Johnstown, PA has earned the nickname "The Flood City" the hard way. The Conemaugh River has spilled its banks on numerous occasions. Beginning with "The Great Flood" of 1889 (this past May 2014 marked the 125th anniversary) and later in 1894, 1907, 1924 and most recently in July of 1977 (37 years ago next month).
A TV report on the 1977 Flood.
You might be wondering, "What the hell does this have to do with motorcycles or Ton Up NC?" Well, while on my travels, I came across a bike with an incredible story. Although the 1977 Johnstown Flood claimed many victims (85 people to be exact and $200 million in property damage), one BSA that was left for dead was determined to be a survivor. Many years after the flood, in the mid 1980's, a couple of kids were down on the Conemaugh River bank with their father digging around in the sand and dirt when they hit something solid: a motorcycle tyre, but try as they might, they could not budge the tyre from its resting place. The kids alerted their daddy who helped them dig some more, soon out of the dirt appeared a fork, handlebars, a tank and after hours of digging, they unearthed an entire motorbike: a BSA Lightening. The family wheeled the bike home and there it sat again for many years, until recently. A couple of years ago, the father figured that someone might have some use for this rusty old machine, so he contacted the local British Bike guy and turned it over to him to use as a parts bike. That's when the seemingly impossible happened, with just a few tweaks and a change of the carburetors, the bike fired up. Despite being buried for many years under 8 feet of water in the flood and then left to die under debris, dirt, and sand in the midst of a flowing river, the inside of the engine and tank had never seen any water. Some things are just too tough to die. What you are seeing in the pictures that follow is the bike in it's original unrestored state: original paint, rust and all...
Here's an audio clip of me talking to the current owner about the bike, enjoy...
Ton Up NC = Riding, Racing and Restoring of Vintage Motorcycles
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