Steam traction engine

Jack Kadinger

Content Tools

R. R. 4, Box 204 A, Sioux Falls, South Dakota Dec, 1963

When I received the November-December issue of the Album and came to page 37, I looked at the picture Mr. Leffelmacher, Rt. 1, Fairfax, Minnesota sent you and decided it was a picture of a BIG 4, 30 x 60 Gas Tractor made in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

My first experience on sales for a threshing machine company was back in early 1912 out of Fargo, North Dakota. Between early 1912 and October, 1917, when I enlisted in the U. S. Regular Army, I was on many different territories on sales and collections, in North Dakota, Northwestern Minnesota, Montana. Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, as well as here in South Dakota and Wyoming. I saw many, many Big 4, 30 x 60 Gas Tractors. So am fairly sure it is a Big 4, 30 x 60 Gas Tractor.

A picture of the 1892 Aultman-Taylor steam traction engine and this is indeed the best picture of this engine that I have had the privilege to see and is at a much better angle than the typical 'Walrus Mustache' picture which was played up for so long a time, and was not a credit to the machine. This picture was from their Letter Head and not from the catalogue. Personally, this is not only the best in appearance, but is the best engine this company ever put on the market, also, I believe this is the most beautiful, (if I may use the word) of all the steam traction engines. Well do I realize that people will disagree in this, but I believe this will only reflect the act of actual aquaintance of this particular model. These engines which I had experience with were ten and twelve horsepower and were used primarily in threshing. At this time they were not used for plowing in my vicinity primarily because they were too heavy and packed the ground entirely too much, however, in more remote localities and where the soil was different they were used for this type of work. The constant quest for more power, the merit of which is questionable, and the struggle for existance, from 1908 because of the gas tractor, caused them to develop into monstrosities, (the Dinosour) of the machine age. This engine I have modeled and have a 1/8 size which is just about exact prototype and closely resembles the original. This model is about two feet long the boiler cylinder is 3-1/2 inches in diameter, the drivers are 8', the remainder accordingly.

Referring to the picture of the tractor on page 38 of the November-December issue, sent in by M. Glass, 8018 Quartz Ave., Canoga Park, California. It is a 20 x 40 Horsepower Gas and Oil Tractor. I can't say just what year this tractor was made from the picture, but I would guess it was somewhere around 1913, 14, 15, or 1916. Most likely about 1914. This is the Model likely about 1914. This is the Model Tractor that Case won two Gold Medals at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. One burning gasoline and one burning kerosene. I was with the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company from 1914 until I enlisted in the Army in late 1917. I worked on sales and collections on a territory in western South Dakota and Northeastern Wyoming. I sold several of the Model 20 x 40 HP Gas and Oil Tractors. They were a very good tractor for that time, certainly a good threshing tractor I recall driving a team of horses in later part of August, 1915, some 56 miles east of Sturgis, South Dakota. I left Sturgis around 6 A. M. and arrived at my destination around 1 A. M. the next morning, as it was a very warm day and had to let the team rest several times. Next day was Sunday and I drove another 7 or 8 miles where I met with some 23 homesteaders that wanted to buy a threshing machine. After about a 3 hours session I ended up by selling 19 of the 23 a 20 x 40 Case Tractor, a 28 x 50 Case Separator, Gas Tank and Steel Truck, Separator fully equipped with recleaner, corrugated teeth, etc. There was much alfalfa to thresh in that vicinity. I sold this machine. Reason for the recleaner and hulling attachment. I didn't have too much trouble selling this rig as these homesteaders had a very good crop in 1915 and no machine to thresh it. However, as you can guess when 19 homesteaders sign an order for a threshing rig you can expect 19 different opinions on just about anything and everything that can come up.

I had to have settlement for the rig before I could unload it. The night I was to get the papers of settlement I met with the 19 about 8 P. M. Between 8:00 P. M. and 12 midnight, they certainly did a lot of wrangling, chewing the rag and nearly had a couple of fist fights, and what have you. About 12 o'clock I thought I had lost the deal. However, about 12:30 they calmed down and, as I recall, I had 5 notes, a chattle mortgage and a release for the rig. Each of the 19 had to sign each note, the chattle mortgage and the release for the rig. It was nearly 3 A. M. when I had all the papers signed. After this group got started threshing everything worked well and I never had to see them on collections because when notes were due they paid them at the bank.

Orrin G. Seaver, 958 Sheridan Avenue, Ypsilanti, Michigan

I nearly jumped out of my boots, although I don't wear boots, when I saw the picture (evidently copied from a post card) of an 'old friend' of mine at the bottom of page 26 of the January-February issue of the Album. I've seen this old locomotive many times and have always marveled at its many distinctive characteristics, such as having a Scotch-type boiler; an enormous steam dome, nearly one-half the volume of he boiler; a geared-type of locomotive, with the engine unit running backward, or under, when the locomotive is going forward; power transmitted via gear to the front two wheels; power transmitted to the rear two wheels via side rods, connected to the front two wheels; pinion on engine shaft of the open 'squirrel-cage' type (If I remember correctly, engine shaft does not pass through the pinion) like clock-work pinions.

A bit of history of this old locomotive is interesting due to its involvement in early Oregon railroading. Early in 1858 a railroad was built along the south side of the Columbia River, Oregon, named the Oregon Portage Railway, the motive power being supplied by horses and mules. In May 1862 the 'Oregon Pony,' this locomotive, arrived on the scene, having been built by the Vulcan Iron Works of San Francisco.

This locomotive was built between 1858 and 1859; cylinders 6 x 12'; 34 inch drivers; weight 9700 pounds; overall length 14 ft. and 31/2 inches; track guage 5 feet.

Some of the operational history of this locomotive involves the running for several years between Bonneville and the Cascade Locks, Oregon, hauling on the average 200 tons of freight daily, making her last trip on the Portage in April 1863. She was transferred to the Dalles-Celilo R.R., about 40 miles up the Columbia River, where she operated for three years, after which she was shipped back to San Francisco where she was used for street grading and other like chores. In 1905 she came back to Portland for the Lewis & Clark Exhibition and was then donated to the State of Oregon at that time. In 1929 the Union Pacific R.R. bought and put her on a permanent display in front of their Portland depot.

Well Anna Mae, I hope this rambling historical description of the 'Oregon Pony' somewhat clears up your curiosity regarding this peculiar steam-engine freak!

Dear Johnny

As soon as I got your letter on Feb. 10th I got to work and contacted again the foreman of the Maintenance Shop of the M.O.B. Railroad, up the hill somewhere around and I got exactly what you want; however, I had to spend the full 50 guilders because these gadgets are carried in the company's inventory and he could not possibly do otherwise than charge me for them. I say them because I got two whistles, one to operate by hand or foot through compression, the other electrically. Both these whistles weigh together at least 20 kilos and are pretty tough to wrap up properly. I therefore offered 60 Swiss Francs for the 2 whistles, which includes the packaging into a wooden case as well as the transportation fee (I believe) to Bilthoven.

The whistle to be electrically operated looks like an ancient automobile horn of the 1915's, a kind of siren, and mind you is for a 4 volt (which in fact is indicated on the gadget). So don't use anything else on it but a small 4 volt battery or have it inspected by an electrician. I believe it is made of brass about 50 years ago.

Now for the second whistle, this is a more complicated affair. The whistle in itself is rather small but the part that lets the air through is rather quite a piece of machinery. It is being sent to you in 3 parts: viz. the mechanical part, the whistle itself and the roof-like cover to protect the whistle which is supposed to be fixed on top of the locomotive's roof. They had two of these more complicated whistles to be operated by air flow, neither of them complete or in working condition. So, while I was examining them they transferred parts from the one to the other and completed one ready to be operated. Besides they gave me the blueprint of this thing which I enclose herewith and which I will explain to you. You see that I could not possibly expect all this for nothing and I think F1 50 for 2 is quite a bargain. You may send me F1 50 in an envelope (or whichever way you prefer), or 60 Swiss Francs, which is about the equivalent and I thank you beforehand. It was a pleasure for me to do this for you.

Let me now explain the blueprint as they explained it to me. Of course as a whistle expert you probably need no explanation!

I have drawn a red line right through this print because the part you get is the one at the right of the blueprint, that is at the right of this double red line. The part that says Ruckschlag Ventil belongs to the brake and has nothing to do with the whistle itself, or its operation.

If you place the gadget straight up on its round bottom you will notive 4 holes (outlets or inlets). Two of these holes are blocked by vises because the air has to be pumped into one hole and pumped out of any one of the 3 remaining holes (which can be chosen according to the position of the whistle itself). Thus one hole now remains open for the air to be pumped in and another to pump it out into the whistle. To work this whistle the lever (attached to the coil) has to be pressed down (or up), thus closing the outlet (Auspuff). In other words the air comes into the inlet (Lufteinlass) and normally (when the whistle is not operated) goes out through the outlet (Auspuff). When you close this outlet by operating the lever the air continues to the whistle (all the way at right of the blueprint) where it says Zur Pfeife on the B.P. In other words you have yourself to make the connection between this Pfeife and the bottom of the whistle (at right) and so does the thing work.

Do not take any notice of the tube that goes right through this gadget (B.P. to the left). It has nothing to do with the operation of this whistle but is part of the brake.

Now once you have connected this main gadget with the whistle itself by a hose or tube we come to the blueprint at right. This is the whistle to be placed on top of the locomotive and protected by a cap. There is one more thing that you have to do is buy a piece of rubber hose (indicated in dark ink and named Kautschuk Schlauch) to fit the actual copper (Messing) whistle airtight into its housing (what I mean by protective cap). And then the Pfeife (as it says on the B.P.) or Wistle, works!

'Dach' means roof and 'auf Dach montiert' means 'installed on the roof.'

I hope Johnny that I have made myself clear and wish you a lot of pleasure and luck with these two whistles. But beware of the 4 volt of the copper horn, lest you ruin the mechanism.

I will keep in touch with the R.R. workshop and find out just when this thing is being sent off to Bilthoven. The Swiss are rather slow workers and they have to obtain papers from the Swiss Customs to send it out.

As soon as I know when I will at once send you word. And this is all my friend.

Many cordial greetings, also to Lillian, and from Madelein.

Yours very sincerely, /s/ Walter Gockinga

P.S. I hope you are not disappointed that I have spent all that you allowed me to, but you see there is more to it than we thought and quite some work for these fellows.

Regarding these whistles the Base Commander thought it would be a fitting farewell for me upon my retirement from the USAF to have all them 'sound off' at the ceremony. Since I had them mounted on two special manifolds by the Hamminga Machine shop in Utrecht (the metric system specs would have presented difficulties in the States) it was quite simple to 'hook' them up to a portable M 1 aircraft flight line compressor. The Colonel and I had first honors in blowing them after which we had a half hour of the finest music in Europe. I might add many of the Dutch people surrounding the base also enjoyed it. At the present time they are all carefully packed and will be on their way to the States when we return next month.

There is a whistle on its way to me from Hungary that I located in Budapest while there a short time ago visiting my wife's relatives. So I will also have one from behind the Iron Curtain. Pulling power in Hungary is principally steam so it was not too difficult to find an old one. The design of the whistle is very unusual compared to ours and has a unique sound of its own.

While attending a steam traction engine rally at Bletsoe, England near Bedford this past summer I met several men from the States who had it on their itinerary while traveling through Europe. It was good to see them.


Donald Schultz, Sidewalk Supt., Macedonia, Iowa

Some fifty years ago this 45-HP International Titan roamed the hills and valleys near Emerson, Iowa. With its companion separator, it completed the year's grain harvest for many of the local farmers.

According to comments obtained from other sidewalk superintendents, the active life of this giant included a trip back to the factory for overhaul, and the addition of a one cylinder-auxiliary starting engine.

After its return to Emerson, the history becomes a little more clear. The Titan continued its labor for a Mr. Honeyman, after which it was sold to a man reportedly from Harlan, Iowa. He began the long overland drive, up a side road. At a point two miles northwest of Emerson, the old Titan chugged to a painful stop, and was abandoned.

It stood idly by the road side for a period of time, until the adjoining farmer hooked 4 head of horses to the brute and dragged it down a hill and into a ravine. During a severe rain storm, trees and wire piled up against the Titan, and the water force was sufficient to move it down stream some 15 rods to a wooden bridge.

May I suggest you take notice that we have some new books advertised? You book worms will be especially interested. Also, while I'm reminding you of little items, please don't forget your Code Numbers when sending in your renewals, and if you have material to send us, it processes much faster if it is typed double spaced. Thanks for being in the Iron Men Album Family and we hope you enjoy it for many years.

I think I'll sign off for you have lots of Reunion news and are more interested in that, I am sure, but I'll have to leave with a few quotes A friend is someone who likes you even though he doesn't need you anymore When God measures a man He puts the tape measure around the heart, not the head. Speed is not everything direction counts. Anger is the wind that blows out the light of reason. Beware of the half truth; you may have gotten the wrong half.

Steamcerely, Anna Mae

Stewart Fenton, Secretary,1316 Huntington Ave., Waterloo, Iowa.

Members of the Black Hawk Steam Engine Club, Inc. of Cedar Falls, Iowa are interested in having a permanent home for the annual shows and a place to store equipment-have purchased 80 acres-4 miles north of Cedar Falls on U. S. Hi-Way 218. A corporation known as 'Antique cures, Inc.' has been found with the investors of the club as its members and the new corporation will lease the land to the Black Hawk Club. The new location for the 1964 show September 4, 5, 6 and 7 has a fine grove of trees for shade, and good water supply and is a fine location with 80 rods frontage on Hi-Way 218.

Major J. P. Hansen

Reference is made to the article on page No. 28 of your July-August 1963 issue.

Since I have been in Europe I have continued the collection of steam engine whistles and acquired ones from France, Sweden, England, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, two from Denmark, and the latest two from Switzerland which this story concerns.

During the summer of 1963 one of our neighbors in Holland exchanged houses for the summer months with a Dutch man and his French wife who were living in retirement in Switzerland. While walking with my young son one day he overheard me talking to him in English and after seeing my car assumed I was an American. Soon thereafter he introduced himself and thus we became good friends with Mr. and Mrs. Walter Gockinga.

In visiting with them one evening he mentioned that a Dutch nephew of his collected old automobile license plates. Since I still happened to have my outdated plates from Michigan I gave them to him. I then mentioned my own hobby of collecting steam engine whistles and he promised that when he returned to his home in Switzerland he would make every effort to locate one for me.

The following letter which is self-explanatory is the result of his thoughtfulness.

Steve Cook, 824 Berry St., Toledo, Ohio 43605.

From one of your 'young' readers who is 79 and left the farm when he was 21. You have done a lot to brighten my sunset years and brought back a lot of nice memories.

I am a subscriber to your magazine and wish to say I enjoy reading it very much. It brings back many memories of my boyhood days. I was fortunate of living in a community that threshed with steam.

My father was part owner of three different threshing machines, two of which are shown by the pictures enclosed. I do not have a picture of the last Case engine and seperator the company owned.

These are threshing scenes in central Kansas in the 1890's and the one which we had when we quit steam for the combines, is not shown.

The threshing crew in both pictures are neighbors, uncles and my father. I don't know the make or size of the machines shown in the pictures.

I have spent a good share of my life with steam, running steam locomotives and had to leave it when the 'growlers' came, on account of deafness. From what I read, see and hear they have been no great blessings to the railroad and surely not to the so many men who have lost their jobs on account of them, nor to the shippers with the thinned down service, or the crowded bus passengers or those who risk their lives in the air. I read in today's paper of a jet that went down near New Orleans with a loss of more than 50 passengers - and we have been reading such news all too frequently.

Like Brother Leroy Wilson, who wrote your lead article in your March-April number, I feel that steam is a long ways from through. I am glad that men like him are still around and also those good souls who write you those intelligent and down to earth letters.

Please accept my best wishes to you and all yours in your good work. May the Lord give you the courage, strength and understanding to carry on, is the desire of an appreciative old timer.

Dear Sirs:

On page 37 May-June Album, Mr. J. Rex Haver shows photo of an air cooled engine, and wants to know the make of it. It is an IDEAL engine. I have two of them, both different models, Specs, as follows. Flywheel 11' Dia. Rim 1 wide. Bore 3 Stroke 4,' Shaft Dia. 11/8' on Roller Bearings, Closed crank case.

Other one is-Flywheel Dia 13' Rim 2' wide. Bore-3'-Stroke 4'. Crank-Shaft Dia. 11/8'. Babbit Bearings, open Crank Case.-the smaller one was taken from an Ideal three unit Lawnmower. The larger one from an Ideal lawn roller.

We have twenty-three gas engines up to Five H. P. and Five Steamers from 3/8' bore up and looking for more. Hoping this information will be helpful to all Album readers in the next Issue, I remain Sincerely Yours.

Bill Luss, Hamburg, N. Y.

Courtesy of O. R. Aslakson, New Rockford, North Dakota

Being confined to the house with a siege of the flu, I should be doing 'end-of-the-year' bookwork but just cannot resist the urge to comment on the very interesting articles in the January-February 'Album' by Lyle Hoffmaster and Leroy Blaker. These opinions by experienced operators of the advantages of the different engines are always interesting to me. I really should not 'stand up and speak' in this kind of company, but then it will not be the first time I should have been 'just listening'.

The fact that I threshed nine North Dakota threshing seasons, running three different compound engines might qualify me as a little of an authority on compounds. These were all large rigs, it was in the 1930's, so the compounds were not the first to be discarded. By 1940 the steam rigs in North Dakota were rather far between. These were all Advance engines, the first one a 35 HP tandem-compound, side-mount, (I got some education on this one) ; the second one a 30 HP cross-compound, rear-mount and the third one the 26 HP side mount that I still have. We used straw for fuel for all these except for one short fall I used coal in the cross-compound. At our annual show we thresh at least once with the 26 HP, burning straw, powering a 36 x 58 Case plain bearing seperator, at 100 lbs. pressure and it does it surprisingly well.

So I am with Mr. Blaker in regard to compounds, I agree that the compound should have a high boiler pressure, but I think that even with lower pressure a compound in good condition has advantages, particularly for steady work like threshing. Possibly compounds could develop troubles affecting their efficiency a little sooner than a simple, particularly with bad water conditions. On the other hand, the 30 HP cross-compound previously mentioned came out new about 1909, when I first had charge of it it had been reflued for the first time only a year or two before, probably still had the original piston rings and it still worked very good and used little water for it's load. Another compound that I had a chance to observe before I started to run engines was a 20 HP Gaar-Scott return flue tandem-compound (this may not be the exact HP, but it was about that size), this old engine was belted to a Avery 'Yellow-Fellow' which was not an easy pulling machine, it used three medium sized tankfull of water one day and four the next as regular as clockwork. I believe the advantages of a compound were more than just the direct saving of fuel and water, I am sure the boiler benefited by the lighter demands on it.

I do not know how a 26 HP Advance compound would compare , with Mr. Blaker's Port Huron on a test, but if I had a run of shock threshing to do and had either a 26 HP or 35 HP advance engine I would look no farther, particularly if straw was to be the fuel. As my friend George Melby of Dalton, Minn. would say 'that is the kind of test that counts'. Unlike Mr. Blaker, I think the Marsh valve gear is one of the best, it's motion is easy, it is easily maintained and I think the double-ported Advance valve gives it a quick opening action. This gear along with the superheat effect of the steam pipe thru the top of the boiler and thru the smoke box and stack along with very good straw burning boiler are the things that I believe made the Advance side-mount compounds what they were. I will say that the center-head stuffing-box on these engines had to be kept well packed.

There were very few Port Huron or Baker engines in North Dakota, I never saw either one till I started attending the shows. We had plenty of Advance, Avery, Buffalo Pitts, Gaar Scott, Nichols & Shepard, Minneapolis, Case etc. In this straw burning country they were all considered pretty good straw burners, but the Advance was pretty well in the lead. Mr. Hoffmaster would find many men out here that would not agree that the only good machinery made by Avery was their jack. Of course almost every man had the BEST machine, but I think the Yellow Fellow seperator was generally regarded as a well built machine that gave less trouble than most and had very good cylinder teeth. I think the return-flue engine was also well regarding in this area.

In regard to Mr. Hoffmaster's article I wonder if I misunderstand column 8 or if there is a mistake here. If this is a correction for the disadvantage of a large flywheel as compared to the 36' flywheel on the Baker 16 HP then I would think the percentage given in column eight would be larger rather than smaller than in column seven. Possibly I misunderstand something here. Like Mr. Hoffmaster when I first saw the curved-block Wood Bros, valve gear I could see where they could have gotten exactly the same motion with a pivoted arm instead of the curved guide.

I am not a sawmill man, the only sawing I have done is at the shows. This is probably the kind of work where most men would like a simple best. I have seen the Advance 35 HP almost climb the wheel block when a very wet bundle hit the thresher cylinder, it might perform pretty well on a saw.


By Donald R. Jackson,4461 West 34th Street, Indianapolis, Ind. 46222

In the November-December 'Soot in the Flues' column, your friend 'Casey' Jones of Wichita, Kansas, asks 'What became of the Compounds?' I have part of the answer.

I learned the air brake end of the railroad business in the Army in France in World War I. I suffered several injuries 'over there' and finally recovered enough that I could work at least eight hours again, so I took a job on the 'Pennsy' in the Indianapolis District.

They had many types of Engines in and out of there, including the famous 'Madison Hill' (Ohio River) Angle Frame Engine. They also had a few long compounds on the 'straight track', East and West Divisions. We hated to see one of those Monsters come in. They had so much machinery crowded into the over all width allowed for locomotives that you had to be a contortionist to work on them. It would take four to six times as long to make many repairs.

They were two feet shorter than the turntable and you couldn't spot one of them within eight or ten feet of where you wanted it. We always used another engine to push them on the table and another engine on the storage spurs opposite an empty stall in the Roundhouse to push them in. If you forgot to fill the tender with coal and water, you would blow the motors on the turntable trying to turn them around. A few of them went thru the outer wall where some hostler tried to spot one in the Roundhouse. If you ever saw two or three wreckers trying to get one of them picked up after they had split the rails you would know what I mean.

To prove my point I will quote one General Manager, 'They cost more than they are worth'.

However, you can find several Compound threshing engines still around, and many more, some old and some new, in steam launches and steam automobiles owned or being built by steam hobbysts around the country, especially on the West Coast. Also the Indianapolis Water Company still have a huge triple expansion pumping engine that they use in the dry seasons. This engine is as tall as a two story house.