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Old 03-07-2013, 07:30 PM
John Royark JR John Royark JR is offline
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Default steam powered hearse

Some of you may remember in issue 135 (1st Q. 2010) of TPC there was a picture that I took of a steam powered hearse that was in storage at the House on the Rock during a Illini/Iowa chapter event.
There were two sitting there and Patrick and I sweet talked a guy into letting us go in and take a closer look. We both racked our brains for along time trying to figure these out, and later after sending a copy of the pics to Patrick he sent them to Walt, Tom and others to see if they knew anything. None of them have ever seen anything like it before.
I recently saw a picture of one of these on Face Book so decided to contact HOR again and they emailed me info on these.
They were not built in the era, as we thought. They are fantasy pieces built for Alex Jordan (the creator of House on the Rock) in the middle 1980s by woodworker Mike Olp. One is now on display, and the other is still in storage.
Mystery solved.

Here are a few pictures I took that day (fall 2009). Sorry about the poor quality, it was very dark in the storage room.

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Old 03-07-2013, 08:11 PM
Patrick J. Martin Patrick J. Martin is offline
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Thanks for sharing these, John. And for that matter, thanks again for taking them in the first place! The additional information is much appreciated. If anything, I'm surprised you got a response to your inquiry.

In hindsight, I'm not surprised that these are fantasy items, and for that matter, I'd be willing to bet that they aren't operational. Thinking logically about them, there's no reason for them to exist as real items. With the hesitation that existed when the automobile hearse started being experimented with, I can't imagine society's opinion on something like these clanking away and belching smoke like a locomotive at a funeral. Also, a horsedrawn hearse is a rather lightweight vehicle. A steam engine like those pictured here would be FAR in excess of any power requirements to actually move the vehicle. Then add in the cost of wood or coal, keeping it watered, and possibly needing a licensed boiler operator to run it depending on local laws, and replacing the horse with this just doesn't make any sense really.

Now an early hearse on a Stanley or White chassis, that I would LOVE to find!!
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:16 PM
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Kurt Arends Kurt Arends is offline
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Not too surprising as 90% of all of the "antiques" at the "House On The Rock" tourist trap are "fantasy pieces". I have never felt so happy to see daylight again as I was when I was finally able to get out of that place. I also cannot remember having ever felt so ripped off.
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Old 03-08-2013, 01:09 PM
John Royark JR John Royark JR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick J. Martin View Post
Thanks for sharing these, John. And for that matter, thanks again for taking them in the first place! The additional information is much appreciated. If anything, I'm surprised you got a response to your inquiry.

In hindsight, I'm not surprised that these are fantasy items, and for that matter, I'd be willing to bet that they aren't operational. Thinking logically about them, there's no reason for them to exist as real items. With the hesitation that existed when the automobile hearse started being experimented with, I can't imagine society's opinion on something like these clanking away and belching smoke like a locomotive at a funeral. Also, a horsedrawn hearse is a rather lightweight vehicle. A steam engine like those pictured here would be FAR in excess of any power requirements to actually move the vehicle. Then add in the cost of wood or coal, keeping it watered, and possibly needing a licensed boiler operator to run it depending on local laws, and replacing the horse with this just doesn't make any sense really.

Now an early hearse on a Stanley or White chassis, that I would LOVE to find!!
I agree, in hindsight it does sound fishy, but at the time it has us all wondering!
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1985 Eureka Pontiac Chieftain hearse
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Old 03-08-2013, 01:19 PM
John Royark JR John Royark JR is offline
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Originally Posted by Kurt Arends View Post
Not too surprising as 90% of all of the "antiques" at the "House On The Rock" tourist trap are "fantasy pieces". I have never felt so happy to see daylight again as I was when I was finally able to get out of that place. I also cannot remember having ever felt so ripped off.
Even though some things may have been fantasy pieces, it is still the artistic vision and collection of one man, I thought it was a great place to spend the day and had alot of unique items, that you would not see anywhere else. I hope to make it back sometime.
I feel ripped off at almost every auto museum that has the same cars as most other places.
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Old 03-08-2013, 03:32 PM
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Kurt Arends Kurt Arends is offline
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The unfortunate thing is that he took what was, even in the '70s, some great antique pieces and basically destroyed them with his "artistry". Good examples being that horse-drawn hearse and that organ monstrasity where he took several theatre/church organs and turned them into something that will never be usable again. Most all "of the over the top" lighting fixtures in that place were made up from multiple 1970s reproduction fixtures "married"to one another. I vividly remember all of the badly recorded music that was intended to make you believe that it was coming from all of those "fantasy" musical instruments. I don't remember seeing one authentic automated musical instrument in that entire place.

I agree, there is no confusing that place with any kind of museum. I sit on the Board of Directors for the Terrace Hill Society Foundation(our Governor's mansion and a museum here in Iowa) and the General Dodge House(museum) Board of Directors here in Council Bluffs. Museums are all about historic preservation. I am still not sure as to what The House On The Rock's mission or purpose might be.
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Old 03-08-2013, 05:25 PM
John Royark JR John Royark JR is offline
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The pourpose is to see some "visionary architecture, and electic collections" of an eccentric collector and man, Alex Jordan. As far as I know they never state that is a museum, or is it attended to be, its just an attraction to see something different.
To get the thread back on topic, there are many untouched horse drawn hearses throughout the HOR, and a few scale models.
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1949 S&S Cadillac Knickerbocker combo
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1985 Eureka Pontiac Chieftain hearse
1995 Superior Chevrolet Chancellor hearse
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