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Roger Ulsky

Posted by Rick.H 
Roger Ulsky
July 22, 2021 11:54AM
Hi Folks,
I'm afraid this news isn't the best...Roger has been presumed dead. His walking cane was found near a lake and has been missing for over three (3) days now, even more.

Missing person notice

I was very fond of Roger. He was a EE and enjoyed talking steam engine design with him. Here he is pictured with Tony Grzyb on the Delora. He was a great member to the SACA Team.

Tragster 3 wheel steam bike

He would often goof with club members like Tony and say things like watch out, I'm after you with SteamZilla. SteamZilla go-cart

Here is link to his YouTube Channel: Roger's YouTube Channel There are great things to learn from this channel. Roger was no dummy. He helped Chuk with the design of an electronic controlled normalizer (might be called a de-super heat, tempera jet, or other similar terms). This was of course on the steam Land Speed Record (LSR) Car.

Note that I heard this from Nick Messmer who heard it from Chuk. I found the notice on the internet above and believe it is still in a search mode. We'll wish for the best...

Rick Heinig

Re: Roger Ulsky
July 23, 2021 05:00PM
Oh geeze,

I am so sorry to hear this. Always enjoyed talking with Roger, a really great guy.

Re: Roger Ulsky
July 24, 2021 09:02AM
For a number of years, Roger Ulsky was an active member of SACA/NW. He will be missed by all.
Re: Roger Ulsky
August 01, 2021 09:47AM
Latest News-

A body has been recovered in the area where Roger went missing-that is all we know at present-pending the coroners report. Hopefully this will at least give his wife Kathleen some closure. Roger and Kath are close friends who have always had a great outlook on life and living, and had moved back to the Bellingham Washington area after living in Georgia and Florida for the past 8-10 years.

Roger has helped me with many of my projects with ideas and assistance, and was one of the friends I called with difficult questions. He built his own steam launch, a steam powered moped, a steam go kart, his steam tricycle, etc. All of his projects were controlled electronically and performed very well. He built a controller for the monotube boiler in my Model T that kept the steam temp within a very narrow optimum range at changing loads and speeds. He also built a data recorder and speedometer for the LSR Project. We worked together testing boilers and engines, with Roger taking care of the electronics and getting readouts on his computer of all the parameters we wanted.

Roger was a sharp, witty guy who brightened the room with his presence, and who will be remembered for his many contributions to our hobby and our lives.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/01/2021 03:56PM by chuk williams.
Re: Roger Ulsky
August 13, 2021 09:31AM
With great sadness, we announce that longtime NWSS member Roger Ulsky has passed away. Roger built many very inventive steam contraptions, some for water and some for land. His engines were pretty conventional, but his boilers were pretty amazing—very lightweight and easy to construct. He was an electrical engineer and some of his higher output boilers were monotube (flash) boilers with electronic controls—a great mix of new and old.

His wife, Kathleen Waton, invites NWSS members to add their comments to the Guestbook (linked below) and looks forward to reading them.



NWSS Board
Re: Roger Ulsky
August 22, 2021 08:04PM
Hi Guys,

Here is an article I wrote about Roger's steam contraptions for the NWSS Steam Gage. Feel free to use it in the Bulletin or the Forum.

It has a link to the funeral home obit that Kathleen wrote.


Michael Cross


Roger Ulsky, a Steamer’s Steamer

By Michael Cross

Long time NWSS member Roger Ulsky of Bellingham, WA, passed away recently after a long bout with Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia, a form of lymphoma.

His obituary is available online at:


The online obituary has a Guest Book and Roger’s wife, Kathleen Waton would love to see comments from his steam buddies reflected in the Guest Book for posterity.

After a career as an Electrical Engineer, Roger launched his teaching career, teaching engineering at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon. After teaching several years, Roger participated in a faculty exchange program at a college in Derby, England. Seeing the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution first hand in England sparked Roger’s decades long passion for steam power. He built two steam launches and four steam-powered land vehicles. He enjoyed the friendship of fellow enthusiasts in the Steam Automobile Club of America and the Northwest Steam Society.

His first project was a stern wheel steam boat, Katie Ann. That boat had a stern wheel driven directly by two long stroke steam engines, just like the Mississippi River steamboats. The engine was based on two hydraulic cylinders, connected to two valve mechanisms. At the NWSS Steam Meet in Wheeler, Oregon in 1999 Roger took Katie Ann all the way down the Nehalem River to the Pacific Ocean and around the entrance buoy before returning to Wheeler.

In 2000 Roger and Kathleen took a sun break from the Pacific Northwest and spent 18 years in the Southeast United States, where his next steamboat and all his steam land vehicles were built. Katie Ann Too, was a plywood boat, built from plans for an electric boat. It did have an electric motor, but also had a steam engine that Roger machined from chunks of solid cast iron. The engine had no reverse gear, but the electric motor took care of reverse or short trips when he didn’t want to get steam up. The boat was a platform for many different boiler experiments. I kept Katie Ann Too for a year while Roger and Kathleen were living in Manhattan. At that time, it had a boiler made of copper tubing configured sort of like a log cabin with the fire inside the cabin. It burned short pieces of 2 x 4, which were poked into the cabin through a door. The boiler was easy to operate, easy to build and weighed about 30 pounds.

He later experimented with monotube (flash) boilers, which are notoriously hard to control, but Roger designed electronic, computer-controlled systems that controlled all the inputs (air, fuel and water) to give a steam output at a consistent pressure and temperature. A friend tells a tale about when he was visiting Roger in GA, the electronic controls on the boiler would signal the operator to add wood when the controller sensed the need. Roger changed the signal light to a voice command that said-"Add some wood-you dumbass!"

Roger was an extremely inventive steam enthusiast. He was also extremely fast. I worked with him on numerous projects by email while he was living in Florida and Georgia. He would write, “What do you think of this?” Being a Mechanical Engineer I would get out some paper and my calculator and work on the problem for a day to two and then write him back. Often the response was, “Never mind, I already built it and it works.” He did a lot of great Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.
Roger’s first steam land vehicle was the Steamped, a steam powered moped. Roger built a new head for the moped engine, with valves so it could operate on steam. The boiler was a monotube made from 1/8” steel pipe, welded into hairpin curves. It burned propane. As far as I know, this was the only steam plant that Roger built that burned a fossil fuel. All the rest burned wood or wood pellets.

His next land vehicle was the Tragster, short for tricycle dragster. This was specifically built for the Steam Automobile Club of America (SACA) “Time Trials” at the SACA annual meet at Berrien Springs, Michigan. The Time Trial is a 1/8th mile timed drag race. You have to realize that these time trials are not like the drag races in which a top fuel dragster does the ¼ mile in 3.58 seconds and crosses the finish line at 386 mph. The Tragster crossed the finish line at 29 mph and won that year’s contest hands down. That version of the Tragster used the engine Roger built for the Katie Ann Too. In the Too the engine ran on saturated steam at about 150 psi. In the Tragster the same engine ran on 600 psi steam superheated to as much as 1000°F. The Tragster went through several modifications—different engine, different boiler, pellets instead of wood, but never bettered the 29-mph record.

Stepping up to four wheels, he built a go-kart that he named SteamZilla. The engine was based on a 212 cc Harbor Freight gas engine with a new head with poppet valves. The boiler was a wood-fired monotube with electronic controls. There are several videos of the engine and SteamZilla in the YouTube link below.

Roger built another four-wheel vehicle, the Steamster, but I don’t know anything about it. It appears to have been built on a VW chassis, and there is a propane tank hiding behind the boiler, so I suspect that the Steamster was built before Roger got into his “Real Steamers Burn Wood” phase.

At some point after Roger had built all his vehicles, he was talking to someone and said--"What can I do now-I've built a steam boat, a two-wheeler, a three-wheeler, and two four-wheelers, what more does the world expect of me- build a five-wheeler?"

Upon their return to the Pacific Northwest in November of 2018, Roger and Kathleen settled in the beautiful lakeside community of Sudden Valley in Bellingham, WA. Roger is survived by his beloved wife, Kathleen, many cousins, nieces and nephew, and many friends whose loyalty and friendship he valued through the years.

Donations may be made in memory of Roger to the International Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia Foundation at [iwmf.com]


Re: Roger Ulsky
August 22, 2021 08:06PM
Final photos from Michael Cross...

Re: Roger Ulsky
August 23, 2021 07:07AM
Please let Michael know that that was a wonderful article! Or please provide an email and I can tell him also...if the email address is open to be released?
Rick Heinig
Re: Roger Ulsky
August 23, 2021 07:33AM
Hi Rick,

As it would happen, I had just finished sending Michael a note of thanks just before I read your post -- my timing stinks and I should have read the Forum just before sending.

I try to avoid sharing e-mail addresses, but Michael's pretty much in the public view. I'll send the contact info in a private message.


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