Mechanical Dragon

By Staff
article image
Denis McCormack
Courtesy of Denis McCormack, 404 W. Timonium Road, Timonium, Baltimore Co., Md. 21093

Federalsburg, Md., Jan. 31–About five years ago, Arthur B.
Rosser, a self-taught mechanical wizard of 73, started to put
together a small steam engine as a plaything for his teen-age

The grandson grew up and got married, but the plaything kept on

Now it has developed into a 20-ton, 100-engined contraption that
is designed to do nothing at all except delight the eye of the

‘There’s nothing else like it on the face of the
earth,’ Mr. Rosser said and added ruefully: ‘Nobody else
would be fool enough to do it.’

Those of us who live in the immediate Baltimore Area were
intrigued of course to see in the Sun paper Mr. Arthur Rooser’s
aggregation of early steam and gas engines assembled on his mighty

I think it is of such interest to engine fanciers that I am
prepared to pay the Baltimore Sun their fee of $22.50 so that it
may be reproduced with a copy of the Sun’s descriptive

38-Foot Trailer

His mechanical wonder has no name and fits no category.
Basically, it is a 38-foot, flatbed trailer on which Mr. Rosser has
mounted eight large steam engines and 92 old gasoline engines in

At one end of the trailer is a massive boiler with a smoke stack
like that of an old-time fire engine.

The boiler can power all eight steam engines at once. When they
get going, plus a few of the gasoline engines, the sight and
sounds–whirling wheels, rumbling gears, hissing steam and throaty,
three-toned whistle toots–are a delight to any lover, young or
old, of things mechanical.

‘It’s not supposed to do nothing except sit there and
run,’ Mr. Rosser said. ‘No, sir, not an engine on it is
designed to do a thing.’ But it’s a beautiful sight to see
when it’s going. Children like to pull the whistle

Mr. Rosser places no value on his do-nothing contraption.
‘In the eyes of society it’s just junk.’ As for
himself, thinking back on the labor and money that went into it, he
said; ‘I hope I never know what I got in it.’

Junk it may be, but on the few occasions when he has put it on
public display in full operation, the contraption has proved quite
a crowd puller. In previous years, when it had fewer engines, he
has shown it at the annual Christmas parade in Federalsburg and, in
the summer, at the annual show of antique farm equipment on the
nearby farm of James L. Layton.

On these occasions, the multi-engine. Marvel gained such renown
that Mr. Rosser said he received invitations to display it at fairs
and firemen’s parades in several surrounding towns.

But he had to turn down the offers because the thing has gotten
so large and unwieldy that it takes a truck tractor to pull it.

Has No Springs

‘The trailer has no springs. You can’t haul it over 10
miles an hour. And I have to get a title or registration for it. T
don’t know what kind. I’m hoping it’ll come under an
‘antique title.’ Not an engine on it is under 40 years

Most of the time it stands, massive and silent, in the stable
where he built it near his home here.

This past year Mr. Rosser didn’t even bring it out for the
Christmas parade in Federalsburg. Instead, he built and displayed a
smaller version–one steam engine and one gasoline engine on a
9-foot trailer with one whistle.

‘It’s very cute,’ Mr. Rosser said, ‘but it’s
nothing like the big one.’

Started In 1962

He began work on his contraption in 1962 with the simple idea of
assembling one steam engine for his grandson, T. Thomas Rosser.

After he got that first engine together, he needed a boiler, and
when he got the boiler he figured it was big enough to run more
engines, so he conceived the idea of mounting them on a

By that time, ‘I was working on it seven days a week and
nights, too.’

In the first year, he built the trailer and mounted 25 engines
on it and displayed it for the first time in 1963.

Added Levels

After that he slowed down some but continued to add engines
every year. ‘I traveled all over the Shore to find

As the trailer got crowded, he hit on the idea of adding levels.
He now has three tiers of gasoline engines on it. The eight large
steam engines are clustered around the boiler.

Towards the end, he set a goal for himself–100 engines. He felt
he had to get that many on the trailer. Last summer he added the
100th and now considers it finished.

Now that he has finished it, he seems both proud of it and mad
at it. ‘I wouldn’t do it again. I could spend my time doing
something better.’

But after reflecting he will say, ‘It’s a work of the
imagination. A beautiful sight when it’s going.’

Besides, there is nothing else like it on the face of the

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