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Oh, You Have The Madness!!

Author Photo
By Gary D. Hutchinson | Sep 1, 2001

4252 Dunstan Court Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083-2448

I had fretted about making the telephone call for over a day
now. Having subscribed to Model Engineer, an English publication,
for nearly 30 years, from time to time an interesting advertisement
would catch my attention but the logistics of making such a
long-distance purchase had always cooled my fever. But this fellow
had written a masterpiece: ‘Hand plane by Munro of London,
table 8 x 24, about 1870, typical Victorian machine, massive and
accurate ?150.’ The words just kept burning into my mind.
Forget that the magazine had circulated in England weeks before I
received my copy. Never mind the logistics of such a purchase. I
had an urgent need to talk to someone about this fascinating
machine. Finally, I could stand it no longer and checked about
making an international telephone call. I also consulted a
timetable to determine how much our times differed so as not to
call at an inconvenient time. Five hours difference. So an early
evening time of 8:00 p.m. in England would be 3:00 p.m. here in
Georgia. Gosh, doesn’t time pass slowly when you are waiting
for something important?

Finally, the appointed time arrived and I anxiously dialed the
number. A male voice at the other end answered with a pleasant
‘hello’ and I introduced myself and explained the nature of
my call. ‘You must be far away’ the fellow responded.
‘The plane was sold many days ago. Went to a fellow who had a
Munro lathe of similar vintage. Could have sold four of them!’
So it had gone to another enthusiast rather than a merchant. That
seemed to end the matter. But wait! I still had a pent-up need to
talk to someone about this machine. Fearing that he was about to
hang up and rushing to keep the conversation going; I hastily
explained in one breath that I was from the States, that I ran a
small machine shop as a retirement project, and I had been seeking
such a machine for a long time. In response, the fellow said he
recognized my mid-western accent, that he too ran a machine shop,
and mentioned he knew of another hand plane of different make,
similar but smaller. I noted it was the machine, not the make,
which was important to me, that my wife and I exhibit antique
equipment and flywheel engines at old-time festivals. Further, that
I had acquired a number of hand-powered machine tools which predate
engines and hoped to assemble a working machine shop exhibit with
these items, as few people have any knowledge of this era of
machine work. ‘Oh, you have the madness!!’ was the
surprising response from the opposite end of the line. Now when you
have a yard full of old equipment, old cars, tractors, flywheel
engines, and a 22,000 pound 90 HP hit and miss engine as a front
yard centerpiece, you get a bit sensitive to any talk about
‘madness,’ especially if it comes from the wife, neighbors,
or god-forbid neighbors’ attorneys! However, instantly I knew
that I had not only communicated with the fellow on the telephone
but that he had a similar old iron affliction! ‘Yes, I also
have a couple of open crank engines here. Give me your address and
phone number. I will see if I can send a photograph or two of some
hand-operated equipment that might be of interest to you,’ my
new-found acquaintance continued. He went on to say that his
brother lived in New York and gave me a New York lead for the type
of equipment I was seeking. During the course of our conversation I
was able to tell about my great-grandparents’ move from
Nottingham, England, to Canada and thence to the States, before we
closed with warm goodbyes.

What a refreshing telephone conversation! Making a blind
telephone call and finding a fellow of like interest an ocean away;
getting some leads on the treasures we seek. Yes, Mr. Beaver, some
would say I have an advanced case of the ‘madness,’ as do a
good many others I know. Isn’t this old iron collecting hobby
great?!

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines