The Block Island Times

Stanley Steamcar parade to puff its way onto the island

By Lars Trodson | Jun 24, 2013
Pictured: Event organizer Ralph Dykstra’s 1917 Stanley Steamcar.

You might see a rise in the humidity on Block Island on Tuesday, June 25.

The Annual Eastern Invitational Steam Car Tour is coming out here for the day, which will bring a collection of rare Stanley Steamcars that were manufactured in the early part of the 20th century. A total of 14 steamcars will be on the island, according to one of the tour organizers, Ralph Dykstra; 13 Stanleys and one manufactured by a company called White.

A steamcar is just what it sounds like, said Dykstra. Dykstra owns a 1917 Stanley model 725, which is one of the “condensing models” — in other words, it produces less steam than a non-condensing engine. The non-condensing cars had “what the old-timers used to say was a ‘show of steam’ — it’s all fog as it goes by,” said Dykstra.

In the condensing cars the steam is literally condensed and re-used, he said.

Dykstra estimated that about 350 of the Stanley Steamers are still running, out of about 11,000 original cars. Production stopped in 1923, according to Dykstra. The models that will be in this year’s tour were built between 1903 and 1923.

The reason the group chose Block Island is that Dykstra, who lives in Madison, Conn., has been visiting here since the 1970s.

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