A REPORT ON A TRIP TO MERRY OLD ENGLAND

Aultman-Taylor engine

Pictured is the left-side view of Aultman-Taylor engine at Streator, Illinois. Courtesy of Truman Koopman, Flanagan, Illinois 61740.

Truman Koopman

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R. D. 1, Box 181, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania 16117.

I've been planning to do a report on my English trip for a long time and I guess I've just now gotten into a scribbling mood. My ambition to see England started somewhere a long time back at least in college, and last year I took a sabbatical leave from my job of teaching high school math and did some traveling. The first trip was to Iowa to that big beautiful show at Mt. Pleasant. I tried repeatedly to find someone to go along, without success, only to have 3 or 4 people say afterward, 'Oh I should have gone when you asked me'. Anyone who likes steam should make the trip soon so they will have an opportunity to return later. I guarantee they will want to, as I do.

After several trips to other points of interest here, I left for England April 4, 1972. It was the most interesting experience I have ever had. I was just a little bit nervous about going, but will never hesitate to go back now that I have been there. I had no problem whatever getting around in England. The buses and subways in London are amazingly effective and the bus lines and regular trains run all across the country and up to Scotland, which I did not see, in just one day. There are lots of trains, about 30 stations in London, and you can set your watch when they pull out. I had no language trouble in England of course, but did on the continent. The other main thing I learned was to plan ahead. I would advise anyone who has not had prior experience to take a planned tour for any part of the continent, except maybe Amsterdam where English is very much a second language. I am strictly a country boy, but found after I was home that I had lived in London, one of the worlds largest cities, for a month virtually alone and enjoyed it all.

There is just so very much to see and so many nice green parks to walk in. Museums galore of all sorts. The science museum in South Kensington, London has both models and full size originals of all sorts Steam Engines, lots of which are the very first of their type. The first was of course the huge Newcomen type atmospheric cylinder condensing engine used for pumping. Second, were Watt and Boulton Watt Engines with External condensers. They were at least as huge and cumbersome as the Newcomen type, especially since the condenser was as big as the cylinder or bigger. The pressure used on these never went above 15 pounds per sq. in. so that vacuum or condensed exhaust could almost double the effective pressure and was a real big help. Higher pressure was definitely considered very dangerous and totally unsafe by James Watt and his outfit. Maybe he had some sad experiences.

There is a model of the first Boulton-Watt installation in the London area. It was a pumping unit, walking beam of course, at a water power mill which had outgrown the supply of water to turn the wheel. They helped out by pumping water from the tail race back up to the headrace. How about that for a set-up? Anyone care to calculate the mechanical or thermal efficiency of that? Of course the main thing was, it worked.

There are only a few Horse Powered Threshing Outfits left in the Country. Pictured here is a complete Case Wooden Agitator Thresher, with a Case Woodbury-Dingee Gear Unit, a vintage of 1889. Six teams of horses and mules power this outfit annually at the Kings Show, King Farm, Kings, Illinois, sponsored by North Central Illinois Steam Power Show. This nicely restored and painted outfit is owned by George W. Hedtke of Davis Junction, III. Herman Hintzsche of DeKalb, III., who can be seen standing on the platform of the gear unit, supervises the Horse Power Threshing annually. George Hedtke can be seen sitting on top of the Agitator Thresher, checking the grain and straw separation. Harry Woodmansee of Dowling, Michigan, and John Southard of Alligan, Michigan are hand-feeding the old time thresher. In the background, 3 large steam powered threshing outfits can be seen, waiting their turn to set-up in the field for threshing, as well as 2 large gas tractor outfits. This show is held annually on an 80 acre farm. Twelve various field demonstrations are held daily during the 4 days, including evolutions of plowing with horses, mules, steam engines, and gas tractors. The 1973 show will be held August 2, 3, 4, and 5, at the King farm. Kings, III. Courtesy of Jon M. Schwartz, Sec'y, North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, Inc. Box 26, Davis Junction, Illinois 61020.

Also in the Science museum rests the original effort of the brave Cornishman, Richard Trevithick, who ignored Watt and raised the boiler pressure to a horrifying 55 pounds per square inch. Sounds like the first step in a horsepower race doesn't it. The boiler is supposed to be cast iron though it looked a bit more like what should be called wrought iron. It is very heavy being over an inch thick in the shell which is all one piece and shaped like a cooking pot laid on the side with the lid bolted on. The lid or head contains the single 'U' shaped flue with a 14 inch diameter on the left where the fire door fastens on tapering to an 11 inch diameter where the base of the smoke stack connects. The cylinder is set down into the back of the boiler to keep it hot as was not uncommon in those days and the guide rods, piston rods etc. look strange and spidery sticking up along with a gangly 16 ft. flywheel with a rim about one inch wide and four inches thick. It was an immediate success and the second attempt was tried on wheels and rails with a little less success. At any rate Trevithick is a big hero in Cornwall and is honored by a statue at Cambourne in front of the library.

There is a nice display too of very early railroad engines and farm machinery. Yes they still have Obed Hussey's cutter bar on Rev. Bells reaper. But only one or two traction engines. I guess most are still on the road and I mean that literally. They don't work many, but one of the most interesting things I learned was that when they have shows they don't haul the engines on 'lorries' or trucks but drive them right over the roads. Most of them still carry a license plate similar to a car. I read several accounts of trips of several days duration and well over 100 miles. The planning needed is something too, mainly for water supply. It was, and I think still is, illegal in England for a traction engine driver to pick up water from a horse trough, but I was told on the side that in a pinch you can usually get at least half a tank before anyone comes along to catch you.

There is a real selection of shows to see. I counted 87 in the spring issue of 'Steaming' The Journal of the National Traction Engine Club. They also certify inspection and insurance and approve shows at which all Engines are inspected and insured or else approval and advertising rights are lifted. It seems a very good and effective program. I have several back issues and a subscription to 'Steaming' and it makes very good reading. Two issues have report of some very special cable plowing in the north of Germany in bog land. The equipment is all special, including four huge engines and a single bottom back and forth plow which takes a furrow eight feet (YES, FEET) deep in the peat. It is a reclamation project paid for by the government. I just missed a chance to see it as a British group went over May 29 to see it and I came home May 17. They wrote the second article in the summer issue.

There is a great deal of steam in England especially compared to over here. The Hitler war saw many pressed into service which would have been scraped earlier but had the ability to go right along without rationed gasoline. Also, I suppose the extra five or six years in regular use introduced lots of younger men to steam while their counterparts over here were nursing thirties automobiles through the shortages of war. You can imagine 87 shows in an area about the size of Pennsylvania and New York states together, in about 4 months. There are still rollers in use in some townships and many which have been held as spares come up rather often for sale in good condition, needing maybe a set of flues and some trimming up and for quite reasonable prices. Isn't it a shame they are so heavy and freight is so high?

There were 23 rollers at the London show I visited. There are usually six types of steam power at English shows and sometimes a portable makes it seven. The largest and heaviest are the cable plow engines, usually by McLaren or Fowler, and they are Huge. About like a 110 Case or similar Reeves or Rumely. Also, they are about the least decorated for what I saw. I didn't compare it to Avery because I didn't see an Undermounted Engine or return flue boiler anywhere and was told they just didn't have them. The other biggies are the Showman's Engines. They are very highly decorated as most readers probably know, with twisted brass sleeves on the canopy supports and brass hub caps and trim. Also brass banded boiler sheathing which is sort of standard and is usually also nicely enameled. Many of the Engines are beautifully enameled similar to restored antique cars over here.

They also have several other interesting features some of which are common. (1) Flywheel brake (2) wheel rim brakes (3) Cable drum inside left rear wheel. Wheel drive pins can be pulled leaving the drum alone engaged to pull oneself out of mud or other trouble by attaching the pulled out cable to a large tree or other suitable anchor. The Showman often has additional guides and a boom which allows it to be used as a crane to pull up heavy tents and poles and the like at the fair grounds. (4) three or four different speed gears which are engaged or disengaged for travel or belt work with no friction clutches on most engines. (5) Mostly cross compound engines, although singles and double simples are not uncommon at all. (6) relief valves always double and just spring loaded valves and not pop safety valves. The cylinder casting acts as a dome by having a jacket around the cylinder and is bolted to the boiler. The relief valves, whistle, and so on are always on top of the cylinder casting and the appearance is unusual compared to American practice. The connecting rods and valve rods work through a 'spectacle' plate (the holes make it look something like a pair of eyeglass frames) and if the engine has a name, not the maker but an individual name like 'Daemon' or 'Midnight' it is usually on the Motion Plates. These 'Motion' plates run along side the rods hiding the moving parts and provide some safety, help prevent scaring horses, and keep grease and oil from splashing on all that beautiful paint. By the way the name Midnight was part of the caption under a picture of an Aveling and Porter Engine said to be so named because of the time she regularly arrived back at the yard of the company which owned and operated her.

They do lots of boiler work which is getting harder all the time to get done around here, and many compounds still carry 200 lbs. of steam, even though they were made in the twenties. I heard of several having new fireboxes fitted. Their boilers often have a large inspection hole in the barrel just below water line called a manhole. A small man can actually slide down in among the tubes to look over the inside of the shell and of course do considerable work when the tubes are out. High gear road speed for Showmen they tell me is usually 16 mph or more. They are licensed like tractors or trucks and have solid rubber tires. They are really huge and beautiful.

The third type is rollers. All three wheel no tandem that I saw. I believe they told me they had a few but not many. The others run from about nominal ten ton down to nominal three or less tons and being all three wheelers they all look a lot alike. They have all three cylinder arrangements but the double simple is seen pretty often here.

The most variable in style of power equipment are the fourth group, the Steam lorries or trucks. They are not too numerous but to say they are totally different from anything American is a gross understatement. They are mostly double simple, cross compound, or double cross compound with cylinders in any position. Boilers are tee, Horizontal, Vertical or a mixture. Really some outfit. They are also faster on the roads of course usually up to 25 mph or more.

The traction engines are about the same whether for hauling or agriculture and lots of them were used for heavy hauling of all sorts. They have volumes of records of manufacturing, licensing and use and are great at keeping the history of their engines complete.

The sixth type of steam power is the steam 'tractor'. Yes the steam tractor is a reality in England though it never was in America except for such as the Bryan and the Baker experimental unit. There it is just a small traction engine. Under 5 gross tons if I recall correctly. The classification was mainly for licensing with a smaller fee and less restrictions due to the lighter weight to break down roads and bridges and smaller size to negotiate the very narrow roads in some parts.

The only show I actually saw was the 'Expo Steam' at London's Battersea Park. It was too static as no engines were paraded due to lack of space and the only ones doing their normal work were the Showman's engines which had band organs to run with their generators. The aim was 100 engines and they got 97 so I really didn't mind the relative lack of activity since there was so much there totally new to me. Can you imagine how a country kid from western Pennsylvania ran up and down that line? I shot 50 or 60 pictures and our local club has enjoyed them very much.