STEAM PROPHECY

Clarence Marshall passed away in 1969. Shortly after his passing, Clarence’s son, Thomas C. Marshall Jr., decided to open the three-generation Auburn Heights property once again for the public to enjoy on weekends during the summer months. While the property had been open to the public in the early 1960s to raise money for another venture both Clarence and Tom supported, the Wilmington & Western Railroad, this time the offerings would be greatly expanded. The Magic Age of Steam operated from 1971 through 1977. As part of the promotional materials prepared for announcing the reopening while major renovations occurred to the property prior to the 1971 grand opening, Tom wrote about the concept behind The Magic Age of Steam. In that document was a hope that has turned out to be prophetic in the 21st century. What was Tom’s prophetic hope?

Answer
While we always attempt to include photos with our questions and answers, for this issue we direct our readers to the link below. The link below takes you to the Marshall Steam Museum pages maintained by the Friends of Auburn Heights on CatalogIt that are devoted to the Magic Age of Steam. There you will find many documents and photos detailing the activities one could pursue when visiting The Magic Age of Steam at Auburn Heights. Many of those activities still occur in the 21st century during monthly Steamin’ Days.

LINK to MUSEUM ARCHIVES on CATALOGIT

As mentioned in the Question, Tom wrote a document describing the concept behind the Magic Age of Steam shortly after his father passed away. In italics is highlighted the answer to this month’s question.

Probably in late summer of 1971, the collections of the late T. Clarence Marshall (1885-1969), including the largest exhibit of steam-powered automobiles in the world, an imposing display of miniature stationary steam engines and tiny railroad locomotives, and the 7½”-gauge coal-burning Auburn Valley Railroad, all located on the grounds of his home on Route 82 at Yorklyn, Delaware, will be opened to the public as “The Magic Age of Steam.” It is hoped that this facility will take its place among northern Delaware’s fine tourist attractions, and in addition to providing a history of steam during its heyday in America, will also provide good wholesome fun for all ages.

Visitors to the grounds prior to public opening must understand that several construction projects are underway with the necessary disarray. Around the lawn, a second “main line’ of the Auburn Valley Railroad is-being constructed, which will offer a tunnel, a second trestle, a bridge over a stream (possibly covered), and the only double-tracked main of a 7½”-gauge commercial railroad anywhere. Also, a pond is being built, which will not only have a miniature railroad around it, but tiny boats powered by steam for youngsters to ride in. And of course, a giant steam pump will pump the water into the pond. New driveways providing better traffic patterns for steam vehicles like Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagons, which will be used on special occasions, will also be constructed on the premises. In the Museum building, most of the exhibits will be operating by steam. These will include not only small stationary engines and locomotives, but a popcorn machine, and a partially cut-away Stanley car. A simulated ride on a real steam train will be offered when the weather is against outdoor activities. It is now expected that all facilities, indoor and outdoor, will operate Saturdays and Sundays, April through October, with the Museum being open to groups on a reservation basis on week-days and during the winter months.

For definition purposes, we consider the Age of Steam in America from the end of the Civil War until the early 1920’s. T. Clarence Marshall was born into and grew up in the Age of Stearn, and he loved it dearly. As a young lad, he worked on the boilers and the Corliss steam engines in his father’s paper mill, and at the age of 19 built his first steam automobile. From 1910 until 1920 he was the agent for Stanley Stearn Cars in Delaware and Chester County, Pennsylvania. He traveled to the Stanley factory in Newton, Mass. several times, and met the Stanley twins. After 20 years away from steam cars (1920-1940), he bought back a 1913 Stanley Model 76 Touring steamer he had sold when new, and thus, just prior to World War II, Mr. Marshall started the collection which is to become the “Magic Age of Stearn”. The Museum building was built in 1947, the largest open floor structure in Delaware at time of construction, was soon was full of antique automobiles, most of them steamers, In addition to restoring some 20 steam cars, Mr. Marshall turned to the construction of small live-steam locomotives. In 1960 the original line of the Auburn Valley Railroad was built, and this facility was opened to the public on limited days from 1961 through 1965, as an activity of Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc. to restore steam engines and coaches for operating on the Red Clay Valley Line, now known as the Wilmington & Western Railroad.

Thomas C. Marshall, Jr., who from childhood shared his father’s interest in everything powered by steam, was president of the “Magic Age of Steam”, and Weldin V. Stumpf was mechanical director. Further information may be had by calling Area Code 302-239-2385, or writing The Magic Age of Steam (Marshall Steam Museum), PO Box 61, Yorklyn, DE 19736.

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