107 Years of Family Farm Steam Power

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Box 271, Hamiota, Manitoba, Canada ROM 0T0.

As fourth generation of family farm steam power, I would like to make a few comments. My grandfather, great grandfather and great uncles were all steam men as well as carpenters by trade. My dad and uncle were die-hard steam men as well as operated a large sawmill operation between 1920 and 1931.

They ran the basic general run of the mill portables and early traction engines between 1880 and 1900. When they migrated from Ireland to Ontario in the early 1800's they worked in carpentry as a trade. They all had some steam experience when they left Ontario for Western Canada in the late 1860's. When leaving Ontario they travelled to Fargo, North Dakota where they took a barge up to Winnipeg on the Red River. Being carpenters by trade, they lived in Winnipeg for a few short years and helped build one of the first wooden bridges over the Red River in Winnipeg. In the late 1870's they came out to Hamiota to lay claim to several quarters of homestead land. In the 1880's and early 1900's they built some pretty impressive buildings, some of which stand today.

As I already mentioned, they farmed with the general run of the mill portables, hand fed threshers, early traction and feeder style threshers from 1880 to 1900. In 1901 my grandfather bought a new 25 HP Case steam engine to use with a Cock O' The North wooden thresher they had been using previously. As my grandfather was a large custom thresherman they wore out this outfit and bought a slightly used 75 HP double simple Reeves and brand new 40 x 60 wood Nichols and Shepard thresher in 1910. In 1917 my grandfather bought a brand new 1914, 80 HP Case steam engine; the last new steam engine to be railed into Hamiota. The old Reeves got relegated to buzzing wood, occasionally grading roads for the R. M., but mainly sat for some time to come.

In 1927 my grandfather bought a new 36 x 60 steel Nichols and Shepard thresher. A first cousin of my grandfather bought the old Reeves and 40 inch wood Nichols and Shepard thresher to handle some of the custom threshing. A few years went by and my grandfather's cousin never paid for the old Reeves and 40 inch wood thresher now worn out. One Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1940 my dad and uncle steamed up the 80 HP Case, drove twelve miles near Decker and towed the old outfit home. The old Reeves was sold to a neighbor who used it for two years to break sod and was then junked in favor of a 60 Cat which I own today.

My dad and uncle operated the threshing outfit from as early as 1912, as that particular year my grandfather got his arm caught in the cylinder pulley of the 40 inch N and S thresher and had it taken off. In 1912, after two years of building, my grandfather just completed a large Ontario bank barn 45 x 90 feet all fitted together with wooden pegs which stands well today. My dad often told the story of my grandfather's never getting any enjoyment out of the huge barn he built for horses because of his arm loss. My dad and uncle ran the 80 HP Case engine on the 36' N and S thresher until 1942 and then of course ran a gas tractor on the 36' until 1947 when the 21 Massey combine took over and custom threshing was finished.

The 36' Nichols and Shepard threshed oats on my dad's and uncle's farm until 1952. My cousins still house the 36' which we still use occasionally; it is in mint condition in the original steamer shed built around 1900.

It amazes me how someone from Montana wrote an article in IMA grabbing at straws and all of a sudden re-wrote my family's history to the way he thought it should be!

My dad and uncle never really liked the Reeves so they cut the tank off so they could see to back up and of course to watch the 24' breaking plow and road grader. Dad said over and over you had two motors to grease and tighten up every morning. Dad also said you couldn't see around the left side or over it so it wasn't very handy for road grading especially when you came back on the same side. Also the double was hard on water as compared to the 80 Case. If the Reeves had been the only engine my dad and uncle had operated with no other engine to compare to they probably would have been satisfied with the Reeves. Why did my grandfather buy a new 80 Case to do the bulk of the work and the Reeves filled in a few corners for a short period of time?

Reeves engines plowed a lot of land in Western Canada and the Canadian Special was very heavy built. They had a lot of iron to get over the ground and everyone knows the single cylinders were more efficient than double simples and cross compounds. A lot of farmers were not concerned with the amount of coal their engines burned or how much more water their engines used so it didn't matter.

The Reeves engine is a very nice show piece engine and has a pleasing soft tone exhaust and can never be made to sound like a sharp Advanc e Rumely Universal no matter how hard it is worked. Let's face it, I basically like all steam engines like most everyone else and have had to respond to articles constantly nitpicking Case engines. Case engines have proven themselves very well and are here to stay. Case used the terminology 'Simplicity' with the use of all steel brackets, steel wing-sheets and steel links etc., they got away from the huge bulky castings many engines pegged onto their boilers.

Many models of engines gave a lot of trouble with boiler stud leakage under heavy castings with any heavy draw bar work at all. As Case engines used a large amount of steel it kept their weight and cost down and anyone without a degree in engineering could run and fix them.

Yes, there were better valve gears, but let's use ,for example, the link reverse. It had a quick cut off but once these valve gears started to wear out and the average operator tried to adjust them he was lost. The large slides wore oval so shims would cause the drawblocks to bind. You had two eccentrics to become worn and they had a habit of turning when they become dry. You soon ended up with a lot of lost motion and not very pretty stock talk. Good machine shops were far and wide that could do that kind of repair work and not many operators had the knowledge to set the more complicated valve! Case sold themselves just like farmers ask around today to see which tractors give good basic service, are accessible to work on and operate (Simplicity) and, of course, the bottom line is the cost factor.

The Advance Rumely Universal is a very good engine; one of my favorite but took most of its blueprints off a 65 HP Case. There were many other good engines, don't get me wrong, but I was talking 'Simplicity', durability and cost. If I were a young farmer going out to make a living the three middle class single cylinder engines I would pick are the 75 HP Case, 25 HP Aultman Taylor and the 25 HP Rumely Universal. These engines including valve gears, castings, gearing, wheels and boiler size were reasonably light weight, simple to work on, were easy to handle from an operator's point of view and were medium priced as compared to similar HP engines, but ran with three or four more tons of cast iron pegged onto the boiler.

I just read another cheap shot attack on the 110 HP Case steamer that someone said it had a laminated piston rod. That 110 Case at Mt. Pleasant had 77 years for someone to cobble the piston rod and any knowledgable steam man would know that Case and other companies as well didn't use laminated piston rods from the factories. Let's face it the 110 HP Case broke more land than any other engine of its size built so has proven itself in the Engines Hall of Fame! Cheap shots from jealous steam men can never take away what these old engines have already proven!

We could pick on all steam engines on our show grounds and find faults either designed by the company or some part someone cobbled up.

The following information is a back up to previous articles I have written. I am going to state documented facts printed by the Winnipeg officials and anyone wishing photo copies for their records or, if they are offended, I will be glad to send them copies.

The Information comes from an Avery parts catalog and 1911 recording of the plowing contests at Winnipeg.

Don't get me wrong on Avery, they had their problems here in Western Canada of frames breaking and wearing out in the dust but they make a very nice show piece engine. Their motors run nice with the Gould balanced valves and their basic steam tractors handle very easily. Like the Reeves, the undermount Avery has an impressive class of distinction no one is going to take away and they didn't copy anyone else. You also have to admit that the 110 HP Case stands up proud with the distinctive locomotive cab.

Now getting down to basic facts the 22, 30, and 40 Avery had 7 x 10 cylinders. As printed in the Avery parts catalog and remembered by some of the Avery experts, Avery built two special engines numbers 4240 and 4420. These two special engines had 8 x 10 cylinders and one of these two engines was sent to the Winnipeg trials in 1911. Avery also experimented with one compound number 4220. Now as it states in the data, the 8 x 10 Avery is rated 30 x 90, ran 240-250 normal RPM and the total weight given loaded with water was 22 tons. The standard 30 Special Avery (or 40) was weighed in at 20 tons loaded on a previous year.

Now, in the two hour economy test the Avery was running 267.5 RPM's and developed 111.355 brake HP. In the half hour brake test the Avery ran at 281 RPM's and developed 159 HP. Was this a fair test with the special built oversize cylinders and excessive above normal RPM's? How long could you keep steam up in the boiler and how long would the crankshaft stand 281 RPM's? The old Avery experts will tell you they experienced crankshaft breakage under normal loads and RPM's.

Now back to the 1911 Winnipeg Exhibition test sheets. The 6.5 x 10 x 11 Steam Tiger Pull ran 257 normal RPM's and was rated 33 x 90 HP not far off my previous article on calculated HP. Also the given weight of the Steam Tiger Pull was 18 tons with boiler and all three water tanks loaded. On the two hour economy test they ran the Tiger Pull 293.8 RPM (nearly 37 RPM over normal) and it developed 101.52 brake HP. They ran the normal steam pressure of 150 pounds so what would the Tiger Pull develop at its normal RPM of 257? Now in the one half hour brake test they ran the Tiger Pull at 285.9 RPM's and they were able to push out 150 HP for a short time. Gaar Scott doubles were notorious for breaking crankshafts under normal loading so how long would the crankshafts last at the RPM's mentioned? Was this an honest contest to what the engine would do in the field under normal RPM's?

Anyone wanting photocopies of the printed data from Avery and Winnipeg trials please write me! This is a follow up article to a previous one Bob Anderson sent in comparing the 1911 Winnipeg contests (which Case were not entered) to a previous year when Case had entered. Bob had taken facts from one year and placed them appropriately comparing another year but left out most of the details I have just mentioned. My facts are from printed data, not from assumption or the way I wish they had been to suit a particular engine I like. I realize someone disgruntled will now write in and say men and companies were paid off to sell Case, Sawyer or some other make. I guess you can't and never will please everyone. Avery and Gaar Scott were not scared to print the data I just gave.

I have a basic love for all steam engines, so let's show a little respect for our seventy and eighty year old engines whether they be a 6 HP Russell or an 80 HP Waterloo. Our old engines have served one person or another very well no matter what make they were, so why try and rewrite all the record books. If a particular engine has earned its honours and served its owner well, let's quit being sour grapes, enjoy our engines and be men.

'...the 110 HP Case broke more land than any other engine of its size built...'