Birdsall engine


John B. Parrett

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I began my threshing career in 1899 as a pitcher for a rig owned by Bowen-Koepke & Mielke. I am enclosing a picture of the Bird sell engine No. 2345 owned by them. I am on top of the separator with bundle on my fork. I pitched bundles in 1899 and 1900, and in 1901 worked as water boy or sometimes called Water Monkey. I was more interested in the Water Monkey job as that put me nearer the steam end of the outfit as I always wanted to see what made it tick. In 1902 this outfit was bought by Albert Koepke so I bid for the job as engineer and fortunately got it. I thought, BOY am I in the money, getting 2.00, as pitching bundles only paid $1.00 a day. This was my first trial at running an engine and the first attempt to set a slide valve as it had not worked right for the past two years.

I was a little in doubt, perhaps scared a little, but I made my own tram rod, center punch and I had a ball pin hammer and a couple of wrenches. You realize in those days a farm boy was not blessed with very many tools. I tackled the job on Sunday, so as not to be troubled by any company asking questions. Took me some time to find dead center on both head and crank ends, but finally got it and took it off the steam chest cover and proceeded to put the valve where it would or as I thought should work. When I had it finished I wondered, Will it or won't it. Every time I woke up that night I had my mind on that valve and wondering if the engine would run backwards when it should run forwards. On Monday morning I was on the job early so I could try it to see if I had accomplished anything. You can just imagine how happy I was when the old kettle rolled either way as I used the reverse. Guess I had a BIG HEAD, anyhow I felt proud of a job well done.

Looking back now on that job I see how simple it looks to me. After many years with steam engines, both traction and stationary, I have an idea many other old engineers can look and think back to some such time as experienced by a new engineer. I still love the memories of the old days with the steam thresher. Many in the picture have gone out on that river of no return.

JOHN B. PARRETT, Portland, Oregon


This is a description of a rubber tired under mounted steam tractor built by L. A. Hansen, Rolph, Iowa. Mrs. T. H. Smith took pictures of this engine at Mount Pleasant, Iowa reunion for the ALBUM. It has a Hershel Spill man double engine 4 x5. I built a roller bearing reverse gear on this engine, also counterbalanced the crank shaft which works very nice.

The flywheel s 30x6. It has a four speed transmission with top speed about 15 miles per hour. Rear tires are 12x38, front tires 7:50x20. The steam generator is patented and, built by Mr. Carl E. Bishop of Carlisle, Towa. This is made to fit in the fire door. It has 1000 lb. cold water test and we have the safety valve set at 200 pounds. I like this size engine and we have lots of fun with it. It took close to a year and a half, mostly spare time, to build it. This engine s not modeled after any particular engine, just some of my own ideas put together. I am a road contractor and have three D-8's and one D-7 Caterpillar diesel tractors. I think these are as fine pieces of machinery as ever was made. I was raised around steam traction engines and somehow it got into my blood. I guess one never gets rid of it. I also have a 20 hp. Reeves and a 1918 Stanley Steamer which are in A-l condition.

L. A. HANSEN, Rolfe, Iowa.


For some time I have had the idea in my head about the boys who subscribe to the ALBUM building a steam traction engine. You might ask if this could be done? My idea was this: Many of you do not like the thought of the time coming when we have to say goodbye to the old steamer. If we could form a plan so all of us could contribute a little in one way or another in, the designing and building of an engine we could leave somewhere as a memorial to us who knew. The joys and thrills that went with these days when we held the throttle levee in our hand and had the faithful old servant at our command. Some of us could contribute a little cash, better than anything else, while others perhaps could locate some parts that went into the assembled engine according to whatever we would finally decide upon.

My idea is that I always thought the Port Huron engine had the best boiler and would favor that. I believe the undermounted design with an 'I' or angle bar frame could be worked out, and on this mount a two cylinder engine. A simpler and perhaps more efficient engine could be made without using a reverse gear. Then behind the engine on the frame place the transmission. A transmission built for some truck or tractor could be found to use here. A pinion and a clutch on engine crankshaft and a gear on transmission shaft, meshed together, could be used to transmit power to transmission then a shaft mounted in bearing fastened to frame this shaft to be coupled to transmission shaft by using pinion on transmission shaft and gear on one end of cross shaft on the other end of cross shaft which would have to extend beyond side of firebox place a sprocket for a steel roller chain. This chain would carry back to assembly on rear axle.

What I had in mind on rear axle assembly was this. No doubt quite a per cent of the readers know how an Aultman Taylor built the rear axles on their engines in 1902 or 1903. The differential together with the driving gear were all mounted on axle.

In this case, however, a sprocket for steel chain instead of gears would have to be used. The chain to extend from sprocket on cross shaft to the sprocket on rear axle.

For rear wheels: here again wheels from a tractor could be found that would be suitable. The same would hold good on front wheels and axle assembly. All wheels to be mounted on rubber.

Now as to size of the engine. I feel that would have to be decided somewhat by the size of the parts we could best get to use in building the engine.

My self I had in mind to plan about an 8 or 10 hp. engine as they were usually rated. What do you think of the idea boys?



When the officers of TNT (The National Thresher women) decided to have 3,000 copies of their TNT Cookbook printed, it seemed to several of them that it was an extensive order and would be a tremendous undertaking. But feeling sure that there was a place for such a piece of 'Literature' to go along with all the material published on steam for the men, they gave the order and hoped that they could discharge the debt.

We are delighted to report that, with the work of many enthusiastic women and the gallant response of many of the men, the debt of nearly $2200 has been disposed of with the small remaining balance of a little over $500. This accomplishment in only four month seems truly worth recording and rejoicing over, everyone will agree. We feel sure that the balance will be easily met next June, and the demand for the book is so heavy we have no doubt that many will wish for a copy and be disappointed. Our thanks to all the women who contributed to the book, to the sponsors, and to all those who have purchased the book in such quantities.

MRS. LEROY BLAKER, Alvordton, Ohio


Enclosed find check for amount of $2.00 for which kindly mail me one copy of 'The Threshers Guide' Vol. 1, of 119 pages about 1906-1910 as this adv. appeared on page 2 of the magazine of July-August issue.

Congratulations and best wishes, to you Elmer, Mrs. and daughter, with a long and prosperous life to each of you.

I wish to say as all steam-minded men state, your publication is the best ever published in these United States of America, to date, this covering a large territory, however, it is the truth, and keep up this good work. You know as well as I there are hundreds more to subscribe, old experienced, and younger inexperienced, but who have learned it is a real interesting, educational hobby, none to equal it, where a persons mind is in this mechanical line.

I have been in direct contact with the steam traction, stationary, portable, locomotives and automobile engines for more than 65 years in the USA and Europe, carrying an engineers license in many places even the state of Montana, engines ranging from the smallest to the largest.

I have built four stationary steam engines and boilers, from salvage. I now have four more under construction and later on will send you photos and write ups, also on some of the large 'boys' and sawmills in and around this territory as each and every photo and write up from any of the Steam Boys is more than interesting. Each and every one is always a bit different to others and that is what makes it interesting.

This coming winter I intend to build a 2' or 3' scale model steam traction engine and will remember you for a write up. I note in the ALBUM your subscribers are increasing. Yes, and they will keep up from now on as the steam men learn about it. The reason I cater mostly to the steam traction engine is, all moving parts are visible to all and it can be driven around anywhere. The locomotive has a track and that is a big job to build a track. The stationary is still, all moving parts are visible and in the locomotive most moving parts can't be seen very well.

I also wish to compliment Mr. Karl A. Kepner and The Juniata Globe for their efficient work in compiling and printing THE IRON-MEN ALBUM. It is gotten up in a neat manner, precision work, and YOU Mr. Ritzman, play a part just as efficient.

Later I'll send you some photos of miniature stationary steam engines and boilers, as well as photos of the BIG BOYS, also sawmill pictures, anything on the steam engine makes more interest.

I joined the National Threshers Association, Inc., Montpelier, Ohio, last month, through the columns of THE IRON-MEN ALBUM writeups of the various associations I chose it. Received badge, membership card and 24 page STEAM-O-GRAM published in the interest of 'Keeping Up Steam', also large sheet program of the 10th annual Reunion.


Leeper Machine Company, Metal & Wood Machine Work, P. O. Box 147, Ash Grove, Missouri


First let me admit that I am a live steam fan. When I 'was a lad and up until I was near 20 years old , worked around threshing rigs powered by different makes of steam engines.

This work was done in central Missouri. However, it has now been over 25 years since I have seen one running, that is, until I built one which I will mention later. I am now 45 years old and the steam engine has always fascinated me. I am now an engineer for the Natural Gas Pipeline Company and have worked for them for the past 20 years. Though the engines we use are 4 cycle horizontal type run by gas.

Am enclosing check for $2.00 for 'membership in your steam fraternity'. The steam engine that I built is perhaps different from others, in that I never had any original plans made it from memory of them and not patterned after any certain make. I more or less made it as I would like to have one made, I suppose. It is traction type, over mounted, the boiler is 6' long with 1' flues rolled in for a total of five 20' long with 13'x6'x7' fire box and 5' smoke box door, has 1' water jacket that is 1' water capacity around the fire box. Grates and removable ash pan. The engine is single cylinder 1' bore x 2' stroke, power driven force feed lubricator to steam chest. I have a valve gear assembly of my own design, gear ratio and chain drive to rear wheel. It has 7'x 'x1' flywheel, bronze bearings adjustable throughout. Fired with wood or coal steam working pressure 60 to 100 pounds. I also have a three-tone whistle. All of this I built from scrap, except I did have the boiler welded as I had no means of riveting or welding. The boiler is made of three-sixteenth and one-quarter inch steel, all arc welded by a very good welder. The engine weighs near 200 pounds, about 30' high to top of cab and overall length of 48'. Drivers are 12' in diameter by 4' face, front are 8'x2' face. I made the traction wheels from pulley wheels, re-spoked them, etc.

BURL F. BOHLING, Gray, Oklahoma





Well with these warm days it sure makes one start thinking of steam engines and Reunions. Doesn't it?

We've just had a very enjoyable and inspirational experience this past week. We attended the Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the Methodist Church, held at York, Pa. Now that we are back home and settled for another church year our thoughts turn strongly to our days with you nice people.

My acquaintance with the Conference and Reunion folks are both very new to me. The two groups are alike in many ways; both are good, wholesome, kind, genuine and true friends.

With great interest and enthusiasm I look forward to seeing you at the Reunions.

Chaff & Dust


I wonder if you would mind stopping just long enough to get the envelope in which this ALBUM came and cutting your name, address and the code number which is directly behind the name and putting it in your pocketbook or a safe place. Thanks so much. Now, when you renew please send this code number. If you renew at a reunion, be especially sure to have it. This is really important. Let me give you an example: We have six 'James Smiths' on our records. We have many others that are the same. Now if we get a renewal with just the name no code number or middle initial, it can cause a mix up in your expiration notice. So, please folks, won't you do this? Thanks.

Reunion time will be coming soon. It is not possible for Mr. Ritzman to attend all of them, so why not send your renewal direct to me and save a mix up in your time? We have had complaints from persons paying their renewals at various reunions and no record or money being sent to us. This is another reason for sending it direct.

If the letter in your code number is 'M' that means it runs out with the May issue. If it is 'A', then it expires with the July issue, and if 'S', that it expires with the Sept. issue. If your renewal at a reunion please know your code number and tell whether it is a renewal or not. Best of all, mail it to me and save all confusion.


Received my sample copy of IRON-MEN ABLUM MAGAZINE and was very pleased with it. Read it through several times. I am sending my subscription for one year as I do not want to miss a copy.

I started in the threshing game at an early age, began firing for Dad when about 11 years old on a little 12 hp. Huber steamer, doing silo work and some wood sawing. Three years later he bought a big 70 hp. Nichols and Shepard two cylinder steamer and 36x56 separator which I fired another three years and then took the examination and got my engineers license, becoming the manager and engineer. Am on record as being the youngest licensed engineer in the state of Minnesota, where I was living at that time. I threshed for a number of years, but the small farmer-owned rigs drove us big custom threshers out of business. We could not compete with them in any way. Mainly we could not get large enough runs in any one vicinity to get enough crew to keep us going. We had to have 16 bundle teams to keep us supplied with material and with one or two jobs in a locality it was impossible to muster that large a crew.

Also the hard surfaced roads made it impossible to move around, so in the year 1925 I threshed my last bundle of grain, sold out and went to trucking for a living. But I kept in touch with the old timers for a while soon losing track of them one by one until the last ones had gone. In 1937 I moved away and have not been back since so lost all contact with the threshing industry until a few months ago with I received a letter from an old timers from Kansas City. Informing me he had seen my name in an old copy of the American Thresher Magazine of which I was a subscriber to way back in the early '20's. He wrote to me at the old address in Minnesota and somehow, someone had the foresight to forward it here to me. We corresponded for some time and he mentioned your magazine so I sent for a sample copy and greatly enjoyed it. Brings back memories of long ago.

The pictures of the old timers in action; again thrills me. I have a vast collection of snapshots of the old rig in action as well as on the road but do not have the negatives. Could you copy the pictures without them? I have some pictures that a good many threshers may have never seen. I have pictures of the rig in action threshing stacked grain, something that passed out of existence years ago.

I have pulled most everything but plows. Threshers, silo fillers, corn shellers, saw mils as well as road graders. I have pulled quite a variety of engines also such as N & S, Case, Rumley, Buffalo-Pitts, and many others.

If any of you old timers care to write to me I will be very glad to hear from you and will answer and exchange experiences and memories. I am now working for the State, operating automotive equipment, which I enjoy very much but it is not like the old steamers.

I will be looking for the next issue of the magazine and also for some letters from some of the old timers as well as some of you younger members of the game. Let's hear from you and see if threshing is still the same as when I left off some thirty years ago.

H. G. YATES, 3775 Herman Avenue, San Diego 4, California


Please find enclosed check for the ALBUM. I certainly enjoy it very much. As a boy I used to operate our 10 hp. Buffalo Pitts hooked to a Groton separator size 36x54. In this country that was quite a large machine. It has been 43 years this fall since we used this outfit.

I can tolerate gas power but still like steam far better when we want real power. I also operated a Buffalo Pitts steam roller on the roads for two years and loved every minute of it. There was a thrill, when we got into a tight spot and needed a lot of power, to see this engine get down to business and go through. You see, we hauled one large grader and a small one behind with a wagon for coal, behind the small one. Quite a pull for any outfit. On hills we drove long lugs into holes in the face of the drivers. On the level we drove these out. They stuck through the rims inside so we could strike them with a hammer. They were a tapered lug.

I threshed with an E. M. automobile for two years, then two years with a Lycoming auto engine of large size. This engine would develop about 50 hp. at 1000 R. P. M., and furnished plenty of power for threshing, silo filling or saw mill work. But give me the good old steam, as I like the smell of the smoke and the lubricating oil and the sound of the injector as it starts to bring in the water.

I have a friend here that has a Pitts roller and a Stevens engine as well as some small engine and boilers so I get to see these old steamers perform once in a while.

Keep up the good work with the ALBUM. The late Eddie Edson lived within three miles of me and it was with deep sorrow that we had to lose him in such a cruel death.

W. J. PRESCOTT, Machias, New York


The Illinois Threshermen's Jubilee is a new organization recently form here and will hold their first reunion on July 23rd and 24th this year at the Neal McClure farm 3 miles northwest of Colchester, Illinois. This includes the McClure-Waddill reunion which has operated a one-day reunion for the past several years, and to which seven new directors have been added.

Many of the names which are familiar to the readers of the ALBUM, are directors, elected as follows: Ray Ernst, Wayland, Iowa, past president of the Mt. Pleasant (Iowa) reunion; Milford Rees, Franklin, Illinois; Amos Post of Lewistown, Illinois; Carl Hagan of Browning, Illinois; Carl Mowery of Bushnell, Albert Johnson, Neal McClure, Ray Broad head, and L. C. Waddill of Colchester, Illinois.

The directors of the new organization own a total of slightly over forty steam farm engines, and with 16 of them permanently on the grounds and plans to transport a portion of the others in, we should be able to put on a nice show.

We hope that a large number of old-timers will be able to spend the two days with us.

L. C. WADDILL, Sec, Colchester, Illinois