Blumentritt Steam Traction Engine

A rare and unusual Blumentritt steam traction engine from the collection of James Sylling

James Sylling working with an 1876 Blumentritt engine for the 1952 centennial at Spring Grove, Minn.

James Sylling working with an 1876 Blumentritt engine for the 1952 centennial at Spring Grove, Minn.

Photo courtesy Dagny Sylling

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Among the treasures in James Sylling’s collection was an unusual steam traction engine: a Blumentritt, manufactured by Joe Blumentritt in Winona County, Minn. Blumentritt began at age 20 by building a 6 hp portable steam engine moved by oxen or horses, but his goal was to build an engine capable of moving under its own power. In the meantime, he designed traction gears and steering devices and made other improvements on the 6 hp portable.

Blumentritt built a large earthen dam on the creek on his property. With installation of a water wheel, he had power for his shop. He also made all of his own tools and dies. Eventually he built 6-, 12- and 24-hp double-cylinder Blumentritt steam traction engines that were operated from the side and fired from the front. “These engines were the first traction engines built west of the Mississippi River,” says Jack Norbeck in Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines. Very, very few Blumentritts are left today. FC