Horses on a farm

Abe L. Dalke, Enid, Okla., operating header, 1915

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By Dalke and Peterson

Mr. Dalke's header picture in the Sept-Oct issue has stirred some interest in these machines. Mr. Dalke writes us more information and Mr. Peterson writes interestingly. We give both letters here with more 'Header' pictures. Elmer

In the Sept-Oct. issue, Vol. 16, page 14 is a picture that 8 sent to the ALBUM of a header in operation. Since the ALBUM voices a lack of information regarding the scene, I hereby wish to supply it.

The photo is of my brother, Abe L. Dalke operating the header in 1915 with his horses on a farm near Enid, Oklahoma. The machine is a McCormack combination header-binder. In 1917, I operated it on the same farm with the binder attached instead of the elevator. The steering of a header or push binder is not too difficult if the horses are properly handled.

In recent years the crops have been harvested with a combine. It is marvelous how easily and quickly a combine harvests and threshes the grain. Since it is steered from the rear like a header it also facilitates the cutting on irregular fields.

It is amazing how canvases, concave and cylinder teeth have been done away with. When one reflects that a thinner and more continuous stream of grain enters the machine, one realizes that a rasp like arrangement suffices for threshing out the spikes.

Heading wheat or combining it is quite a contrast to the first harvesting we did on that farm. Then I, as an early teenager walked barefoot in the stubble beside the mowing machine driving the horses. Father sat on the mower raking the cut grain from the sickle bar on to a platform he had attached to the bar. When it was full he pushed it off to form windrows. Because of dry weather the crop was severely stunted, we threshed only 50 bu. i.e. 1 bu. to the acre. We needed the seed and had no money to buy it in 1895. The only thing we had was our labor, hence such harvesting, it took a week or ten days.

DIEDRICH L. DALKE Alexandria, Virginia


The picture in the September-October issue of the Album, of a grain header at work, takes me back to the many years I spent dry-land farming in southeast Montana, with spring wheat as our principal crop. The last nine of these years I owned and operated a 12 foot McCormick header.

The header had many virtues as compared to the binder. Imperfect yes, but another link in the evolution of the farmer.

The header was faster and more trouble free than the binder thus lowering harvesting costs. It saved more grain; it eliminated part of the hand labor; and since it concentrated the grain by reducing the quantity of straw handled it speeded threshing tremendously and increased the daily profits of the thresherman.

For the information of those people who never saw one operate, the header was essentially a machine that clipped the near ripe heads of grain as short as possible and elevated them by canvasses in a continual stream into header barges (wagons with grain tight floors) towed alongside by a team of horses. One man 'stacked' the headed grain in the barge, another drove. When loaded the heads were hauled to a central location and stacked for curing and to await threshing. (Generally three barges kept a header busy.)

The header itself was carried on three wheels; two up front that supported the main weight of the machine, and a third at the end of a long pole that extended to the rear. This third was known as a 'tiller' or guide wheel. A shaft extended upward from it through the operator's platform, in a 'straddle stick.' As the operator pivoted the 'stick' sideways with, his legs he steered the header. Four horses, two on each side of this long guide pole pulled, or in effect since they were coupled behind the heading and elevating platform, pushed the header forward into the uncut grain.

The era of the grain binder, the header, and the steam threshing rigs is long gone, and today the combine has virtually eliminated the drudgery and the hand labor connected with the older ways, but somehow the glamour and thrills are gone also.

H. K. PETTERSON Trenton, Missouri


I have worked or operated many types of steam tractors. I am a retired New York Central engineer from 1909 to 1955. So much for the build up, will get on with other business.

About thirty years ago I decided to build a stationary steam engine. Made up set of patterns and got in touch with Hunt-Spiller Foundry, South Boston, Mass., makers of locomotive castings for locomotives. Sent patterns to them and they sent patterns and castings back. Might say they were perfect. No sand holes or scale to get under. This is perfect running outfit and powerful also.

Engine is 2' bore by 3 1/8' stroke, ball-bearing, all bearings are double ball N.D., ten in all. Valve and piston rod of stainless. Other pins and crank shaft of drill rod. The oil pump is gear driven from crank shaft which in turn drives governor which is fly ball operating shuttle on oil line. All bearings with separate 1/8' oil line. Screen covered sump milled in bed casting for oil pump section. Chain sprocket on crank shaft to drive same size on eccentric crank and! shaft through ' pitch diamond chain. Valve D. slide set to cut off half stroke exhaust on center with 1/64' lead. Ports milled in. Piston 3 piece plus 2 1/8' face by 2' cast iron iron rings. Moving parts enclosed in plate glass case, crank and top side. Oil seal next to fly wheel balanced to correspond to rest of moving parts. Wheel 10' diameter by 1 face heavy rim. Base 19' long by 8'. Boiler welded steel pipe. Tested 1400 lbs. 3/8' thick, 16-1' flues, 4-1' flues rolled and beaded both ends. Fire box 9' diameter. 7' flue sheet to grate. Water space around fire box 5/8'. Fire door has 5/8' washer to fill space between fire box and outer shell. 5/8' fill in bottom mud ring. All joints 60 for welding by expert locomotive boiler welder. Hydraulic tested to 400 lbs. Pop set to 125 lbs. and super heater made of 6' welding cap. Placed in hood above boiler with steam connections from there. Mounted on suitable base on hard rubber ball swivel castors. Has pint hydrostatic sight feed lubricator in steam line to supply both engine and pump.

Feed pump 2' bore steam end by 1' bore water end. Stainless 5/16' rod 2' stroke. Piston 3 piece plus 1 1/8' by 2' rings. Water and packed hydraulic packing in bronze cylinder. Intake and discharge valves milled in brass housing. Main steam D. slide valve over milled ports operated by built up spool of 5 pieces plus 4 rings 1/8' by 1'. This in turn operated by D. slide from rocker. This arrangement gives positive reverse enabling pump to throttle very slow. Has built on 1/8' plunger lubricator for steam and which works very efficiently. Ash pit enclosed with 2-60 C. F. M. centrifugal blowers hooked together on ball bearing counter. In turn driven by 1/40h.p. motor through 3 speed rheostat using Pocohontas stoker coal. Gets away from all but little smoke. Has more B. T. U. than most soft coal and keeps Anna Mae from mopping out flues so often.

I mentioned earlier this was powerful outfit and want to back it up. As an illustration will take 2' bore any stroke with 2 cycle gasoline explosion each revolution and with 4 cycle 1 explosion each 2 revolutions. With steam 2 explosions each revolution.

I have many recollections on railroading. A friend lent me about 25 of your Albums that are good reading. One of them, September-October 1952, Page 19 shows merry-go-round engine. I can recall two similar makes at Hardin County Fair. This outfit attended this fair several years and shipped the whole outfit in boxcar, engine as well as rest of merry-go-round. This is where I spent some time at the Fair. I think crew came in car also. The engineer always looked like he had slept under merry-go-round engine. After watching this outfit everyone looked like coal miners. The engineer always told everybody to get back when he started it as exhaust would throw much water out of the stack.

This boiler is a little too small for this size engine. Figure on selling this one and replacing it with a little larger size, same type.

R. P. CHRISTENSEN Box 522, West Lafayette, Ind.


Here is a picture of my engine that I built. This is scale of a 16 hp Advance, has a 4 x 5 bore and stroke and weighs I ton empty.

I started my career as an engineer over 45 years ago and I sure enjoy reading of the experiences of the engineers, some of them not such good places to eat and sleep. I too have gone through this.

I have never tried to keep an engine hot on straw, but did you ever fire on sour Maple, Quakenasp or green Elm? Try it sometime! I think I had more steam in the firebox than I did in the boiler.

The cold mornings when I had to crawl in the firebox to roll the flues then try to get a fire started and be ready to go when the men arrived for the day's work but somehow when I look back over the years I have a tendency to overlook the bad spots and remember only the good.

The early mornings when you could hear the whistles from all points of the compass, as the different engineers called the crews to work and the whistles on the railroads, how I used to love to hear them, but today I would rather hear a cow bawl than the horns on the glorified trucks they have on the railroads today.

MILBURN C. LAKE 60455 Sumption Trail, South Bend 14, Indiana