Minot, North Dakota 58701.
I have been reading your magazine for sometime, and I have enjoyed it a lot. It has brought back many memories of the so-called good old days. It makes me think of the day I asked a man if I could have the job to fire his old Advance next year. This was in October, and he said yes. Was I happy! The first thing I did, I sent to Sears & Roebuck for a book on how to run a steam engine, and it was a good one, except it did not tell you how to adjust the Advance valve gear. But outside of that, it was a very good book and I had almost a whole year to read it and I did.
But everybody told me I should not take the job because the old Advance was no good. I would have only trouble with the old thing, but that was what I wanted. I knew I could learn from an old engine. You can't learn anything with an engine that runs steady all day and no trouble, and I got just what I wanted. Most everything was wrong, and the separator was even worse, it sure was a humdinger!
But the great day seemed a long way off, but it came when we could start, and I was out there and started the fire at 3 o'clock in the morning. What a wonderful thing it was to see the smoke stack, but it took a long time to get steam. After awhile the hand on the clock started to move, and when it got to 75 lbs., I started the old engine and I would let it run for awhile. Then I would stop it and then start it all over again. When I thought I knew everything about a steam engine, I pushed the clutch in, and I would run it ahead about 100 feet, then I would back up. I kept it up for a long time until I could point the flywheel at any point without any trouble. After breakfast, we started to thresh, but the separator man did not come, so the boss had to run the separator, and I was left alone with the engine. I did not feel bad about that.
The first time the boss started the engine, and at long last we were going. I had never fired before with straw, but I watched others do so by the hour, and I knew too much straw would cause the smoke to be too black. I really did not have any trouble. When the steam went down, they would have trouble with separator and they had plenty. The key in the shaker pulley would fall out because the hub was cracked and would take some time to find the key. By the time they did, I would have a full head of steam. Then the return elevator belt would fall off, the elevator had sagged down, and the pulley was out of line. The blower belt was not tight enough and the blower would plug up, so I had no trouble to keep the steam up.
About seven o'clock it started to rain and the boss said we would not do anything the next day. I almost cried, but it turned out to be a good thing for me. I had the time of my life the next day. I was tired that night and I went to bed early. The excitement had been too much for me, and I went to sleep right away.
When I awoke in the morning, I got up right away. I did not care what time it was, but when I got down to the rig, it was three o'clock. I went to work on the separator first. I wanted daylight to work on the engine. The first thing I did was to take the shaker pulley off and turned it inside out. The hub was not cracked on the other side and the pulley never came loose again. Then I went after the return elevator, which had sagged so much, the pulley was out of line. But all I had to do was to loosen the bracket bolts that held the elevator and drive a wedge inside the bracket and the pulley was in line. The belt never fell off again.
Next I went after the blower belt. It was too long so I took it out and cut off about two inches. I had never repaired a belt, but I had seen others do it so many times that I had no trouble doing it. The blower never plugged up again.
By this time the sun was up, so I went to work on the old engine. I was scared when I started; was afraid that I was going to get into trouble, but I just could not keep my hands off that steam chest cover so I took it off.
There were instructions in my Sears & Roebuck book as to how to adjust all valve gears, except the Advance gear. I found out afterwards that he did not know how, and he could not find anyone that did. Later I learned how to do it, but I made out all right this time too, only it took me too long.
Plowing demonstration by a fine big 28 HP Minneapolis-Moline pulling 12-14 inch bottom plow gang. These pictures sent in by J. F. Mermoud are a pictorial report of the Thirteenth Annual Thresherman Steam Power Show for 1972 held August 17-20 at the Perry County Fairgrounds at Pinckneyville, Illinois. Edward Jansen is President. It was again a huge success with over a score of beautifully restored steam engines performing in various pulling, balancing, pulley-belt and parading activities. Over a hundred gas and kerosene engines and tractors and old farm equipment pieces were on display.
I worked all day on the engine and the separator. When it got dark, I went back to the separator. Once I had to go over to the engine to get a hammer. By this time I was a little tired. When I checked the time it was eleven o'clock. I sat down to rest and went to sleep at once. A dog came and barked at me about three o'clock and woke me. I went to work and started to steam up so I could practice lining up the engine again. With practice, it was not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be.
While all this had been going on, Hans, the water hauler, had been watching me. When I stopped, he handed me the belt. I took it but made no attempt to put it on the flywheel. Hans gave me one hard look and asked me what the hell I was waiting for. 'Put this on the wheel.' I did as he told me and then he stepped in front of the wheel and took the belt. 'Now tighten the belt,' he said. I did and that too was not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be.
Now Hans said when we finish this job to have the engine ready to move right away when I throw the belt. 'You take the engine, don't wait for Sam. Turn it around and back up and hook up to the separator. I know you can do it,' he told me, and I thought so myself.
So when we had cleaned up under the separator, Hans threw the belt and I turned the engine around and backed up to the separator. Hans was there, but he did not have to help. He did take the fire fork and fired on the way to the next job.
The next job was a nice place to set the rig, level and plenty of room in a good farm yard, and we were ready to go in a few minutes. Hans was really good to me. If it had not been for Hans, Sam would never have let me take over the way he did.
From now on things ran smoothly for about a week, but then both Sam and I could have lost our lives. We had a choice of going around some lakes and swampsa long but a good road, or we could go over a bluff, a long steep hill to the top of the bluff, but much steeper going down the other side. It did not bother me. Sam was a good man on the engine and we got to the top of the bluff without any trouble. But we had not gone very far down hill before I knew something was wrong. Sam had taken over, and was in charge. I could not understand why he was going so fast in the dark. We did not even have a lantern.
But I did not have to wait long. Sam told me he had lost control and asked me to take the wheel. I did but what chance did I have. I could not see the road going as fast as we were. I could see a little light between the tree tops, and I was able to stay in the road for about 300 feet. At this point one front wheel hit a small tree. This jerked the wheel out of my hand, spun around, and the handle hit the back of my hand. The steering chain broke, the wheels jack-knifed, and we plowed ahead about 15 feet, but no one was hurt. We repaired the chain with wire and we had no more trouble that night. Sam let me take full charge of the old engine the rest of the year.