The Little Steamer
by Clinton Atkinson
One morning as I stood gazing up the road a small car was coming at a moderate speed. As it came near its speed slackened to almost a walk while it eased cautiously to the side of the road coming to a gentle stop by Crocket's store just across the road from my home. Its grace, its charm, its dignified behavior were unmistakeable. While coming down the road little white puffs of steam from it's exhaust quickly vanished into the air. A hop, a skip and a couple jumps and I was close beside it looking with mingled amazement, curiousity and admiration. The year was 1902, I was nine years old and looking at the first automobile I had ever seen.
My father was a locomotive engineer and with the many trips I had rode with him I had learned much about steam engines, their care, operation, etc. Here it seemed was just about everything in miniature. The throttle which had a movement of about three inches that took in the entire power range from a complete standstill to full power forward or reverse according to the position of the valve motion and there were two little pressure gauges, one for the air pressure and the steam gauge that indicated at that time four hundred and fifty pounds of reserve energy ready to go at the touch of the throttle. But the first thing I had noticed was that good old steam engine smell that I could never get enough of. The owner came from the store, got in, and with a slight touch of the throttle this car began to move gently without effort while making a U turn then quickly picking up speed was soon out of sight.
While making the turn in the road the steam from the exhaust had floated by me and it's smell reminded me again of the locomotive I loved to ride on, as also did its simple control and its easy manner of behavior, although at that time I couldn't imagine a performance any different then that. This was power that was correctly controlled.