Akron Boston Express

Those First Pneumatic Days Recalled

Parade Wagon

Courtesy of Elmer Klein, R.R., Lacon, Illinois 61540.

Elmer Klein

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Beacon Journal Staff Writer

We thank the Akron Beacon Journal of Akron, Ohio for permission to reprint this story. This was in their paper Wednesday, July 18, 1973. It was sent to us by Arthur Crafts, 321 N. Firestone Building, Akron, Ohio 44301.

In our July-August G.E.M. centerfold, we had a picture of this truck going through a bridge many years ago. Like Arthur says after seeing the newspaper and the magazine - this comes under the heading of 'Small World'. We thought you all would enjoy this article. - Anna Mae

Is nothing new?

In April 1917, people were talking about a possible meat shortage, an energy crisis, registration for the draft . . .

And now the 'Akron-Boston Express' is back on the road, too.

It's been 56 years.

While World War I raged in Europe but the U.S. was still 'neutral,' Goodyear announced it would build pneumatic (air filled) truck tires and establish a truck line to demonstrate their practicability.

At that time, 1916, all 'boots' for trucks were solid rubber and only the strongest bodies -- whether man's or truck's -- could take their jolts for long.

The timing of the announcement couldn't have been better -- militarily.

In the same month that America entered the war on the side of the Allies, Goodyear had the first long distance truck line all put together.

In one respect, the 'Akron-Boston Express' was something like the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad.

The railroad mentioned entered none of the towns in its corporate name and the truck line actually operated over the 750 miles or so between Akron and Killingly, Conn.

From the Goodyear plant in East Akron, the lone hauler, a 1915 model Packard (4 cylinder) transported tires to Killingly and brought back cotton fabric, used in making more tires.

The 'Express' (its name seemed a mistake at first) traveled over the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) and the Boston Post Road (U.S. 1).

When it set out from Akron on April 9 for the first time, the truck was accompanied by two passenger cars. It carried a supply of gasoline and really should have packed a new engine.

As an indication of the rigors of that first air-cushioned ride:

The Packard became mired in a truck-sized mudhole at Edinburg, only 25 miles out. Its crew spent the night in a farmhouse.

New escort cars had to be purchased in Pittsburgh. The originals were shot, figuratively speaking.

At Jeannette, Pa. the truck's engine joined the Wright Bros. airplane engine in the far Valhalla for pioneers. Five days were required to get and install a new one.

On April 17 -- eight days after leaving Akron -- the driver called Goodyear to send more tires.

At Pomeroy, Pa., the truck fell through a bridge.

On April 27, the weary crewmen entered Boston, There the engine was rebuilt during a wait for more tires to come from Akron.

Then on to Killingly and cotton.

The 'non-stop' trip (as originally envisioned because the truck had a sleeper cab) required almost 24 days.

By a 'can you tie this?' contrast -- the return trip required only 5 days!

Before the end of 1917, the company's trucks were making the round trip to the cotton fabric plant in a week.

By the end of the war and the crisis in rail transportation (another new?), Goodyear was out of the truck-line business. But it had proved a point.

And the point seems to be that big over-the-road trucks can make the run from Akron to the Boston area in two days now and their tires, with retreading, can deliver up to 175,000 miles.

The rebirth of the Express on Thursday is part of the company's 75th anniversary party.

The owner of a 1915 Packard truck, David T. Myers, 62, of Holt, Mich. and his son, Peter, 31, will try to reproduce as closely as possible the original haul.

(But where will they find a bridge to fall through?)

There will be one-day stops in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and shorter ones in other cities for ceremonial greetings by officials and even antique car and truck buffs.

(On the original trip the crowds in Independence Square and Times Square just kicked the tires.)

The Myerses will follow as best they can the old route but some sections of it have long since disappeared -- along with the truck-sized mudholes.

In fact, the crew of the reborn Akron-Boston Express will be hard put to find any ooze unless, in driving by a corner cafe, they will overhear an old-time cry:

'Here's mud in your eye!'

Home made Parade Wagon, built the winter of 1970 on 3/4 ton Chevrolet truck chassis. The engine is a 1920 International 10 HP Type M with ignitor and low tension accelerator magneto. The engine weighs 2200 lbs., flywheels are 40' across.

Top picture - Oat bundles were hauled at the 2nd Annual Carolina Crank-Up with these two trucks - 1919 Kissel and 1929 Graham Brothers. Lower photo shows the threshing of oats at the same show. The threshing machine is a McCormick-Deering.

This is a 1918, 30x60 Aultman-Taylor, threshing. My Dad, Howard Jurney, at the controls. To the left, my Grandfather (W. H. Jurney) can be seen driving around in his Reo touring car. Picture taken in 1920s.

On trailer is a Novo 3 HP, Monitor 1-1/4 HP, Rock Island 2 HP, John Deere 1-1/2 HP, 1 HC 1-1/2 HP, 3 type of Maytags, 1 Briggs air-cooled, overhead value, chain starter. Also small feed grinder belted to John Deere, which has large whistle.

When attending my first steam engine show, back in 1961 or 1962, I saw one old time water-cooled engine. It was there I got the fever to own one. It took a long time to get the first one. After that I found others I wanted and to date, I have 14 water-cooled, running and painted. Also 9 small air-cooled, restored and painted, all start and run right. My only regret is the fact I sold two.

Enclosed a picture of engines at Platte City Show, Platte City, Missouri, last August. I have shown different engines for 4 years.

Other engines not shown are: Fairbanks-Morse that runs on bottle gas, Mod Z-1-1/2 HP, 1 Galloway 2-1/4 HP, 1 Whittle 2 HP, 4 IHC 1-1/2 HP, 1 Hired Hand 2-1/4 HP.

Also have spark plug collection over 300. My engines were found in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. It has been a real pleasure to make a frozen up hunk of iron run again. Most all of mine were frozen and junk to start with. The best part of engine shows are that you meet the finest people on earth.