Steam in the Blood
Long before there was the Indy 500 or Daytona, there was Wisconsin’s Great Race of 1878. Recognized as the first documented car race, it was highly anticipated and featured cars powered by steam traction engine. The winner stood to gain $10,000.
In 1875 Wisconsin was looking to stimulate automotive development. The state legislature offered a $10,000 bounty to the creator of a machine “propelled by steam or other motive agent which shall be cheap and practical substitute for the horse and other animals on the highway and farm.” The state was a buzz with engineers, inventors, and others in pursuit of the big prize.
By the time race day came, six registrants signed on for the historic race. Each of the six cars were named after the city where they were built. When the start flag waved only two registrants actually made it to race day, the Oshkosh and the Green Bay. The 200-mile race wound its way through Wisconsin, at an average speed of six miles per hour.
The Oshkosh’s winning time was 33 hours and 27 minutes. Although it was the simpler of the two competitors, and it weighed more than 10,000 pounds. It also featured a large vertical boiler and cylinders of 6” bore and 8” stroke made all of 12 horsepower.
Oshkosh’s winning vehicle was built by six of the town residents: Alexander Gallinger, Anson Farrand, Frank Schomer, John F. Morse, John Owens, Martin T. Battis. All the men were involved in businesses that would benefit from the successful invention of a vehicle beyond horse and buggy.
Gallinger, the driver of the Oshkosh, has been credited with being the mastermind behind the inspiration for the Oshkosh as well as the invention of the mechanical differential.
Alexander Gallinger is the great, great grandfather of Hydro-Thermal employee, Grant Gallinger. This story, along with many others were handed down through the generations, along with a love of racing, steam, and engineering.
Prior to the Great Race of 1878, Grant’s great, great Grandfather and the Gallinger family were mostly involved in agricultural business. Since Alexander’s success, many of the Gallingers have pursued careers that align with some form of racing, steam or engineering.
His great, great grandfather’s celebrity was influential in moving Grant himself into a career that involved steam and engineering. Today Grant is the Industry Sales Manager for Hydro-Thermal’s Industrial team. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship and Small Business from Illinois State University.
Since then Grant has been working with industrial steam and condensate return systems for more than 10 years. He has achieved a rare level of certification as a Steam System Specialist level I, II, and III and has won numerous awards for his expertise. Grant was also voted Salesperson of the Year by his previous employer, Swagelok Energy Advisors, an international firm specializing in steam system performance.
Grant also shares a love of racing with his great, great Grandfather, although his machines go much faster than six miles per hour. At age 16 he started autocross, went on to graduate from Skip Barber Racing school, earn a competition license, and compete in a wide variety of races across the US.
Grant is also the proud owner of a wide variety of vintage and classic cars and motorcycles, including a 1965 Norton 650SS, 1985 Porsche Carrera 911, 2014 Shelby Mustang GT500 and more. Sharing his grandfather’s mechanical adeptness and ingenuity, Grant has also rebuilt a number of Norton Commando motorcycles.
When asked about the Oshkosh, knowing his love of history and restoration, Grant said “Unfortunately, it no longer exists. It was converted into a farm implement and then used up. Nobody was nostalgic in those days.”
Grant and his wife have proven sentimental though. Their son is named after Grant’s great, great Grandfather, Alexander.