Steam Engine

Elwood Allnutt of Chillicothe, Mo., beside his steam engine on the grounds of his motel. Photo by William Plowman.

William Plowman

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Chillicothe, Missouri

This story was written by William L. Plowman of the Department of Business and Administration of the State of Missouri, Jefferson Building, Jefferson City, Missouri, and Suggested by Colonel Ross Diehl.

For the benefit of tourists, Elwood Allnutt combines a hobby with his business. He operates a motel (the Wind moor) at the edge of Chillicothe, on U. S. Highway 65. It has 10 units with air conditioning and television. Along with the motel he has a restaurant, service station and dance pavilion for visitors. But that's not all.

For years, Allnutt wanted to own a fire truck, a steam engine and other antique vehicles. In the past year, he has begun making his dream come true.

Now at the motel are an old threshing machine, steam traction engine, and fire truck. Next on Allnutt's acquisition list is an antique auto.

However, Allnutt's hobby is not a selfish one. As he puts it: 'A lot of kids today don't know what a steam engine and thresher look like. And they're like I was as a kid; I always wanted to get on a fire truck and crank the siren. So I'm getting the machines all cleaned and painted, and we let the kids play on them. On special days, we'll fire up the steam engine. Might be nice, too, for parades'.

While he spoke, his son Freddie Dean, 4 years old, and a playmate Shelly Hall, 7, were clambering and exploring the machines. The Allnuts have another son Junior, 11, and a daughter, Pamella Pat, age 2.

Lending assistance in Allnutt's machine hobby has been Ross Diehl, a retired Army Colonel, who operated threshing outfits in Missouri, Kansas and the Dakotas for 30 years.

Allnutt's first purchase, the fire truck, was arranged last November. It is a 4-cylinder 1925 Graham Bros, model with pumper tanks. A hand crank siren is on the right side of the cab, in front; farther back is a big spotlight. Other equipment: Water tank, chemical tank, two ladders (slightly warped), hose and hose racks, and axes. It weighs 6,720 lbs. The wood steering wheel is 2 inches thick. The ignition has a padlock-type switch. It operates on two 6-volt batteries. Front tires are 34x5, rear tires are 24x7.

Originally purchased by the town of Bloomfield, Iowa, on Sept. 19, 1924, the truck cost $5,900. Allnutt bought it at Baring, Mo., and drove it back to the motel, averaging 40 miles per hour on the more than 100-mile trip.

The 20-horsepower steam engine was built about 1920 by Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. and cost about $3,000. Allnutt got it at a sawmill at Savannah, Mo., in June and brought it home on a trailer. It is in excellent condition, although the cab is missing. It weighs 12 tons, burns wood or coal, and will carry 150 pounds of steam pressure per square inch.

Diehl pointed out that the bygone steam engine led to the great development of wheat in America.

The threshing machine is the newest acquisition. Allnutt towed it by tractor from a farm north of Dunlap, Mo., on June 27. That was his worst trip because a wheel came off the thresher and he was stranded on the road for several hour sat night before temporary repairs could be made. A Belle City thresher, it was made in Peoria, III., about 1918 and probably cost $2,000. It was in use until three years ago, with a capacity of 800 bushels a day.