Richard Bellamy, who is the first to admit he enjoys doing “oddball things,” is gaining a reputation as one of Rainy River District’s more colourful characters.
Inside his trailer, workshop, and dotting his yard along Highway 11/71 just west of Devlin are a number of machines and inventions he spends a great deal of time creating or improving.
“It’s just a hobby I enjoy doing because it’s an oddball thing. I enjoy doing oddball things nobody else likes to do,” he said.
Bellamy’s latest project is a working, miniature steam engine made out an assortment of odds and ends, including a fly-wheel out of a piece of tape recorder, connecting rods and a stand made out of a sliced and flattened copper pipe, a cylinder made of a copper tube and babbitt metal cast on the stove-top, a water tank cut out of a steel pipe, and a crank shaft put together from a stripped bolt and a loonie.
“It makes the loonie worth something, otherwise it’s worthless,” Bellamy quipped.
Running around connecting various hoses to his steam engine, Bellamy showed that it will run in two directions under the power of steam, vacuum, air breath, and with a blow down the pipe.
“I’m full of hot air,” he laughed.
Nothing looks new on Bellamy’s property as most of what he owns he’s salvaged from dumps, purchased at garage sales, or has traded for.
Almost all of the vehicles, small engines, utility motors, generators, pumps, and motorcycles are in working order—many with a combination of parts from various scraps or homemade materials.
“A lot of these it’s not a problem getting them to start, it’s getting them to stop,” Bellamy noted as he struggled to shut off a rebuilt engine as it bounced around the floor.
Moments later, he went to a shelf and grabbed a screwdriver to stop a second engine as it roared non-stop.
Outside sits a Cadillac on which the body has been rebuilt with steel from fridges and stoves, with the welding and paint job making the repair job almost unnoticeable.
Bellamy bought the car for $500 when the owner told him the motor was gone. But after a bit of tinkering, he had it running again.
There also is an old Rolls Royce with a grill Bellamy cut out of a shower stall and a Volkswagen Beetle painted to resemble Herbie the Love Bug.
“A lot of my stuff comes from the dump and I go to yard sales. It’s mostly just taking them apart and putting them together,” he said, indicating the assortment of engines covering his garage floor.
Sitting on the kitchen counter in his trailer, Bellamy has some small engine models he spent countless hours assembling.
“I couldn’t get any sleep because I’d see springs and wheels and parts and when I closed by eyes, I’d see myself reaching for this and reaching for that,” he recalled.
The other half of the trailer is decorated by his wife, Sharon, with Elvis Presley memorabilia covering shelves and ledges.
Bellamy, 52, is the eldest of three brothers who all live in small buildings on a lot just west of Devlin along with their father. They have all spent hours experimenting and cruising around the property test-driving their vehicles.
During a ride through bush and fields in a 1944 W.W.II army jeep, it stalled in a clearing. Bellamy promptly jumped out and attached a hose to the gas tank to blow out an obstruction.
“This is our old race track,” he recalled. “My brother, Lawrence, and I would race 100 laps or until a car was demolished.”
The two brothers would fix up their cars—old Buicks and Chryslers—and speed around a quarter-mile oval trying to knock each other’s vehicles to pieces.
“Lawrence works in Atikokan during the week and while he was there, I’d drive it every day learning all the turns and bends,” Bellamy noted. “Then when he came back, he decided to drive counter-clockwise and I’d always gone clockwise so that kind of threw a wrench in my plans.”
As recently as five years ago, the two men were racing around their oval smashing each other’s vehicles with only one rule—that if one of them stopped or flipped over, the other would have to get out and help.
“I’m mechanically-inclined,” Bellamy said. “I remember when I was a baby, [dad] had an old pulp truck and he usually had it more apart than together but it would always go.”
His brothers, Lawrence and Bruce, who also spend a lot of time repairing and inventing, are both younger. As noted, Lawrence spends the weekdays in Atikokan, where he works at the mill, while the rest of the family spends most of their time at home.
“I’m the oldest and the ugliest and the most miserable,” Richard Bellamy laughed.
But his creativity goes beyond motors to decorations and even some kitchen creativity seen in an offer of homemade root beer.
Then, after a few magic tricks in Bellamy’s typical eccentric fashion, he pulled out a harmonica and with vocals from Bruno the dog, belted out a parting tune.