Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Who the Hell is Isaac Dripps?

Damn fine question. The answer lies rooted in the place I currently call home; "the little city, with a lot of charm", Bordentown City, N.J. and a nutty little contraption called "The John Bull".

This, taken from the Smithsonian Institution's "History Wired: A Few Of Our Favorite Things":
"It may look pretty modest, but the John Bull locomotive is the world's oldest, still operable self-propelled vehicle. Much more than that, it is in the ancestral line of piston-driven wheeled vehicles that have been transforming our planet since the early 1800s. Furthermore, since the John Bull was steam powered, it was part of the steam revolution that thrust humankind into the industrial age.

Late in August 1831, after a six-week voyage from Liverpool, England, the Allegheny docked at a Philadelphia wharf. Lashed aboard were the parts for "one locomotive steam engine" that had been purchased by New Jersey entrepreneur and engineer Robert Stevens. Stevens was building a commercial railroad, one of the first in the United States. He had hired Isaac Dripps, a native of Belfast in the north of Ireland, as a skilled mechanic.

A sloop carried the parts upriver to Bordentown, NJ. There, on September 4, young Isaac and his assistants received the crates. None of the men had ever seen a locomotive before, and there were no instructions for its assembly. But Dripps had had some experience with steamboats. Eleven days later, Dripps and his crew had put the engine together on a short length of track. A fire was lit, and steam raised. To everyone's relief, the machine moved, although it would need considerable fine-tuning before it worked properly".

None of the men had ever seen a locomotive before, and there were no instructions for its assembly!

That, and the John Bull's status as "the world's oldest, still operable self-propelled vehicle"? I'd call that some pretty damn fine work on the part of Isaac and his crew, and an effort that certainly puts him into my personal Pantheon of Legendary Mechanics.

Fast forward to 2014, and this: The Downtown Bordentown Association's upcoming 25th Annual Cranberry Festival, to be held October 4th & 5th, 2014.

In keeping with the spirit of the Festival's 25th anniversary, the organizers are especially keen to make it the biggest and best festival ever. On the Saturday of the Festival, there will of course be the Quentin Hausser Memorial Car Show , now in its 21st year (!). But what to do on Sunday? Well, the organizing committee thought perhaps a motorcycle show. And when asked, who was I to argue!

Thus I give you; what will hopefully become a new and valued tradition of the Cranberry Festival and respectfully named after MY favorite Bordentown homeboy mechanic....

The First Annual Isaac Dripps Motorcycle Show!

Obviously with October months and months away, this is a ways off. But what the hell, never too early to start working on a good idea. 

So mark your calendar, and please continue to watch these pages as more details and additional info comes our way!


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