned and told us indeed it was a Stanley and he was trying to buy it but was turned down by the farmer. The year was approx. 1943 and Uncle Dexter was in his new used car enterprise, having sold his restaurant and promoting” Smilin Ben, your used car friend” He had two locations one on Douglas st. in Victoria, (beside the Strathcona Hotel) the other in Naniamo beside the CPR dock. Dad got together with Dexter and they decided that they would get $400.00 in new bills from the bank, lay them nice and flat in a shoe box, than present them to the farmer as their final offer. I think Dad had initially offered $200.00 for the car. I went with Dad out to Gorge Rd. again to wait in the car for an eternity, and Dad came walking back with the biggest smile I remember, he had been successful on the mission and the man scurried away with the shoe box. The car was then trucked to the Dickson Bros. parking garage on the corner of Douglas St and Humboldt St. in Victoria. The assembly now became the challenge as much of the running gear and valves had been removed, carefully wrapped in oil soaked burlap sacking and stored in wooden cheese or butter boxes of various size. This, I remember, caused a real concern for the family. I remember at a Sunday dinner at our house Uncle Dexter said let’s put an ad in the Vancouver newspaper for help with re-assembling someone has to be out there. Another eternity later a letter arrived from a man who lived in Prince George who had worked for the Stanley Company in the U.S.A. I don’t remember his name only that my Dad said to call him Sir. He stayed at our house for a while then took a room closer to the job site. Time progressed slowly as it does for a youngster when you’re waiting for something exciting, there were strange parts strewn about the garage floor that I would see more of every time I rode my bike down to Dicksons garage and I was sure this chap from Prince George didn’t know what he was doing as now there was nothing I could recognize. Nobody bothered to tell me that the body of the car had been removed and gone elsewhere to be restored and be repainted, I lost interest as I was sure they had destroyed it forever. My interest and excitement waned and I stopped going to the project. Time passed, I would think a few months for sure and I had forgotten about the Stanley. Move ahead to a sunny afternoon during school holidays, Dad said lets go down to Smilin Bens and I’ll show you something. Well the something was a beautiful totally restored Stanley Steamer, I’ll never forget that moment of my youth as I stared at this olive green beauty with glistening brass headlights, yellow wooden spoked wheels, pinstriping on the body, quilted leather seat, wooden steering wheel, brass squeeze horn on the right beside the driver’s seat and much more. Dad said lets go for a ride. We were all impatient to get on the road the pilot was lit, than we waited. Someone said get a blow torch it’ll speed the boiling up, zoom a blow torch appeared. A crowd was starting to gather now and the excitement was building along with the steam pressure, Dad and Uncle Dexter got seated and I was told to sit on top of the box at the rear of the car. Shhht-shhht-shhht we were moving, no roar of an engine, no vibration just this quiet hissing noise as we puffed along Douglas St. virtually stopping all other movement along the way with people staring and cars honking as we got out of town, so as to open her up a little. The car was a first in May day parades and also went to Vancouver for a parade. It was a real attraction at the car lot and I moved on to my new interest with my first car a 1911 Model T Ford, not in good shape but just what a young teenager needed to learn stuff and stay out of trouble. I hope I haven’t made this story to much about myself, but the thrill of it all in a few short years of my youth were unrivaled in the new discoveries that passed by much too quickly.

Richard Lewers