Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stanley Still Steaming

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- Links are in blue -
One of the local landmarks here in Estes Park is the old Stanley Hotel, a sprawling white wooden structure that originally hosted well-off travelers to the Rocky Mountains and now is a choice place for weddings.
In 1903, F. O. Stanley came to Estes Park for his health. He suffered from tuberculosis and came West at his doctor's suggestion. The doctor arranged for the couple to stay in a cabin in Estes Park for the summer, and immediately they fell in love with the area and quickly Stanley's health began to dramatically improve. Impressed by the beauty of our valley and grateful for the improvement in his health, he decided to invest his money and his future here. In 1909, he opened the elegant Stanley Hotel, a classic hostelry exemplifying the golden age of touring.

Lacking familiarity with Estes Park however, you would more likely associate the name Stanley with the steam powered automobile built by the Stanley brothers, the "Stanley Steamer," (or perhaps the locally owned carpet cleaning business.)

In addition to 2 and 4 passenger cars, the Stanley brothers designed and built the Stanley Mountain Wagon to bring their well-heeled guest from the train depot in Loveland up the Big Thompson canyon to Estes Park. The tremendous torque generated by the steam engines made the 3,000 ft climb over winding roads with 12 passengers possible.
Though the steamer gave way to the internal combustion engine in the 20's, there are many that have been restored and still travel the roadways. There is an international Steam Car Club (Link.)
As part of the centennial celebration of the hotel (link), a number of Stanley Steamers made their way to Estes for a Rally this year, and we ran into a number of them around town this week. I grabbed a few photos with my cell phone camera. (I had to clean some of these up with photoshop; the cell phone lens was dirty, and the original pictures were quite hazy with no contrast.)
This man and his son are from near Des Moines. He commented that their club is not about owning a Steamer, but about driving one.

It seems that when driving a steam powered automobile, it is really a two-person job

The power is from kerosene, but the car is really a water hog, and needs frequent refilling.

Occasional repairs are needed . . . some mechanical talent is advised before heading out of town. You don't just jump in the car and start the engine and take off of course. It takes several minutes to pump up the pressure for the kerosene feeder, fire up the boiler, and wait for enough pressure to start the journey.

I have seen people deeply involved in hobbies that held no interest for me. This looked like a lot of fun however, and is one of those activities that the whole family can participate in. Should you not have $100-300K to buy a restored steamer, you could devote years of your life to restoring one as did the bloke on this wonderful little English video (link.)