A Trip To The Baker Factory

Model T Ford roadster

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624 West Monroe Street Jackson, Michigan 49202

Here are the pictures of my dad's old steam threshing outfit, and of the Baker threshing machine factory at Swanton, Ohio back in the teens. I took them myself with my brother's camera.

About 1912 (I was about 8 years old), Dad bought an 18 HP Baker engine. The salesman, Mr. Burt Clutts, is in the picture with 1912 model T roadster. A close look at the Ohio license plate on the dash board reads 1912.

Bert Clutts, salesman for A. D. Baker Co. with 1912 model T Ford roadster. The long shed in center background is where the engine and separator were stored in winter.

That engine was run about two or three yearsone year on Case separator and one on a new Baker that had a Garden City wing feeder, which was too much for the 18 HP. We were threshing on the Blake farm north of Jackson when the cross head on the engine broke and let the piston came out through the cylinder head with a loud bang and everything stopped. The team of horses on the water wagon were standing right beside it and took off! Everybody started running and yelling water was flying and the team took a big circle and headed for that barn. I was standing on top of the separator tending blower when it happened and had a good view of the circus.

Dad traded the 18 HP in on a new 23 HP Baker that handled the separator okay. It came in on a flatcar about the last of June and school was out. I went along and helped unload the new engine and load the old one on the flatcar. It was quite exciting for me as I was only about twelve at the time. We had to pump water into the new engine from the water wagon, pull the fire out of the old engine and put it in the new one, and get up steam before we could move it. Kids followed it all the way home.

A picture of the new 23 HP Baker engine on the Blake farm. This is about the same spot the old engine stood when the cross head broke and the horses ran away with the tank wagon. Walter Levengood is the engineer firing the engine.

About 1916, my brother had to go to Swanton, where the Baker plant is located, to get some repair parts. He had an old Brisco roadster he had fixed up (see roadster in front of Baker plant in picture) and he ask me to go along. We took his Kodak camera along and I took it in the plant with me. While he did the business I went out in the back and ran into an old man in overalls sweeping the floor. He took me all around and even showed me a steam tractor they had built. They were using it to pull freight cars around the yards. I stood on an old separator and took pictures of the plant and yard. On the way home my brother ask me if I knew who the old gentleman was? I said no. Then he told me it was Mr. Baker. I wish I had known at the time I would have taken his picture.

A lot of things have happened in this mechanical world we live in today, since the days of the steam engine. I have seen the development of the combustion, the diesel, and the jet engines. Also the electric motor that has replaced the steam engine in the factories. I also have a deep respect for men who take on the job of restoring one of these old steamers that have sat out in the open for forty years or more. Having worked on all kinds of automotive production machines the last fifty years, I have an idea of what it takes to restore these old machines.

Took my grandsons to Greenfield Village where they have a machine shop with a steam engine to run it, with line shafts and the old belt driven lathes, shapers and milling machines in place. I explained to them that the steam engine is what started this whole mechanical ball of wax moving. It was the first real source of power the World had that was portable at the time.

I thought you readers would be interested in this picture of the DeWitt Clinton reproduction. Here is the information about it taken from the exhibit in the Museum:

1831 DeWitt Clinton: Reproduction of the third train in America built for actual service on a railroad

On a hot day in August in 1831 hundreds of people from communities around Albany, New York thronged to the tracks of the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad on which only horse-drawn cars had traveled before. Some had come to deride the new-fangled smoke-belching 'DeWitt Clinton' insisting it would blow up at any moment.

But the quaint stagecoach cars were soon filled with festive well wishers who braved the flying sparks and dense smoke for the historic trip from Albany to Schenectady and return. It was the first time that a steam powered railroad train had carried passengers in the state of New York.

The DeWitt Clinton of which this is a reproduction (built from framents from the original locomotive and to exact original specifications) was named for New York's seventh governor who had vigorously promoted the Erie Canal project. The original train was built in West Point, New York. The locomotive was designed by John B. Jervis and built by David Matthew. The coaches were built by James Gould. The locomotive pulled five cars besides the tender which carried water barrels and pine wood for fuel. The first three cars were stages coaches with wheels flanged to keep them on track. The last two cars were open with planks running their entire length on which the passengers sat sideways. During its maiden trip, the locomotive reached a top speed of 30 mph.

This reproduction of the DeWitt Clinton, built in 1893 for exhibition at the Chicago World's Fair, was used for promotional purposes by New York Central until 1935, when it was given to the Henry Ford Muesum.

Built by the New York Central Railroad New York. The length of the locomotive was 12 feet and 10 inches, and the weight (locomotive and cars) was 25,000 lbs.

Notice boiler made of small pieces of boiler plate and riveted together. It must have been quite a job with the tools they had in those days to bend the plates and make them to size and to fit together tight. It would be great if we could wald into the shop when they were making the first engine to see the tools they had too work with. Just making the holes in the boiler plate for the rivets and getting them to line up must have been a job!