Gaar, Scott and Co.

A short history of Gaar, Scott and Co., the venerated manufacturer of the 'Tiger Line' of steam traction engines and threshers.

Gaar Scott, 13hp traction engine facing right

The other side of John R. Gresh’s 1909 13 HP Gaar-Scott.

Jack C. Norbeck

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Abram Gaar was born on his family's farm in Wayne County near Richmond, Ind., on Nov. 14, 1819. In his early years, he worked as a pattern maker, a cabinet maker, and a millwright, but in the late 1830s and early 1840s he attached himself to academic pursuits.

During this same period, Abram's father, Jonas, helped establish Wayne County's first steam-powered venture, a foundry and machine shop. About 1842, Abram returned to his mechanical inclination when he gained employment at the machine works known as the Spring Foundry owned by Jesse M. and John H. Hutton.

In 1849, Abram, along with his father, his brother, John Milton Gaar, and his brother-in-law, William G. Scott, purchased the Spring Foundry, which was then reorganized under the name of A. Gaar & Co. John Milton Gaar was born in Richmond in 1823, and worked in the Spring Foundry as early as 1842, when that concern was engaged in building the old "chaff pilers" or "ground-hog" threshers.

A. Gaar & Co. moved into the manufacture of various agricultural implements, threshers, and portable steam engines, and in 1870, A. Gaar & Co. incorporated as Gaar, Scott & Co. Abram, who was active in the company until his death in 1894, was succeeded by his brother, John Milton Gaar, who had grown up with the threshing machine business and had developed the plant as the industry developed. William C. Scott was a Virginian whose parents had moved to Richmond in 1827. Scott was the businessman of the firm, and John M. Gaar devoted his time to the mechanical end.

Gaar, Scott & Co. Engines

Gaar, Scott & Co. began manufacturing portable steam engines in the mid-1850s, with steam traction engines joining the line about 1884. Gaar-Scott made steam engines with simple and compound cylinders.

The compound engine's two cylinders were directly and strongly attached to each other by a projection on the small cylinder and a counter bore on the large cylinder, with no open space between them. This ensured the cylinders were in perfect alignment, and in this position they were bolted rigidly together. If for any reason access was desired to the inside of the cylinders, the small cylinder could be easily removed and then replaced in its original position, and it would again be in perfect alignment with the large cylinder, with the connection as firm as if both cylinders were cast together.

Gaar-Scott's design meant there was no stuffing box to pack between the cylinders and only one steam joint, which was an obvious advantage over compound cylinders with an open space between them.

In the compound cylinder, Gaar-Scott used a brass bushing between the two cylinders, which took the place of packing around the piston rod. Five grooves in the cross section of the bushing filled with water supplied by the condensation of occasional drops forming on the piston rod as it passed through this bushing, which was cooler than the other chambers of the cylinder. This made for a durable and effective steam packing that was simple and easy to replace. A plate and three bolts held the bushing in position, and three setscrews also held the center head in position.

A small steam pipe, with a valve, was installed on the boiler to carry the steam directly to the large cylinder so that, in an emergency or hard pull, the engineer could turn on steam and get the full, direct pressure of steam in the large cylinder for a limited time, supplementing the exhaust steam from the small cylinder. The cylinder was jacked in conformity with the boiler and dome.

Gaar-Scott Co. made steam traction engines of simple and compound cylinders, plain portable steam engines, the Gaar-Scott three-way crank thresher, rice field Queen thresher, clover hulling outfit, water tanks, plantation circular sawmill, pony circular sawmills, and standard circular sawmills.

In 1911, M. Rumely Co. acquired Gaar-Scott and Advance Thresher Co., and became the Advance-Rumely Co. Gaar-Scott engines continued to be produced until about 1914, and were sold under the Rumely products umbrella. In 1931, Allis-Chalmers Corp. acquired Advance-Rumely.

Information for this article came from the County History Preservation Society, and Tom Woodard, John R. Gresh, Bill Roberts, and Gil Roberts.

Steam enthusiast Jack C. Norbeck is a frequent contributor to Steam Traction. Through his company, Norbeck Research, Jack puts together library exhibits around the world that work to educate the public on the role of steam in agriculture and society.