Goodbye to Mike Rometer

Read this first then introduce yourself here.
Post Reply
User avatar
Full Steam Ahead
Full Steam Ahead
Posts: 512
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:53 pm
Boat Name: Frances Ann
Location: Cheshire, UK

Goodbye to Mike Rometer

Post by PeteThePen1 » Thu Aug 18, 2022 9:11 pm

It is with considerable sadness that I have to report the passing of Bob Gray (AKA Mike Rometer) after a short illness. Bob was a member of a number of steam related clubs including the SBA and the 7 ¼” Gauge Society but in the case of the former was not a great participant in Events. Thus he will probably have been less well known to SBA folk than to 7 ¼” folk.

Bob was born in London and the family moved to East Kilbride before a move to Rhodesia in Southern Africa when he was about 10. Thus Bob, as a youngster, was exposed to the extensive SAR steam network with its numerous Garrett locomotives. It was probably at this time that the sight, sound and smell of steam entered his blood and there remained. It is probable that his love of engineering started in Africa with his dad through the necessity of fixing their vehicles to keep them on the road and also building soap box cars with limited materials. Post school and back in the UK Bob took an engineering apprenticeship and would later josh his father about who could make things to the most accurate dimensions. My guess is that his father took it all in good part and may also have shown him to how to lay bricks. However, before building his garage he went off to a college course to learn brick laying. The evidence of his pride in good workmanship is to be seen in the construction of that garage, and we have seen it on this site with his work on the Twin.

It is at a time like this that one realises just how much one does not know about one’s friends. Thus my knowledge of Bob’s subsequent career is sketchy, but he worked for the Post Office and was involved in keeping their vehicle fleet on the road. He ended up as one of the trainers for the engineering apprentices and that is probably where he developed his ability to teach and encourage duffers in the art of workshop skills. I say that as one of his last, post retirement, duffers and with great affection and gratefulness for all that he did for me. He was offered early retirement which he jumped at because he had so many hobbies he wished to pursue.

At the time I first met Bob he was a member of the SBA thinking about a steam launch and I was naively building Frances Ann. He was smart enough to spot that he and I were but 15 miles apart and that there might be fruitful cooperation. I learned that he was after a launch for which he planned to build the engine and then fit it out. It seemed, however, that the completion of his current loco project had to take priority. At some point I went to see him to pick his brains, as always, and it was there that I met his loco project. This was a 7 ¼” gauge Garrett loco which must have been about 8 feet long. I had always thought that model engineering involved tiny pieces that needed a good magnifying glass. Not so the Garrett which was miniature but by no means tiny. The engine was eventually completed and ran successfully for a while before being sold on in the interest of the boat project.

Bob’s advice was always couched in encouraging terms. He thought I should look out for a milling machine so sent me off to look. I found a small model that was being sold everywhere though at very different prices. He agreed that it was small enough to go on my existing bench but pointed out that most of the things I had been wanting milled (by him) would be too big to fit. So I was sent off to look again but for bigger second hand machines. I then found a fairly local machine on eBay at a modest price and acquired it through being the only bidder. Bob insisted that I should not go alone to pick it up and what sound advice it was. It was huge, in my eyes, and I had no idea how to dismantle it and nor had the vendor since it was his late father’s machine and he preferred football to engineering. Thus with the vendor’s mate, Bob and I the machine was dismantled and loaded into our van and nobody strained their back or crushed their fingers.

With the milling machine back in my garage, in pieces. It was clear that it could not go on the bench. Thus Bob and I began a conversation about a stand for it. Bob suggested what was needed and encouraged me to draw it (we both had TurboCAD) and then the drawing would bounce back and fore. Once agreed, I was sent off to acquire the steel, to do the preliminary cutting and then tasked with taking it to Trentham where Bob set it out and welded it all together. Thus I ended up with a custom milling machine stand that has been perfect for the things that I make and fix.

Bob acquired some castings for the Taylor Twin steam engine and began work on that as the boat project had finally reached the top of the list. Readers of this Forum will probably have seen his excellent series of build pictures. However, Bob had always had a yen for an MG TD and by chance or good searching came across one that was sensibly priced. This was acquired and became Emma, and then the current major project. It was apparently not planned as a ‘project’ but given his automotive skills and high standards he soon found that all was not quite as it should be. Thus Emma was worked over and substantially improved.

We continued our discussion of potential boats as Sod’s Law guaranteed that several suitable ones emerged whilst Emma was being fixed. However, Bob decided that Emma and then the Twin should get finished first before a launch was acquired. Sadly, illness intervened and thus his boat never emerged. However, he was hugely influential in the building of Frances Ann and clearly would have produced a fine launch had he been allowed the opportunity.

Pete Cuthbert
August 2022

EDIT - I knew I had a photo somewhere of Bob and his engine. The trouble is that he was never still...

IMG_20161219_Bob + G2 (600 x 450).jpg
IMG_20161219_Bob + G2 (600 x 450).jpg (72.91 KiB) Viewed 761 times
Last edited by PeteThePen1 on Tue Aug 23, 2022 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Full Steam Ahead
Full Steam Ahead
Posts: 195
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 5:29 pm
Boat Name: Cluaran
Location: Northern Oregon, USA

Re: Goodbye to Mike Rometer

Post by RNoe » Thu Aug 18, 2022 9:34 pm

Safe Travels to Mr.Bob Gray, aka Mike Rometer.
It is always sad to lose a Fellow Steam Mate, regardless of their global location.
Fortunately much of Mr. Gray lives on in all the minds of those who have learned from him.
So it goes.

Thank you Pete for that news, and sharing your experiences with us.
User avatar
Full Steam Ahead
Full Steam Ahead
Posts: 768
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2014 5:38 am
Boat Name: Wayward Belle
Location: South Lake Tahoe, CA, USA

Re: Goodbye to Mike Rometer

Post by TahoeSteam » Tue Aug 23, 2022 11:43 pm

Hi Pete,

It really is a shame to lose someone like him, for his family, friends, and the community as a whole. He, and his posts, will be missed.

I hope his work will inspire someone else someday and his unfinished works will be completed in a manor that honours his wishes and his memory.
~Wesley Harcourt~
Check out the steamboat and steamSHIP videos on my YouTube page:
S. Weaver
Full Steam Ahead
Full Steam Ahead
Posts: 340
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:23 pm
Boat Name: SL Iona

Re: Goodbye to Mike Rometer

Post by S. Weaver » Sun Sep 11, 2022 12:24 am

Thank you, Pete, for a heartfelt eulogy. You are correct, it is difficult to reduce a human life to an essay ...
Post Reply