Valley Of Hope -- Chapter Twelve

2008-7-30 04:36:00

Valley Of Hope

by Ted Dewey

Chapter Twelve

For about an hour, the wind howled around the old house. Brilliant streaks of lightning lit up the sky, followed by violent claps of thunder. Then the rain came pouring down.

"Looks like the monsoon season is coming early." Henry muttered. "Doesn't usually get here until about the first of July."

Then as suddenly as it had started, it was all over. The sun came peeking out through the clouds.

Henry put on his hat and stepped outside. The little creek that ran by the house was now a churning mass of muddy water. He walked the plank, crossed to the other side and headed up the canyon.

Back when the first white settlers came here gold had been discovered in this area. Dry Creek had produced a small amount.

Always the prospectors were searching for what is called, THE MOTHER LODE; the spot where Mother Nature had pushed a rich vein up through the crust of the earth.

Just above on top of the hill, they had found an out-cropping of quarts. It showed traces of gold and silver.

The men had filed a claim, then began digging a tunnel that would crosscut the vein. After several weeks of hard work and no gold they had given up and moved on.

Several months ago, Henry had cleaned out the entrance to the old mine. He had made a heavy door from rough lumber and hung it in front of the gaping hole. This would be an excellent place to hide his latest invention -- what he hoped would be the car of the future.

After he had completed the three wind machines, he now had plenty of power to run all the machines in his shop as well as his house, and there was still a lot going to waste. Every once in a while he could hear that pop off whistle blow.

This was when he decided to build a car that would run on compressed air.

There were two ways to go. He could build an electric car using storage batteries and an electric motor. There was more than enough air going to waste to run a generator that would keep the batteries charged. No longer would he have to pay big prices for gasoline.

But Henry was not satisfied with this idea. Electric cars had been on the market for years. They had failed to compete with the gasoline jobs. There must be another way.

His mind drifted back to the old steam engine. This device had been invented by a guy named Robert Fulton. He had put the thing in a boat, and steamed up and down the Mississippi river using wood or coal for fuel.

This was the beginning of the end for the sailboat.

Then along come the steam powered locomotive. These giants could pull a hundred loaded box cars at a high speed across the nation in a very short time. There seemed to be no end to their power. Then there was a guy by the name of Stanley. He had invented and produced the famous Stanley Steamer automobile. It would run on anything that would burn. Mostly wood or coal was used, and this rig would outperform any gas powered vehicle.

What had happened to cause these successful giants to fall by the wayside?

The oil companies, of course.

They had found more gas and oil than they had a market for. Service stations sprang up by the thousands, one on most every corner. There is more gas and oil than the world will ever use we were told. Everyone quit burning wood and coal and changed over to oil; even the mighty locomotive!

Henry had made a study of the old steam engine. It was very simple. Also, it was very crude compared to today's standards.

Steam, Henry thought, builds up pressure and fills the boiler with compressed hot air. A tank of cold air would do the same thing and there would be no cooling problem.

So he reasoned that if Stanley could build a car that ran on hot air that would out perform all others, why couldn't he do the same thing by using cold compressed air?

He had gone to the library in town and obtained drawings and pictures of everything he could find pertaining to air power, and there was a lot of them!

Shortly after that he had bought a front wheel drive Japanese compact car that had been wrecked. The body was a mess but the engine and drive train were intact.

The engine was the first thing on the menu. The four-cylinder, four-cycle engine must be changed to a two-cycle. A different set of timing gears and chain would accomplish this. The camshaft must turn the same speed as the crankshaft.

Next was the camshaft. The lobes that raised and lowered the intake valves must be removed. No intake valves would be used.

The next thing was the cylinder head. No combustion chamber on this one. He took his gas torch and ran them full of brass.

Then there was the device that fed the air to the pistons. It would run off a timing belt which was driven by the crankshaft.

This device he made from a hollow shaft with holes bored through it at different angles so at the proper time the holes would line up with those in the housing; thus giving each piston a shot of air as it started its downward movement, and turning it off when it was halfway down.

No need of feeding it all the way, he reasoned. He must use as little air as possible.

Next was the throttle. He copied this from a standard air pressure regulator. The tension put on the spring metered out the amount of air desired.

A lever to control this was added, and he had an engine!

As usual Henry was alone in the shop that day that he gave it the first test. It was quite a thrill when he cracked the throttle and the engine begs to turn.

For a moment he let it idle, giving it time to get well lubricated. Then once more his hand was on the throttle giving it just a little more air. A big smile came to his face. The little engine was spinning like a top and on only ten pounds of air!

He was elated. He had no way of telling just how much power it would develop but he was sure that it would be plenty.

His next step was the body and chassis. It had been a very difficult job working all by himself, but he had stayed right in there. Now after several weeks of hard work, it was almost completed; all but the trim and a few other small items. At least he had it working to where it would run.

There was a smile on Henry's face as he approached the old mine tunnel. He took the key ring from his pocket and unlocked the big padlock. He swung the door open wide and stepped inside.

Henry looked down at the machine in front of him. It was indeed a sight to behold. It had a wheelbase of one hundred and ten inches and an overall length of twelve feet.

The body was what appeared to be an oval pipe. About three foot high and six foot wide. The front end came to almost a point. The top sloped down and the sides were drawn in.

Back about four feet was what looked like the cockpit of an airplane. Two sections of the big pipe had been cut out and in them were the two Mazda bucket seats. A steering wheel and a throttle were barely visible. A small windshield was mounted above the dash. The cockpit and the engine area was small, but it had one big air storage tank, holding enough compressed air to last for a couple of hours.

So far he hadn't gotten around to put a top on it and there were no fenders or lights yet. Then, of course, there was no paint job yet. He glanced down at the instrument panel. It consisted of oil gage, speedometer and air pressure gage. This one read one hundred and twenty pounds. Surely there were no air leaks, he thought.

He slid into the bucket seat behind the wheel and cracked the throttle. The engine came to life. For a few seconds he sat there listening to that low whine. "There's no chance of getting overcome by fumes," he thought as he shut off the motor and climbed out.

There was still a lot to be done before it was finished. Now that money was no problem so it wouldn't take that long.

But for right now he had better get out of the place, pack up a few things and go up to the motel. Oran Thomas might call anytime.

Besides tonight he had a date with Julie.


-- End Of Chapter Twelve --