Al Carpenter

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Retired Railroad Foreman Built 150-Pound Engine

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Sunday, October 3, 1965

by Reed Hinman

South Fort Mitchell, KY

A.H. Carpenter, retired railroad man, built this scale model steam engine in his basement in South Fort Mitchell, KY. Carpenter says the engine runs on live steam and should be able to pull a 1000-pound load.

Despite his retirement eight years ago, A.H. (Al) Carpenter has stayed close to the railroads he loves.

Proof of this is resting on a bench in the basement of his home in the form of a scale model railroad engine.

Carpenter becomes ecstatic when describing for visitors the fine points of the handsome, black and silver machine that took 1-1/2 years and about 1500 man-hours to complete.

Starting with blueprints furnished him by a California company, Carpenter relied on his skill and knowledge, accumulated through 40 years as a foreman for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, to construct the model.

"It's a switch engine and tender which operates on live steam." Carpenter explained, "The kind I worked with back in 1917 when I started at the old L&N roundhouse at Decoursey."

A six-stall roundhouse then, Decoursey had expanded to 26 by the time he retired in 1957. A short time later the diesel-electric engines became popular. Carpenter recalled, and the era of the steam engine ended.

Soon after Carpenter started building his link with the past, he realized it would be a larger project than he had anticipated.

"The frames I got from the company didn't match the blueprints," he said, "and the materials were very unfinished. It meant a lot of metal work on my part."

Another problem Carpenter related, was the difficulty he had in locating parts for the engine, Pipes, valves, drills, nuts and bolts were especially hard to find because of their smallness.

"I chased all over Covington and Cincinnati before I found some small nuts and bolts," he said, displaying a tiny piece of metal between his fingers.

Operating on the same principles as the giant steam-driven locomotives of yesteryear, Carpenter's engine has a boiler that develops 100 to 125 pounds of pressure from water heated by wood or coal.

At 57 inches in length and weighing about 150 pounds, the engine theoretically could pull a load of 1000 pounds.

Carpenter has fired up the boiler several times in his basement, but hasn't as yet laid enough of the 4-3/4 inch-width track to give No. 1208 a real test run.

Among the more interesting features Carpenter has incorporated in his engine are safety valves on the boiler, a steam gauge, doors and sliding windows on the cab and automatic couplers.

Carpenter hopes that some day he can display No. 1208, perhaps in connection with the upcoming Covington Sesquicentennial.

He also plans to let the engine chug up and down a track in his yard - "to entertain the neighborhood kids" - and then retire it to a spot among his mementos of the past.