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View Full Version : Studebaker connection: Friends, Tradition, 43 years



BobPalma
10-01-2011, 06:34 PM
Many SDCers know that The Boilermaker Special "locomotive" is The Official Mascot of Purdue University. Many on the forum further know that the first Boilermaker Special, BMSI, was built on a brand-new 1939 or 1940 Studebaker Champion Chassis donated by Studebaker Corporation. (No one seems to know which model year chassis was actually donated and I am yet to research the matter in The Studebaker National Museum archives.)

Studebaker's donation was shipped downstate to Lafayette where "The Monon Shops" of Indiana's Monon Railroad built an attractive locomotive-looking superstructure for it. The resulting Studebaker-based BMSI was dedicated in 1941:

http://i571.photobucket.com/albums/ss155/BobPalma/bmsone.jpg

BMSI in 1950, on the Studebaker chassis:

http://i571.photobucket.com/albums/ss155/BobPalma/BMSIin1950.jpg

Fooling around on campus with Studebaker-chassied BMSI, circa 1950:

http://i571.photobucket.com/albums/ss155/BobPalma/BMSIatCaryNE.jpg

BMSI dedication. (Dick Quinn: Are either of the two gentlemen on the right from Studebaker? I believe I know the two men on the left as being from Purdue, but do not want to hazard a guess as to their names or titles without knowing for sure.)

http://i571.photobucket.com/albums/ss155/BobPalma/BMSIdedication-1.jpg

In any case, the Studebaker Champion chassis proved too light for the endeavor and was pretty well worn by 1952. Sometime around 1952, the superstructure was placed on an International Harvester truck chassis. International Harvester / Navistar chassis have been underneath all subsequent Boilermaker Specials except BMS III, which was built on a GMC truck chassis and [under]powered by the GMC truck V6 of the early 1960s.

The superstructure has been replaced several times with larger units as the mascot has been enlarged through the years.

This may be either BMSI on the Studebaker chassis, or BMSII on the post-1952 International Harvester truck chassis. The superstructure was the same, so unless a photo is dated, you can't tell which is which. This photo from The Reamer Club archives is undated:

http://i571.photobucket.com/albums/ss155/BobPalma/bmsidateunk-1.jpg

Caretaking and "custodianship" of all Boilermaker Specials has always been entrusted to The Purdue Reamer Club, "The Spirit of Purdue." This is an ongoing student organization first created in 1923 for the purpose of promoting school spirit. As such, The Reamer Club was a natural to attend to the care and feeding of the school's official mascot.

I was proud to be asked to join The Purdue Reamer Club for my junior and senior years at Purdue in 1967 and 1968. At the time, club membership was by invitation only and restricted to junior and senior men.

My roommate at Purdue in 1968 was Don Armbruster from Lawrenceburg IN. "Army" was also a member of The Purdue Reamer Club and remains a good friend to this day. He's not a "car guy;" our friendship centered around a common interest in promoting Purdue through The Purdue Reamer Club. In fact, he was President of the club while I was -surprise!- Corresponding Secretary.

On Senior Cords Day in the fall of 1968, Don and I were photographed together in front of the then-current Boilermaker Special III at the south end of the football stadium:

http://i571.photobucket.com/albums/ss155/BobPalma/DSCF2004.jpg

Fast-forward 43 years to Fall 2011.

The newest Boilermaker Special, number VII, was to be dedicated and commissioned today (Saturday, October 1, 2011) at Purdue. Reamer Club alumni were invited to a luncheon for the ceremonies. Don and his wife Janet live 50 miles west of Cari and I, so we try to get together with them once a year to get caught up. This was an excellent opportunity to do so, so we all traveled to Purdue together for the event.

Both Don and I still have the Senior Cords we wore when the 1968 photo was taken, but they seem to have -ahem- shrunk and no longer fit. Don lost his "pot," the unique hat each Reamer has that is festooned with buttons of each member's choice. However, I still have mine.

So we took our Senior Cords today and restaged that 1968 photograph 43 years later in front of the new Boilermaker Special VII:

http://i571.photobucket.com/albums/ss155/BobPalma/DSCF1976.jpg

We didn't know anything about it until we got there, but a professional film crew was at the luncheon. They had been commissioned to prepare a "short" on Purdue Spirit, The Purdue Reamer Club, and the new Boilermaker Special VII school mascot. They saw our 1968 picture and what we were doing and pulled us aside for a video and interview they said will be a part of a Big Ten Network cable TV production to be aired November 11.

Overall, a gorgeous Indiana fall day with good friends.

Hail Purdue...and thanks to Studebaker for the chassis that originally got this project off the ground, if you'll pardon the pun! <GGG> BP

comatus
10-01-2011, 07:55 PM
Just talking about you and your silly locomotive, BP, as the teams took the field. It's starting to look like you and Army should have suited up for tonight's game. And I sympathize, riley I due -- next Saturday I have to ride a bus (that is expensive and not even a Scenicruiser) clear to South Bend to see what dem Irish can do to our Falcons!

Yeah OK, they may not know much about defending the triple option, but there's something about a 50 pound per man weight advantage...
It had better be one heck of a flyover. Nice to see your boiler can still blow smoke. And I see they put the Boiler back in the "Makers" ad.

BobPalma
10-01-2011, 08:37 PM
Just talking about you and your silly locomotive, BP, as the teams took the field. It's starting to look like you and Army should have suited up for tonight's game. Nice to see your boiler can still blow smoke. And I see they put the Boiler back in the "Makers" ad.

BLASPHEMY, Mike; you will pay for that in eternity...if not sooner! <GGG> BP

studegary
10-01-2011, 10:14 PM
In today's Poughkeepsie Journal was an obituary for a 94 year old man that was a REAL boilermaker. "Salvatore worked as a Boilermaker at the Croton Harmon Repair Shop (New York Central Railroad) and was later elected as General Chairman for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Blacksmiths."

mbstude
10-01-2011, 10:20 PM
In today's Poughkeepsie Journal was an obituary for a 94 year old man that was a REAL boilermaker. "Salvatore worked as a Boilermaker at the Croton Harmon Repair Shop (New York Central Railroad) and was later elected as General Chairman for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Blacksmiths."

They're still around.. My dad has been a Boilermaker long enough to be retiring next year.

Welcome
10-01-2011, 10:23 PM
Thanks for sharing all that, BP! Very interesting to read about a "BMSI" having a "Studebaker" chassis!

This afternoon I was reading an article about the "Woody." Apparently after testing and extensive use by a Studebaker employee, the Woody’s body was removed from the chassis. The body went to the "graveyard” inside the oval track at the Studebaker Proving Grounds and the chassis went …hmmm …somewhere!?!?:rolleyes:

What is the possibility the "Woody" & one of those "Boilermaker Specials" are related …considering "The Studebaker Proving Grounds" and "The Monon Shops" are only 75 or so miles apart???:eek:;)

comatus
10-01-2011, 11:45 PM
My...sister...is a boilermaker. Being in a long-established refinery, though, her work is mostly pipefitting and retubing. She went to a tech school, but not "THE" tech school, heh.

I turned to watch that game somewhat eagerly, considering the history of the rivalry. The best I can say is that is wasn't the worst blow-out of the day, judging by the scores on the crawl. It's sad what can happen, when you stumble across another school's well-funded rebuilding program, and they don't feel the need to offer any respect at all. Now I'm sick of the ND Victory March already, and I have a bad feeling I'll hear it all next weekend...

BobPalma
10-02-2011, 06:10 AM
Thanks for sharing all that, BP! Very interesting to read about a "BMSI" having a "Studebaker" chassis!

This afternoon I was reading an article about the "Woody." Apparently after testing and extensive use by a Studebaker employee, the Woody’s body was removed from the chassis. The body went to the "graveyard” inside the oval track at the Studebaker Proving Grounds and the chassis went …hmmm …somewhere!?!?:rolleyes:

What is the possibility the "Woody" & one of those "Boilermaker Specials" are related …considering "The Studebaker Proving Grounds" and "The Monon Shops" are only 75 or so miles apart???:eek:;)

Probably not, Jim; the time frame is 'way too far off.

The first Boilermaker Special was built during 1940 on what was reported to be a new 1939 or 1940 chassis. Since the "woody" being restored was a postwar car proposal built on a postwar chassis, the first Boilermaker Special had already existed about 8 or 9 years when the chassis on which the woody was built, was relieved of its duties carrying Studebaker's postwar woody proposal. BP

Bill Pressler
10-02-2011, 06:33 AM
Great story and photos, Bob, thanks for sharing!

BobPalma
10-10-2011, 08:05 AM
Dick Quinn has weighed in from his vantage point at Hershey and reports not recognizing any of the four gentlemen in the 1941 photo as being from Studebaker. Back to Square One. BP

Mark L
06-27-2014, 08:26 PM
Wow, I actually have something in common with Bob Palma. I was a member of the Reamer Club at Purdue in the late 1980s and a pilot/engineer for Boilermaker Special III.

Some of the pictures you posted in your original post above were sent to me by one of the club members who drove the BMS I/II, although his name now escapes me - I'd have to check my old email messages for our exchange. I then sent them to the club, and they were subsequently posted on their webpage. Using the information he provided for BMS I/II and my own recollections of the BMS III, I wrote a large portion of the current Wikipedia article. More information is available at: http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~joannieg/week3.html

I do need to make one correction to your original information. The body for the first BMS was made by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, not by the Monon Railroad shops. Monon did supply the original brass bell and whistle, and they performed the conversion to the International truck chassis in 1952/1953.

Mark L

BobPalma
06-27-2014, 09:22 PM
Hey, Mark; this is great; cool beans!

Plainfield Indiana SDCer and 1957 Golden Hawk 400 authority Tom Lawlis and I have been trying to confirm anyone else in The Studebaker Drivers Club who was also a member of The Purdue Reamer Club, so you're it! Tom and I have been looking for several decades to no avail, and now we have a confirmed third "combo" member of SDC and The Purdue Reamer Club; woo-hoo!

Are you sure about the first (BMSI) superstructure having been built by Baldwin in Philly, Mark? 'Seems like all the sources I've ever seen cite The Monon Shops. After all, BMSI wasn't as big a deal as later ones. But I'm open to further discussion; "never say never" and all that.

I see that the earlier picture of myself and roommate Don Armbruster is no longer "up," so did you see this item in The November/December 2012 Purdue Alumnus?

http://i571.photobucket.com/albums/ss155/BobPalma/bmspualumnus.jpg (http://s571.photobucket.com/user/BobPalma/media/bmspualumnus.jpg.html)

FIAFW. :!: BP

rockne10
06-27-2014, 09:32 PM
I am sooooo disappointed.:eek: Being from the Pittsburgh area I have been under the long-time impression the Purdue mascot was a mug of beer with a shot of whiskey! Elsewhere referred to as a "depth charge.":o

BobPalma
06-27-2014, 09:49 PM
:) :yeahright: Very funny, Brad.

Actually, the biggest problem The Purdue Reamer Club has is reminding people that The Boilermaker Special Locomotive, regardless of iteration, is The Official Mascot of Purdue University.

Too many people think it is Purdue Pete, the broad-shouldered "boilermaker" guy who runs around carrying a sledge hammer. :mad:He's cute, but he isn't the school's mascot...and never has been. :D BP

Mark L
06-27-2014, 10:01 PM
I've now received the coveted "cool beans" proclamation! I'm part of the "in" crowd, now.

Take a look at the link I provided in my response. Yes, I'm pretty sure the superstructure for the BMS I was made by Baldwin. The Schenectady engines used in the locomotive test cells were also made by Baldwin, so there was already a strong connection between the company and the university.

Several years ago the Reamer Club website had a photo album section with pictures from various years. It has now been removed. In one album one of the pictures taken by Yvonne (Burke) Haller shows her then boyfriend Bob Haller washing the BMS III with me by the Owen Hall loading dock. I lived at Owen for several years before moving off campus. That's me on the roof in the picture. The original version has since been cropped, but is at the top left of the BMS VII page.


35953

I was born and raised in South Bend, and both my parents worked at Studebaker. My dad worked in the body plants for the cars and trucks from 1950 until they closed in 1963. My mom worked as a pool secretary in the engineering department for several years in the 1950s. She left Studebaker for a job at the nearby Bendix plant because they paid a better wage. She stopped working after they were married in 1958.

Mark L

BobPalma
06-28-2014, 05:41 AM
Good information there, Mark; I had not seen your Wikipedia entry. Well done.

What did your Dad do in Studebaker's body plant through the years?

When did you graduate from Purdue, Mark; in what years were you an active member of The Purdue Reamer Club? I ask because you reference driving BMSIII when you were there; the same BMS I drove a decade+ earlier. You must have been on the tail end of BMSIII; when was it retired?

Do you have a copy of the Second Edition of A University of Tradition: The Spirit of Purdue? Did you work on the original by chance? Those are extremely well-done books; I have both of them. (Don Armbruster and I are pictured in the Second Edition on Page 265. Don is on the far right as we participated in "Lions" during that October 1, 2011 dedication referenced in Post #12. I'm right next to him; the photo is good enough that you can read my name tag from the day.)

Again, Mark; it's great to have confirmed a third Reamer in The Studebaker Drivers Club. Are you aware of any others? :D BP

57pack
06-28-2014, 08:10 AM
I apologize in advance if this is a bit off topic...
I remember seeing and being very interested in what may have been one of the Boilermaker Specials.
We had a cabin in upstate New Hampshire on Big Diamond Pond.
On the many trips up Rt. 3 we would pass through a little lumber mill town of Groveton NH.
On the north side of town there was, is, a American Legion Post.
One of these Locomotive cars was parked behind this building for years. Always wanted to stop and check it out but, regretfully never did.

BobPalma
06-28-2014, 08:34 AM
Nothing off-topic in your post, Bill (57pack); we're talking about Boilermaker Specials, here, since the first one was built on a new Studebaker Champion chassis.

Places like American Legion and VFW Posts often have little (or not so little) public road locomotives to promote their post in parades and such, so you probably saw one of those. However, "never say never," because the whereabouts or disposal of most prior Purdue Boilermaker Specials aren't documented. ;) BP

Mark L
06-28-2014, 09:11 AM
Bob, I'll send you a personal message later so we can continue our conversation, since our continuing discussion may become a sidebar to the forum.

Mark L