Friday, October 28, 2011

New Arrival! 1903 Columbia Electric

by Willy Vinton

Here is one of the new additions to the museum that arrived on Monday. This little Columbia Mark XIX Surrey is a very nice car, restored from a complete original.

The Columbia history begins in 1897 and ends in 1913, during which time many changes were taking place, such as experimenting with gasoline cars, and even a high breed in 07-08 known as the Magnetic.  The model you see here was built as a taxi to be used aroound the cities, and was very succesful, with this being the only known survivor.

This is the original volt/amp gauge that tells you the status of the batteries and the amount of power being used to move the car.
As you can see from this picture, our Columbia is a very original car, with almost all of the wood and components being the ones installed when it was built 108 years ago. The twin motors give the car good performance, and as we learned yesterday, the very large brakes you see at the rear wheels are only mildly effective. Tim seems to think they are a little lacking, but with proper planning you are able to stop most of the time.
This shows the original controllers, and all the wiring that is original as well. It has the addition of a safety shutoff that you see on the floor, but the rest is all as it was. You should come in and check this one out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hershey Swap Meet 2011

by Willy Vinton

After a long plane ride and a short drive from Harrisburg to Hershey, I started  searching for treasures. The first thing that caught my eye was this really nice Brewster, not that we need one, but they are nice to look at.  The weather was great, lots of sunshine and in the 60s to 70s all the time we were there.
Need a fender for a Model A?? Or a body for one? There was nor shortage of Model A and T parts this year. It seemed to me that attendance was down from previous years, but some of the vendors said that they sold about the same amount of items. I think because the folks that come to this are hard core collectors and restorers that would be there rain or shine or flood.
This is a set of lights that were on display at Rick Britton's booth. Boy were they nice! I told him I wanted them, but he said they were spoken for already, and that was the first morning. The really good stuff goes fast. Come to find out, Allen Schmidt--one of our restorers--spoke for them, so we are on the list for the next set he does, which should be in the near future.
Friday I walked the car corral, and like most years there was lots to look at from early cars to late models. This one however just jumps right out at you and screams, "Take me home!" As you can tell by the people around it, the windshield is just over 6 foot high, it has 900X20 tires on it, and a monster Seagraves engine in it. I could almost see it sitting beside our midget racers, but I restrained myself, as it would just be way too much noise in the back parking lot. After 3 and 1/2 days of hard walking, 2 nights of auctions, then a 4am wake-up, I was off on my trip's next leg to Long Island, NY. That's another story, as it is 4 am Wednesday morning and my alarm will be going off in 30 minutes. Have to pack and head out to the airport, then home.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chasing Ghosts - Part III: Thomas Flyer

by Nancy DeWitt

Fairbanks boasts an impressive list of the first automobiles to arrive in this Gold Rush town, including Pope-Toledo, Franklin, White Steamer, Pierce Great Arrow and Thomas Flyer. We have been fortunate to track down photographs of all but the Thomas, and its fate remains a mystery.

© Bettmann/CORBIS
Many know about the Thomas Flyer that came to Valdez, Alaska in 1908 during the famous New York to Paris automobile race. Alas, she never made it beyond the wharf. Whoever thought that automobiles could travel from Valdez to Nome across 1,000 miles of winter trails was seriously mistaken. It didn't help that the Thomas and her crew arrived in early April, two weeks behind schedule. The only way an automobile could have made it through 15-foot, melting snow drifts was in pieces, pulled by several dog teams. So, the Thomas and her crew caught the first steamer to Seattle, where they would resume and eventually win the race. (This historic auto now resides at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.)

© Michael Maslan Historic Photographs/CORBIS
Meanwhile, a Thomas Flyer had already made it to Nome, having arrived there by steamship in 1905. The Alaska Automobile Transportation Company in Olympia, Washington had big plans to develop a passenger stage between Nome and Solomon City on a 32-mile toll road. The road was never completed though, and the Thomas came under the ownership of A.E. Boyd, the general manager for the Alaska Telephone and Telegraph Company. Other than providing rides up and down Nome's beach, this car's fate remains unknown.

The Nome Thomas Flyer   © Bettmann/CORBIS
In 1908, Fairbanks undertaker Hosea Ross established a passenger-stage between Fairbanks and Fox with his Franklin touring car. The following year, he ordered a Thomas Flyer, "a big 70." He had to take out a loan to cover its $4,000 cost and $600 freight charge. Ross did daily runs to Chatanika with the Thomas, earning about $100 per day and quickly paying off his debt. His biggest expense involved tires, which cost him $300 for a set and only lasted about a month due to the poor road conditions. In the fall of 1910, Ross took the Thomas to the new mining camp of Iditarod. He broke through the river ice on his first run to Dikeman, while snowstorms stymied his attempts to drive between Iditarod and Flat. Pronouncing his Iditarod venture a failure, Ross bought a dog team and returned to Fairbanks in the spring of 1911.

Did Ross leave his Thomas Flyer out in the Iditarod Mining District? Not likely, as a 1914 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner includes it in a list of 25 automobiles "in actual running condition in Fairbanks today." How we would love to find it, tucked away in the shed of a willing seller!