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My parents, Emil Herman Forsyth and Marie
Margaret Steinecke, were married in Pittsburgh, December 1921
after Dad's four-year hitch in the U.S. Navy.
They started housekeeping at a second-floor
apartment at 512 7th Street in Ellwood City, PA. Dad's first permanent
job was at the Koppel Car Works before taking a job at the Ellwood
City Forge where he remained for 43 years.
Early in their marriage, Dad bought two
lots in Franklin Township southeast of Ellwood known as the Knox
Plan. It is nice level land with well divided streets and had
at that time several new homes. The Harmony Short Line Trolley
Company had a stop there known as "Knox Stop". The ink
was hardly dry on our deed when the trolley company went belly
up. Today more homes exist; a lot of space exists as well.
Dad and Mother built a garage on their new
property. I estimate it was about 15' x 35', wooden structured,
with workbenches, pot-bellied stove, a well, hand pump, toilet,
and cesspool, no electric or gas. All this was located at the
corner of Stiefel Ave. and Franklin St. Dad kept this place until
1944; he maintained the property as an auto repair shop, nursed
a large garden and a small vineyard. Dad operated his hobby on
a spare-time basis. The garage soon became a gathering place.
These were the days of the "Great Depression" causing
widespread unemployment and bank failures. Not all of our guests
were working. Some were partially employed. I remember several
tube mill people saying things like "I got one day in this
pay." Almost everyone had a small garden in which they worked.
Some who didn't have room at home for a garden made rock terraces
on the banks of the Connequenessing Creek. Even today one can
still see the evidence of these endeavors. The tube mill supplied
truck transportation to an abandoned airport for their hard-put
employees in order that gardens could be attended to. That area
today is known as Shady Rest.
A regular visitor at the garage gathering
was a neighbor, Lawrence C. Young, known as "Pete."
He was a tube mill employee and as a sideline he delivered coal.
Pete drove a Chrysler automobile. More about Pete later.
When I was a child my father often took me to the Knox hideaway. Dad slept only a couple hours in the morning and our trips usually took place after lunch. Normally we drove in our 1926 Buick "Doctor's Coupe." Sometimes we walked from our rented home in the 7th Street area - a distance of three miles. We walked north to Crescent Avenue, turned east to 6th Street, then north where we stopped at Little & Barnhart's Auto Parts Store. There we greeted Mr. Barnhart - to this day I still wonder who Mr. Little was and where he kept himself.
Loaded down with boxes of valves, piston
rings, and brake lining we continued northward past the Central
High School. When we reached the railroad tracks, we turned east
again past the Union Station that was a ticket office for both
the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Railway
systems. Soon on our left we saw the tube mill, Ellwood City's
These days, I sometimes reflect on the sounds
heard during days past-the tube mill's clanking and banging, the
heavy earth shaking thumping of the hammers and presses of the
Forge, the ring of the blacksmith's anvil on Factory Avenue. Most
factories had whistles to signal the beginning and end of each
turn and to summon all sorts of assistance regarding fire and
injury, loss of furnace heat, and power loss. During normal times
the tube mill was on a three-turn schedule. The mill hands worked
a five day week and alternated turns: 7 AM to 3 PM, 3 PM to 11
PM, and 11 PM to 7 AM. When the eleven o'clock whistle blew, most
Ellwood children knew they had better be in bed. In the early
summer evenings, Mr. Barsoti, the candy store proprietor, hitched
his horse to a wagon; and blowing a conch shell to attract children,
drove through Ellwood dispensing ice cream cones, sounds and fond
As the trek progressed and we passed the
127 acres of the tube mill with its 18 miles of railroad track,
the steam driven coal fired railway locomotives chugged and blew
aggressive whistles to join the melody.
Next came the B & 0 Railway Tunnel;
it was a fearful place for little boys-cold--dark--damp-malodorous--also
with suspected troglodytes. I expected a train would come upon
us. We walked the ties. Normally the ties are about 18" apart
giving one the choice on making an 18" or 36" step.
When we finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel we
immediately met the railway bridge over the Connequenessing Creek.
Overcoming this structure was an even more terrifying experience.
The structure was poorly maintained; the walkway had rotten and
missing boards. Dad decreed that for safety sake we stay on the
ties (also in poor condition). The spaces between them allowed
a view of the angry, green, swift waters of the creek 150 feet
below. This space, one imagined, was large enough to fall through.
The far end of the bridge passed over the River Road that ran
from Wurtemburg to Frisco. We then left the tracks that led to
the Pittsburgh Station at Water and Smithfield Streets, now long
After a short walk east on River Road, Dad
and I turned right on Stiefel Avenue and then at Franklin Street
we reached the comfort of the garage.
These journeys to the Knox Plan were a treat for me. We didn't see enough of Dad while growing up. He worked seven nights a week, thirteen hours a night; vacations in the early days were rare, and I don't remember him taking a sick day off. As I grow older I have learned to increasingly appreciate my mother and dad.
Not long after our arrival at the shop,
Dad's friends and neighbors gathered. Some visitors arrived barefoot
from their gardens on summer days, thus "saving shoe leather."
Dad was always busy, grinding valves, scraping carbon, installing
spark plugs, and riveting brake bands in the autos of his customers.
I'm sure he did much gratis work.
The discussions at these occasions included the merits of various autos, prohibition, and "hard times."
Pete Young had an idea, he dreamed of a
perpetual motion machine. He and Dad started fabrication plans.
Pete's thinking was to combine an electric motor with a generator
on the same shaft. Once the flywheel was started, the generator
supplied power to the motor and the motor supplied rotation to
the generator. It should run forever! Coils were bolted to both
sides of the bronze flywheel. Model T magnets were bolted in stationary
position. The flywheel was cast at the Ellwood City Foundry located
on Factory Avenue, between 8th and 9th Streets, about where the
Allied Auto Accessories Store is now located. Dad made the pattern
and we took it to Mr. Burrows and Mr. Anderson at George Hemmerly's
Foundry and the flywheel was cast. These three men were typical
foundry men; they labored in dark, smoky, sandy buildings, breathing
in coal smoke and all sorts of foundry fumes. They were gaunt
men with sunken eyes who spoke in in such a manner that one thought
their lungs were made of paper bags. Dad machined and balanced
the parts. After assembly Pete made the remark, "Emil, we
will go to the moon with this."
After trials, experiments, and alterations,
the machine didn't operate as expected, the program was abandoned,
and I for one almost forgot about it. Pete died October 1974.
Shirley Lash, Pete's niece, while visiting Pete's widow some years
later associated me with the machine and Aunt Sylvia offered me
the machine which I gladly accepted. Shirley Lash and I worked
at the same office in Ellwood for over 20 years. She reflected
that her father took her on the same trip through the terrible
tunnel and across the rickety bridge, a generation after my experiences.
Shirley said some papers existed, correspondence with General Electric and the like, long gone now. I had some photos taken, then dismantled the machine, saving the hand-wound coils, the T Ford magnets and the flywheel.
Many years have now passed. This summer here in Enon Valley (2004) where Elsie and I now live, we were visited by my niece Mary Beth (Forsyth) Wischer from Wisconsin. One of her sons, Blake, a high school student, expressed an interest in his great grandfather's endeavors. I gave Blake a present, and the old brass flywheel had a new home.
Dad and Mom sold the garage in 1944 to the
newly married son of one of his old Knox buddies and the newlyweds
converted the old structure into a home.
After World War II a significant amount
of interest among automakers and businessmen grew in regard to
the development of a gas turbine auto. The Chrysler Motor Car
Company received a grant from the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics
for the purpose of developing a gas-turbine engine, the outgrowth
of which would be a gas-turbine aircraft motor. Chrysler built
several types of these engines and installed them in standard
cars for tests with various degrees of success. High operating
temperatures were a problem. A turbine engine lends itself best
at constant speeds as in a ship, aircraft, or stationary installation.
The turbine auto, as then built, did not lend itself to the rapid
acceleration requirements that auto drivers were accustomed to
when driving a piston engine.
The turbine rotary device has been around
for a long time. Greece, during the first century AD, developed
a steam driven rotary device. Ancient Persian documents tell of
vertical windmills. One of the first recorded automobiles was
built in 1678 by Father Ferdinand Verbiest, a Belgian Jesuit priest-missionary
to China-and employed by the Emperor as inventor and astronomer.
The auto was a coal fired, steam geared turbine. It was about
the size of a baby buggy. I wonder how many Chinamen could get
The Chrysler people were probably the first
to experiment with the gas turbine auto engine. General Motors
fielded a Firebird II. Chrysler put an engine in a standard Plymouth
in 1954. Later they drove a car cross-country. A movie titled
"The Lively Set" came out about the same time featuring
a gas turbine Chrysler outperforming everything else on the road;
public interest increased.
In 1963, Chrysler had fifty test cars built;
the bodies were styled like the Ford Thunderbird. These cars were
loaned to selected people, chosen from over thirty thousand applicants,
who drove the cars three months each as "Customer Representatives"
from 1963 to 1966.
Pete Young was one of the chosen ones as
noted in the Ellwood City Ledger, 26 February 1964 and the New
Castle News, 28 February 1964. Later, on a warm spring late afternoon
Pete and Dad stopped off at my home in Ellwood City and I climbed
in for a ride in the car of the future. This automobile, two-door,
four passenger, was beautifully styled and bronze in color. The
engine ran quietly, free of vibration, reflecting the few moving
parts in the engine as opposed to the piston driven engine. I
confirmed what I had already read: the car noticeably lagged at
getting up speed, especially in traffic. Pete told me he was getting
twenty miles per gallon using diesel fuel and it would run on
gasoline and also kerosene. I read a couple of these cars found
their way overseas. The French used Channel #5 perfume as a fuel
and the South Africans fired up their vehicle on cognac!
My sister, Lois Wallace, recently sent me some data from the Internet regarding the gas turbine.
The New Castle, Pa. Public Library has several
Chrysler related books.
Dad died in 1984, outliving Pete by ten years. They both, however, lived to see Neil Armstrong get to the moon without them.
The gas-turbine car didn't make it commercially.
The government funding had stopped, new government emission regulations
arrived, and fuel shortages all could have been negative factors.
Because of high import tariffs, the bronze
beauties were scrapped. Today, only five remain-two with Chrysler
and three in museums.
I passed the site of Dad's garage a few
months ago and found an empty lot.
These days Chrysler (now Chrysler-Daimler) and others are working on a hydrogen fuel-cell electric driven cars, hybrid cars, and bio-fuels.