1/4-scale Rumely Steam Engine Christmas Surprise

Christmas 1997: A Gift of Love

Steam engine

June Overstreet's 1/4-scale Rumely Steam Engine built by her father James Walter Nipper.

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I would like to share my Christmas of 1997 with you and my reunion with a very special 1/4-scale Rumely steam engine.

There was aura of mystery and suspense surrounding it. My husband, Jimmy Overstreet, was being very cagey. I could tell he was up to something, and he wasn't about to let me in on it, but I knew it was about my coming Christmas present.

Then he began to give me hints that only put me further in the dark. He told me my present was red, black, green and gold. I couldn't imagine what he was talking about. Then he said it would fit into two stockings. I was really stumped.

When Christmas morning finally arrived, he told me to put on something warm for a trip to the basement. On the way he had me pick up a package that was lying on the mantle. He told me it was a book for some heavy reading, 'just what I like to read.' When we got to the door leading from the playroom to the basement, I discovered that he had secured the door with a piece of metal and screws to keep me from going into the basement. There he told me to open the book, which actually turned out to be a plaque. Reading the plaque, I realized what he had gotten for me, and my eyes were blinded with tears. I was crying so hard that I had to be led into the basement. I have never been so surprised in all my life. There before me sat the most beautiful 1/4-scale Rumely steam engine I had ever seen. Around it was a red velvet ribbon that touched the floor. But then, even for a collector of antiquities this was something special.

It all started with an ad in the Georgia Antique Engine Club Newsletter, for a steam engine. The description sounded familiar, so on a hunch, Jim called the member, Mr. Martin E. Baerenwold of Jonesboro, Georgia. Jim learned that the engine was obtained from the estate of Mr. Owen Seitz of Cummings, Georgia. Jim and Mr. Baerenwold talked a number of times and pictures of the engine were mailed to Jim. It seemed that there were letters stamped on the side and below the smoke stack that spelled out 'arrenville? C' and below that were the letters 'ipper.' Seeing the letters in the picture convinced Jim to travel to Jonesboro for a first hand look. He went to see Mr. Baerenwold the Sunday before Christmas and found more identifying markings, a wrench converted into a connecting rod on the piston, and the familiar footrest mounted under the water tank. But there, under a brass band surrounding the boiler that had been added by a second party, were the missing identification letters he had been looking for. The 'S' for South Carolina, and the 'N' that made 'ipper' into Nipper.

My father's name was James Walter Nipper and his address was Warrenville, South Carolina. Utilizing mechanical abilities developed while working with his father and brothers on the Tennessee farm, my father built four steam engines between 1958 and 1974. Two were one cylinder engines, and two were two cylinder engines. The one Jim found was #2, the second one that my father built. When I was growing up we were often in parades riding on Dad's steam engines. After Dad passed away in 1984, holidays were never quite the same.

Now, my favorite man and I can really have a time at the engine shows and parades. Jim was right. I will never forget this Christmas, and I will never forget the love that he has shown me in the gift that took so much time and trouble to find.

To the best man in my life, love forever, June.