An Aultman At Austin's

Steam traction engine

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6230 East 81st N. Idaho Falls, Idaho 83401

Here is some stuff for your magazine that should provide some interesting reading for your subscribers, and hopefully some reader feedback to me as well.

First, I had wanted a traction engine for as long as I can remember, and I spied an ad in your magazine for a 16 HP Aultman-Taylor for sale by Knute Kirkberg, in California. A call to Knute brought the information that the engine was at Austin Monk's panoramic ranch northwest of Kalispell, Montana.

After a call to Knute and calls to Austin for information, I talked to my good friend Jim Matson from Columbia Falls, Montana and he helped a lot by going to Austin's and giving the Aultman a first hand eyeballing.

After some phone negotiations to Knute, during which I was made aware of all the problems anyone knew of with the engine, a deal was made and now 1 had a traction engine. I negotiated with another friend from Ogden, Utah, Carl Nelson, of Nelson Crane Service to take his semi up to Montana and haul the Aultman home for me.

I mention all these people and their locations and contributions not only because I am in their debt, but because I think it epitomizes what is so great about this hobby; the old time values of being able to take people at their word and people helping each other are still alive and well. Here we have one person in Idaho (me), one in California, and several in Montana, one from Michigan, and one in Utah, all working together to get a deal done that is still basically in the handshake stage, and everyone does what they say they will do, and everything is the way they say it is. Too bad we can't ALL run our businesses and our lives like that in this country anymore.

Of all the problems I was told about, the most important was that one half of the clutch was broken off and the piece could not be found, but that was maybe less of a problem to me than it would be to most people.

About the pictures: In picture #1 I am talking to Austin prior to loading the A. T., and the other person in the picture is another friend I have made, the one and only Doug McDougal, from Kalispell, Montana. Doug has been a lot of help and he also gave me a copy of 'Rough and Tumble Engineering ' which was my main education on how to get started actually running a steam traction engine. I've almost read the print off of it! In #2 the engine is loaded on Carl's giant lo boy trailer, just before dark. The rest of the pictures show my shop making the parts needed to repair the clutch and the steam cylinder external covers. (As I said before, the missing clutch was not as great a problem to me as it would have been for some, but I doubt I would have purchased this engine if I did not own a shop that repairs cast iron and has full machine shop capabilities, because this was a lot of work even for us). The last two pictures show the engine at a small threshing bee not too far from my house.

There was a lot of miscellaneous work to get this engine into working order, although it was basically in real good shape. First there was about 55 gallons of bird's nests taken out through a 2' hole at the top of the dome, and about the same amount of rust and scale from the boiler proper. And of course there were other little things to do, such as finding a good steam gauge and whistle (the originals were missing), and tightening or replacing fittings, and just a lot of cleaning in general.

In the process of all this I met another person who has become a friend, John Schrock of Michigan, the 'guru of steam' who many of you know, and whose help in getting this engine ready to test was invaluable. John as well as Austin tells me that the Aultman is really a 20 HP not a 16 as I originally thought.

Anyway, the rest of the repairs were made and the remade pieces installed and the boiler pressure tested (thanks, Austin, for the loan of the pump unit to do this!) to 160 lbs. A few miscellaneous pipes and so forth were tightened, and after a few more phone calls to Austin and John, I fired the A.T. several times and ran around my eight acre field.

I sure drew a crowd whenever anyone would drive by and see it operating. A friend of mine here in Idaho Falls, Andrew Barrie, is old enough to remember the steam threshers coming to his folks' farm but had not been old enough to actually ride on or drive a traction engine, and he got quite a kick out of driving it around the back field.

Anyway, after becoming a bit more familiar with the engine's operation, the time arrived for me to load it on my little semi and take it to the local threshing bee. Had quite some fun loading it. I hadn't had the truck and trailer very long and when we went to load the A. T. the PTO winch cable broke, and since the trailer is a tilt bed, down the ramps she went like a rocket! Well, all's well that ends well, and after replacing the cable, away we went.

At the little threshing bee, I belted up to a 28' John Deere thresher. I had quite a time getting it up to threshing speed partially because the thresher had a belt pulley on it for a gas tractor (which I didn't know at the time), but I think part of it was the steam engine. (Here's where I could use some help from some of you out there.) I could only let them put the bundles on about five feet apart, or the engine couldn't pull the thresher fast enough. So here's the first of two questions to you: First, how much would the wrong belt pulley on the thresher affect the engine's power? The pop off is set at 110 lbs, and I was running at about 100 to 105 lbs. steam. I have checked all the obvious things, like the governor and the main steam valve and I have talked to John Schrock about it, but the old girl just didn't have enough power to thresh. (No one here had ever belted ANYTHING to a steam engine before, me included, since I seem to have the only operative traction engine in eastern Idaho, although I know of one in northern Idaho. We had plenty of steam up, (??) and I could hold right up to almost popping off, but just had no power. Fooling with the governor didn't seem to change anything but the engine speed. Other than the obvious answer of excess cylinder clearance, does anyone have any ideas as to the lack of power?

The second question is about the old girl's date of manufacture. The steam cylinder proper is 9076, and the two end caps are 6870 is this a mix and match or what?