In Memory of Amos Rixman

Amos Rixman

Amos Rixman

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Amos was born on May 26, 1925, at Huegely, Illinois. He died on June 24, 1999, at Washington, Missouri. Amos had traveled to Washington, Missouri, to prepare a TD18 I.H.C. crawler tractor for loading on a low boy. One of the brakes was stuck. Under the tractor is an inspection plate with six or eight bolts you can remove to free up the brake band. When they found Amos, he was lying under the tractor, with his tools around him. Amos' heart had stopped just like closing the throttle on a steam engine.

I first met Amos at the Wichita, Kansas, show in the early fifties. At that time, Amos lived in Oklahoma City and he was a district manager for International Harvester industrial machinery. When he was traveling for Harvester, he would stop to see Ly-man Knapp and myself at Blackwell, Oklahoma.

In the early sixties, Amos was one of the founders of the American Thresherman show at Highland, Illinois. This show was at Highland two years, then moved to Pinckneyville, Illinois. When this show started, they wanted only steam engines the owners would work.

Lyman Knapp and I attended the first three years of this show. We hauled Lyman's 6 HP Russell and the prony brake to Illinois each year. It was really an action show that attracted a lot of good steam men. I remember at Highland there must have been 25 or 30 of us steam guys sleeping in the horse barn. Some of the better known names were Harry Wood man see, Lyman Knapp and Justin Hengtin. I do not believe the lights were out much over one hour each night. These guys ran the engines all day and talked engines all night. This show was no smoker. They had a belting contest, brake test, saw mill, and outstanding threshing. Lots of beautiful Keck engines and engines of many major threshing machine companies.

If my memory is correct, Amos was president of the American Thresherman the first two years.

Amos Rixman and Lyman Knapp designed and built a large crawler tractor in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The company was Rixman Knapp Incorporated. Stock was sold. This project started in the early sixties. The first production tractor was built in 1968. This was a large crawler tractor, about the size of a D7 Caterpillar, using a flexing track on walking beams. This tractor could run over a railroad tie at 6 to 8 M.P.H. and not shake the operator. The tracks would go over the tie much like a snake. This tractor was powered by a large Caterpillar diesel engine and was a real performer. I helped Lyman and Amos test the first tractors on the Knapp Farms, Blackwell, Oklahoma, pulling a 20 bottom plow. This tractor was built for Agri use; all but two were sold in the states of Washington and California. This was the only tractor ever built in the State of Oklahoma.

I am enclosing a picture of one of these tractors ready for shipment to California in the spring of 1969. This tractor was called the Rix 4000. Standing by the tractor, left to right, John Reutter, Bernard Steffes (shop foreman) and Chady Atteberry. I do not remember the man's name who is sitting in the operator's seat, as he was the truck driver.

Amos later spent considerable time in England, where he designed and built a much larger crawler tractor that used a torsion bar suspension. This tractor was powered by a large diesel engine and had hydraulic motors supplying the power to track sprockets. The tracks were rubber covered. This was a high speed tractor. There were two of these tractors built that went through several thousand hours of testing in England. This tractor was never put into production.

In later years, Amos worked for the United States government in quality control of products purchased by the government.

Amos was best known in the hobby for operation of the Prony brake at Rollag, Minnesota; Greenville, Ohio; Buckley, Michigan; Fairview, Oklahoma; and Pawnee, Oklahoma. Amos was a gifted speaker. He could hold a crowd. I remember the first year we had the brake at Pawnee. They just got to a heavy load with the 110 Case and the belt broke. They had to splice the belt, which took some time. There was a nice sized crowd watching the test. While we were splicing the belt, Amos talked to the crowd. When we got ready to pull again the crowd was larger than when the belt broke.

Amos was somewhat controversial. He always wanted things perfect. That is not always possible at a steam show. However, Amos was right, we did not always reach the level of perfection he wanted. Amos wanted the show to be better.

I never knew Amos to embarrass any engineer, young or old, on the brake. He could tell when they were losing pressure. He would lighten the load and let them catch up. If the engine was in poor condition and did not perform well, he would encourage the engineer to improve his engine and pull again. Many engines are in better shape and engineers more qualified because of Amos' horse power testing.

We have played with economy tests at Pawnee for several years, but we never took the time to perfect these tests. Amos and several of the engineers at Pawnee became very interested in economy tests and had hope to test several engines of different makes. Amos and I talked on the phone several times after the 1999 Pawnee show about really getting into economy testing.

I hope we can carry on Amos' work and when you attend the shows where Amos ran the brake once again you will hear the old Advance, Avery, Case, Keck or what every make of engine, preaching the gospel while working on the prony brake.