1738 108th Ave., R.R.1, Ostego, Michigan
The photo of the free lance model shows my two grandsons as engineers. Gordon Gilmore is in the foreground at the throttle, ably assisted by his cousin, Michael Johnson. The other photo is my father engineering a 16-50 simple single, Nichols and Shepard threshing in the early 1920's. Both engine and engineer have long been gone, though their influence still survive, having prompted the building of the aforementioned model and affecting the leisure hours, not only of myself, but my son and grandson's as well.
I experienced the transformation from boy to man (in growth at least) in the decade of the 20's; so I have no stories of my own experiences of threshing, or sawmilling as business venture.
It required my spare time (some not so spare) over a period of three years to build this engine. Boiler constructed of 7/16' and 1/2' boiler steel tested to 500 lb. cold water pressure. Can safely carry up to 200 lb. steam pressure but use from 130 to 150 lbs. - cylinder, piston, cross-head guide and connecting rod were cast and machined by Tom Donaldson of Otsego. We reworked the steam ports and valve and made the link reverse gear. A ' Judson Governor was furnished by John Spaman. The bore 2'x3' stroke gives plenty of belt and traction power. Presently we are building a separator, which we hope to finish soon. My grandson, Gordon Gilmore, in foreground and Michael Johnson, another grandson, is the Engineer.
From a rather limited experience with steam engines, I became convinced, and still hold these convictions, that nothing else can equal their simplicity, power or economy; the many steam engines still in use like Mr. Blaker's fine Port Huron, present ample proof of their durability. I believe that much of the so called progress, in this field at least, was motivated by greed rather than need. I enjoyed reading the results of the 1960 Montpelier test runs; though it's my belief that hp ratings and loads being equal no one should expect a simple engine to out perform a compound regardless of type of valve gear. I have run engines equipped with Marsh, Stephens on link and Wolff Gears and in their proper conditions they performed equally well.
I like to think a little 12 hp Advance could out pull them all - at least it talked as if it could. A 16-50 double Nichols & Shepard, was 'hooked up' a notch occasionally when threshing, but never on the big blizzard silo filler. I recall now a Silo filling for which the farmer furnished us dry wood fuel, though the stack was equipped with cinder catcher and spark screen, nevertheless before we had run ten minutes, the barn roof had a dozen small fires. My father threw the belt and moving the engine around the barn, quickly put out the fires with water from a hose attached to the blow-off valve.
The farmer, at once sent one of the hands with the team and wagon some three miles for coal and demanded that we proceed no further with the filling until the coal arrived. A rather humorous incident of this event involved the three men working inside the silo, which was one half inside the barn, and covered by the extension of the barn roof. Upon their entering the silo all doors had been placed and secured, since the job was to be finished before the noon hour. When the filler stopped, they in the silo loudly demanded to know the cause. No one paid them any heed until the danger was past, whereupon they were told the barn was afire and smoke so thick no one could reach the silo doors to free them. One old boy, whose religion was hard work, hard cider and harder language, promptly confessed his sins, begged forgiveness, and beseeched the Almighty to deliver him from that silo. The others alternately pleaded with their tormentors and condemned the farmer to the company of the devil for not furnishing coal. When they were released and discovered they had been put upon, feelings ran pretty high. They would not reenter the silo. Those who had prompted the prank were called upon to replace them. The task was finished, as were all tasks back then, with a lot of hard work, lightened somehow with a little fun, hardly comparable to the frantic rush in which we find ourselves today. Perhaps that's one reason so many of us enjoy those steam engine days and threshermen reunions.
May the Steam Engine and Old Threshermen survive forever, for these whom I was privileged to know represented to me a principle sadly lacking in too many of our present-day institutions. - They threshed clean and with honest measure.