Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Ride in a Rochester

While driving south from Los Angeles a few days ago I stopped by Michael Claire's place in La Habra. Mike had discovered the Fountainhead Museum on the internet a few weeks ago and contacted us about a car we have in common--a 1901 Rochester steam carriage. Until that point, I had only found one other Rochester besides ours, that being John Hampton's in Argentina. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to learn about another one and to know I'd be in Mike's neighborhood a few weeks later.
Mike has lovingly restored his Rochester and tricked it out to make it operable on today's streets. A good thing, since he fires it up every two weeks or so to take it out for a long drive. Following a lot of coaxing, Mike got the little car running. After giving me a ride through his neighborhood, I then got to take the tiller--what a hoot it is to drive what feels like a tall, rickety wheelchair! Watching Mike "blow off steam" after the ride was pretty entertaining, too. Many thanks to Mike for such a fun afternoon, and for generously donating a working engine from a 1900 Milwaukee steam car to our museum. It will be a great addition to our engine exhibit.


The Rochester Cycle & Manufacturing Company was short-lived, and we think they made only about 20 of their steam carriages. If so, a survival rate of three is pretty amazing, especially when you consider how fragile these little buggies are. Ours is presently being restored by Allan Schmidt in Escondido, so it won't be on display for a while. I'm looking forward to its return to Alaska!
Nancy

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