Steam Car Run

Last summer, Keith and I had the amazing opportunity to watch history repeat itself.  Two British brothers purchased the original, authenticated steam car which made the first  arduous automobile run from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon in 1902.  So, of course, being Brits, they had to prove they could do it again.  Keith and I were part of the crew along for the ride.  Here’s what it was like.



Whirrr, whirr, whirr. I will miss the sound of that high frequency cycle, meaning that we’re near the steam car, and all is right with the world. What an experience! History is fun. Chris with his arms in the air, waving his bowler hat as the car whisks down the road. Amazing how fast it can go right out of the gate – no chugging or hesitation, just off it goes. I can really appreciate life at 10 mph – one can look at the amazing scenery, admire the wildflowers, gaze at the storm clouds surrounding the San Francisco Peaks, chat with a herd of cows, or read a map while going 10 mph. The constant stopping was a little wearing, was it really 15 minutes every mile? Or did it just seem like that? No, they were stopping to change a tire, adjust the steam valve, add water, add gas, check the flame, or pump up the tires with a bicycle pump, because, after all, this steam car had been produced by the American Bicycle Company. Or, perhaps the Howell brothers needed a cup of tea, or perhaps, to get rid of a cup of tea. All the expressions we’ve used over the years finally make sense – full of steam, all steamed up, under their own steam (as opposed to – need a tow) full head of steam, letting off steam, etc. And to be with them as they finally, after quite an arduous journey, whipped the Toledo right out to Grandview Point, startling sunset watching tourists, and the brothers caught their first ever, hard-earned glimpse of the Grand Canyon – ah! No one can describe what that meant to Nick & Chris Howell. Or, to those of us who had followed that contraption over rough, muddy roads, happy to share the experience, delighted to catch a glimpse of history as the car rounded a bend or took on a hill, sounds of a distinctly British “Tally HO” drifting back to us, grinning, waiting to see them at the next stop. Those unflappable Brits with their 1902 Toledo steam car, the exact one which had made the first run from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon.


Nancy Rivest Green

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Designed and built by Timper Arts, LLC