931 Robin Road, Blackwell, Oklahoma 74631
In the November/December 1996 Iron Men Album was a letter from Ken Hough of Valparaiso, Indiana regarding dress of steam engineers at the shows, and this Chady Atteberry article is a follow up on this topic. It is reprinted with permission from The Heritage Eagle 28.
Not many people have the privilege of reenacting history by operating a steam engine at a public show. Authenticity is important to show people how work used to be done. I don't like to see a modern day engineer dress in shorts, tennis shoes and a baseball cap at a show. He looks out of place to say the least. It is like seeing a play about Abraham Lincoln with the actor dressed in shorts with a bright colored T-shirt.
For the most part, at our show, we encourage our engineers to dress more like the thresher men and farmers did in the years when the engines were used and steam was king. This not only improves the show but helps to preserve our heritage. Also, needless to say, rubber-soled shoes and bare legs aren't safe around a firebox and boiler.
While at Irricana, I saw a young man who was wearing overalls and an English-type cap. He was running a 65 Case. This young man impressed me. I believe his name was Gary Kvill or maybe it was Jim. (Like a fellow told me, 'When you get a little over the hill you spend half your time looking for a restroom and the other half of your time trying to remember someone's name.')
I'd like to encourage engineers to do the same at other shows. Dress for safety and for authenticity.
Explaining Big Mac's Letter
I've enclosed a letter written to me on October 11, 1954, from Big Mac McMillan. I know you fellows who knew Mac will enjoy it and you younger people who didn't know Mac can get some idea of the way he wrote and talked. In the early Fifties, many times, I received two letters a week from Mac.
I'll fill you in on some things he mentioned in his letter so you can better understand it.
Mac speaks of the Berling 65 and Lyle Timberlake. The Berling 65 was at the early Bird City, Kansas, show. She had extension rims and was a top engine. This was the main plow engine on the 12-bottom plow. Lyle Timberlake was a wonderful steam friend from Illinois. It seems strange when you can name a lot of Case, Russell, Advance, etc. fans. I know there must be strong Minneapolis fans up north. They were fine old engines always had a soft spot in my heart for a Minneapolis.
Mac liked compound engines, in fact he was very high on them as you can tell. Of course Mac liked simple engines also and owned several, all Case.
There could be a mistake in the figures Mac gave on Case engine specifications, but I doubt it. I am sure Mac was doing just what he said, writing this letter and recalling the specifications from his head. I have never known anyone that had even close to the knowledge Mac had about Case engines.
Thomas Stebritz of Algona, Iowa, once told me that Mac stopped by to visit him and his dad. Tom is a Gaar Scott fan, but has outstanding knowledge of all makes. In their conversation, Tom mentioned that a certain Gaar Scott had a certain specification I don't remember what part they were talking about. Mac said, no, it was a different figure. Tom told me that he was the Gaar Scott man so he would get the catalog and prove to Mac he was right. When he looked it up, Mac was right. Like Lyman Knapp said, 'You didn't often catch Mac off base.'
Mac mentions H.I.O. That's Harold Ottaway from Wichita, Kansas. Harold's 110 is now at Crosby, North Dakota.
Mac mentions putting his Elgin Watch 40 up on blocks. In those days, few of us had the nice steel buildings we now use to store engines. In our state 98 percent of the engines are stored inside today. Forty years ago very few were stored in a building. Times have changed. It was in the late Forties when I first met Mac. Lyman Knapp and I stopped at Mac's house at 564 West Broadway, Hoisington, Kansas. We were driving a 1935 Studebaker.
Notice that Mac had two 40-horse Case engines#31393 was the incline engine that has a double-row, riveted, butt-strap boiler and his lap joint small-boilered 40, #31697. Note that the small-boilered engine is a later number than the butt strap. I think most of you know that the late 40-horse engines had triple riveted butt-strap boilers.
Also during that period, we did most of our restoring out under an elm tree. We didn't have the nice big machine shops of today, or the money to restore engines.
Mac speaks of the old fellow in Arkansas. Lyman Knapp and I were in the heart of the Arkansas hills. We had gone after a wooden, hand-fed separator and were driving Lyman's 1936 Chevy farm truck. We saw a man along the little narrow blacktop road with several coon dogs, so we stopped and asked if he knew of any steam engines in the area. The man told us his brother had a steam engine, but he couldn't tell us where his brother lived. He did give us directions as to where we should turn off the road and ask directions. I remember we turned off the main road and headed east. We soon came to a farm house a lady was in the front yard so we stopped to ask directions. The lady called to her husband to come out and give us directions to Uncle Bill's house.
When they fired up on a weekend during the Fifties, this is about the way people dressed. The engine is a 15 HP Case. Picture taken at Spearville, Kansas September 1985. I think all the men on the ground and the man on footboard are the. Slattery brothers. Their father purchased an 80 Case new and I think it's still in the family. Big Mac on engine. The Slatterys greatly supported me when I was running the 75 Case in the hotly contested brake tests at Wichita in 1953.
The husband said, 'Go straight ahead two hollers and take the fork to the right. You'll come to a small creek that you can ford. After crossing the creek, take the next fork to the right and that will lead you to Uncle Bill's house.' We did like the fellow told us and found a house on a very steep hill. The porch was head high to have the house level. A very old man came out. It was almost dark. We asked about the engine. He said he had one up the holler a ways. He said, 'I'll get a lantern.' We followed him up the holler with our two flashlights. By this time it was dark. There sat a small boiler 40 Case on the mill. A small stream was just to the left of the left drive wheel. The injector was plumbed into the stream.
To me there is something very special about finding and seeing an engine in her work clothes in this setting. It must be something like heaven. I know we had to be very close to God that night.
When you see an engine painted up and shining like a new one at our steam shows, it's not nearly as impressive as this little gal in her natural habitat, where she had served her master well and faithful so many years.
In the hill country people don't take right off with strangers. The old fellow said, 'Normally I am leery of strangers, but I could tell you boys were okay.' He knew that two strangers wearing overalls, shop caps and driving a 1936 Chevy truck must be okay.
Mac mentioned the old fellows like his 40 Case better than his Russell. He claimed the Russell used a lot more fuel. Of course I enjoyed this as Lyman was the Russell man. Like Mac said, something was wrong with the valve and rings because we all know a Russell is very economical.
Mac mentioned Professor Vaden Stroud. He was one of our steam buddies and a director of the early Wichita show. The Professor has passed on to his reward.
Excerpts from the letter from E. C. 'Big Mac' McMillan
October 11, 1954
'Your nice letter telling me all about the trip to Arkansas duly received and read through three or four times.
'Am truly sorry to hear of Lyle Timberlake's passing. I thought he was a fine fellow. He run the Case 65 the first day plowing. (Berling Engine), and I run it in the second day. Ed Nelson run it the last day.
'So you saw a good Case 75 there at Sulphur Springs, too. That is nice, would have liked to have seen it too. I like Case steam engines. Did you suspect that? According to my records this engine #26271 was a 75 HP compound traction. It wasn't a compound yet was it? Suppose if it had been, you would have noticed it and mentioned it. Of course, it being quite an old engine in a sense, it could have been converted to a simple subsequent to its leaving the factory. They were building quite a few compounds yet at that time especially the 75s. However, some birds that didn't know much about engines in general and compounds in particular didn't like a compound and so some of them converted them to simples. Very foolish thing to do. We converted a little 12 HP simple to a compound with very gratifying results.
'I would like to have a good Case 80 HP compound. I notice that you say it has a balanced valve of some type. Could this be one of those Baker piston-valve conversions that the Baker Valve Company built to convert Woolf compounds to simples with the Baker Valve as the main part of the conversion? Leroy Blaker has one in one of his Port Huron Long fellows. (24 HP) You know this would really give a Case 75 a good deal of power. In fact it would be entirely too much power for its small crankpin and crankshaft which were really too small even for the regular 11' x 11' simple cylinder or the regular 9' x 13' compound. Too bad they didn't at least have as large a shaft and pin as the 65s. Same size crankshaft as the 50. Only 37/16' and the same size pin, 2' diameters but about ' longer than the 50 and all other engines below the 65. The 65 has a 311/16' crankshaft and a 2' x 3' crankpin, and the 80s except prior to #26641 (which have the same crankshaft and pin as the 75s) have a 315/16' crankshaft and a crankpin of 3' diameter by about 3' long. The 110s prior to either #27319 or #27646 had a 3' x 3' crankpin. The 110 has always had, as far as I know anyhow, a 43/16' crankshaft. The Road Locomotive had a 45/8' crankshaft but I don't know how large the crankpin was on them. Am quite sure that the R. L. only had a 315/16' countershaft and that was what the first 110s used, but didn't use it after 1907 as they say in the repair catalog. They term it the 4' countershaft but the chart in the repair catalog gives it as definitely 315/16'. The 110 always had the 6' rear axle and the R. L. had a 7' rear axle. The crankpins on all the smaller engines below the 65 are 2 x 2' except the little 18 HP portable which is 17/8' diameter I believe. The first few 75 prior to #9490 had the same size crankshaft and pin as the 45 and 60. A 33/16' shaft and they also had only a 33/16' countershaft and had the same connecting rod and crosshead and the 17/16' piston rod. After #9490 they had the same sizes as now, 37/16' crankshaft and also same for countershaft. Much better. Also had the longer connecting rod and longer crankpin and the 19/16' piston rod. But like I say, it would have been lots better if they had had them the size that the 65 has.
The late 110s like H.I.O.'s has a 3' x 3' crankpin, and after 1907 they all had a 47/8' countershaft. I am giving you all this dope without looking in a catalog or anything either. Wish you had time to spend a good long time with me and we would go over the Case catalog etc. and also the repair catalogs. One can glean lots of very good information from them. However I would like to have the famous 'Big Books,' that the Case Company has there at Racine. Could put in months going over and through them. Of course I know quite a bit about the Case side crank, spring-mounted steam traction engine, but there are still some things that I would like to know that I don't now.
'I have been writing somewhat in general about Case engines, but will now write a little about one particular engine that is the most famous of all. It is known as the 'Elgin Watch Case 40,' #31393. I had it fired up yesterday, up and down the alley a few times, took a few kids a ride and then backed it into its stall and got it up on some old pieces of planks to keep the wheels out of the ground. Surely too bad that such a famous and good engine doesn't have a good, clean, tight shed to be kept in. Ought to have for any engine and especially any Case engine for that matter. I had some kindling in the shop that I had been wanting to get rid of for quite a while anyway and some wood piled outside and it was fairly dry too, so I did n' t have to use any coal. Think I have about 25 lbs. of coal but will save it for another fire-up, as well as some more wood, and want to fire up the 45 HP compound before long and move it a little out of the dirt as much as I can. Also would like to get the heater and some of the valves and pipes on the little 40 #31697 and fire it up and get it up out of the ground. (It has settled down about 5' or 6' in the two or three years it has been sitting there.) Also want to wash its boiler as I never have washed it yet. I need a good pump so bad and also a tank, but guess I could use the tank that came with the little 40. If I had a good pump that would put on at least 50 or 60 lbs. pressure75 would probably be better. Might use 100 lbs., but 50 or 60 would be pretty good if it would maintain that with the regular Case washout nozzle which has nearly a 3/8' hole in it.
'Am planning to work a little on my old Case 50, #31890 next trip in, if the weather is fit. The wind has nearly torn the cab off of it. The wood part is getting so rotten it won't hold the nails any more. I will take it off and may replace it with the cab that is now on the little 40 as it is too long for the engine with this little short boiler anyhow, or may try to put in some new wood parts and put the same one back on. Then when we have the cab off, we will remove the crankshaft and eccentric strap and try to fit it up good so it too, will run 'smooth and quiet, like an Elgin Watch.' That is the way Joe May described the way his 50 ran so I wanted my 40, #31393 to run the same way so fixed it up to do so, hence the 'Elgin Watch' name.
Looks like an early Case outfit. These early pictures are interesting to study. I bet the man standing by the left drive wheel is the boss. The auto I am guessing is a two cylinder. It has no windshield or front doors.
'Have had the old rocker arm pin removed and a new one made and the arm bored out, but don't have it in yet. Sure wish I had you to help me on these jobs. We could surely fix up some other pins and bushings in the valve gear so it should make it pretty good in that respect.
'I had the piston out and the rings seem good yet and want to take the valve out and examine it, too, before I use it again. Before I tore it down it had over lost motion between the eccentric and the valve. That is, I could take hold of the valve rod and move it back and forth lengthwise over ' with the engine standing still, yet I pulled eight 14' moldboard plows with it in 1951 so if I get it all fixed up it should do it easily and with less fuel and water and not rattle so much in the valve gear either.
'So the old gentleman down in Arkansas had a nice little Case 40 and likes it better than a Russell. Tsk. Tsk. Too bad he had to tell Lyman that. I, too, thought the 16 HP Russell is a good engine. Well, I don't know about the valve. I didn't think they had much trouble with the Giddings valve that Russell used and they do certainly work nice and easy and with the double ports. You know that these Russells are mighty powerful. Surely with fairly good water and proper lubrication one should have little difficulty with the valve on a Russell engine. Maybe someone had run that 16 HP Russell without oil or with very poor oil and cut the valve. Surely it shouldn't use two tanks more H-2-0 than a Case, per day, unless something was badly wrong with it.
'Is this director's meeting definitely set for October 23, or 24? Where will it be held? Expect it should be at Wichita this time as we have had it at the Prof's farm two or three times now and should not have it the same place every time. I want to be there if I can reasonably. Had a letter from Stroud recently and I think he still wants to have the reunion in August. Well I don't, and I so wrote him. He could get off from his school Saturday and Sunday and wouldn't have to do the PA job and could run an engine and have a better time than the way it has been and would not be so hot on him or anyone else. If we don't change it and it is hot again one more year, it will just about be the end of our reunions. Several people have told me that they could not stand it, and didn't expect to ever go again if it was so hot, and why didn't we have it later in the year when it was cooler? I had to agree with them too, Anyhow I don't know of anyone else that wants to have it in August anymore. And we can't punish ourselves and the people that want to, and do come, to see it just on account of one man even if he is the Professor.
As Ever, McCase.