Tom Smith, Joe Fahnestock'

Taken at Allegan, Michigan in 1960. Left to right: Tom Smith, Joe Fahnestock (writer), and Editor Ritzman.

Joe Fahnestock

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Being a writer for a newspaper I shouldn't be addressing an editor, of all people, with a 'Dear Friend' prefix.

However, I have just made up a picture of the one I had my wife take of the late Tom Smith, myself and you at the Allegan, Mich., meeting early in the summer of 1960. The photo shows that two editors and a writer can get along on the same bench for an instant or so.

In between two editors I am showing my manuscript and photos which I've gleaned from attending the midwest reunions over the past ten years. I wrote it up in a national history of the Steam Threshermen's Reunions since their beginnings at the LeRoy Blaker farm in Alvordton, Ohio.

I focussed my camera and handed it to my wife, Patty, to snap our combined pictures on the bench up at Allegan, Mich., that cold and windy day when we didn't have much else to do at the moment. I recall my wife and I kept moving our recorder around to different spots to ward off the wind and also to try and get someone to listen to some recordings.

I remember that I had quite a time of it that day kidding Tom Smith about some rare steam threshing photos he had just acquired and was proudly showing around. When I was kidding him, he was trying to devour an American foot-long hotdog, purchased somewhere on the grounds, and he was trying to smile while at the same time licking the profusion of mustard off his lips, a feat that is difficult to execute. Tom did well, however, in that he did get in a few guffaws, and still got most of that mustard licked off, as well as the sandwich eaten.

I was quite sorry to hear of Tom Smith's passing shared equally by my wife who had come to know him the news of his demise being first passed on to us through a letter by the intellectually-profound Steam Engine Professor, Orrin Seaver.

Possibly I'd better remind you, too, that besides the writing, I am the fellow who does the recording of the steam thresh engines and the railroad steam locomotives, particularly the P.R.R. engines. I have now a large 12-inch 33 rpm recording which I cut from masters on order. It sells for $6.00 postpaid, and is very popular.

JOE FAHNESTOCK, Box 47, Union City, Indiana


Here is something interesting. It has no direct bearing on steam engines nor even gas engines and nothing to do with threshing grain but it is written by a very good steam engine man. Copy it and have your High Schooler give it to their Math teacher. -Elmer.

At least in one respect, 1961 is the most unusual and unique year of the Century. It is upside down. We may name it so because it has an invertible number. If we rotate the number 1961 through 180 degrees (or turn it upside down) it still reads the same.

There are ten elementary Arabic number signs. When these signs are of simple design: 0, 1, and 8 are invertible; 6 and 9 interchange their appearance when turned upside down; while 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 are ambiguous when given the somersault. An invertible number may be composed of one or more of only invertible elementary numbers.

Since the beginning of the First Century A.D. there have been 23 upside down years:

 0  69 111 619 818  919  1111
 1  88 181 189 888  986  1691
 8  96 609 808 906 1001 1881
11 101

Now octogenarians have the privilege of having lived in two upside down years. That will never happen again. 1961 is not only the upside down year of the Century but the last one of our Age. The next one will be 6009 an appalling wait of 4048 years.

Although we shall never again live in another upside down year, let us enjoy to the fullest the year we now have as the year when the rigid calendar itself is humerous.

EIFFEL G. PLASTERER, Huntington, Indiana


MR. GEORGE A. CRETORS was the man we all got acquainted with last summer as he represented 'Engineers and Engines' at the various Reunions. He passed away February 12th, 1961, at the Veterans Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, from surgery. He and Alice Cretors had only been married two months.

George had a very pleasing disposition and he was a good conversationalist. You could delightfully spend hours visiting with him. Our prayers and sympathy go to his wife, Alice.


ROY ALVIN JACKSON, Richfield Illinois, born June 1897, died Feb 1961. He was a telegrapher for the A. T. and S. F. Railway. Later he operated a farm. He is survived by his wife, three sons and ten grandchildren.


Death came for Roy Tidwell of Longmont, Colorado, one of the most enthusiastic and best-liked steam traction engine fans of the state, November 22, 1960. The end came following two heart attacks.

Roy was born in Humansville, Mo. He was brought by his parents to northern Colorado at an early age. In 1932 he moved to Longmont, establishing an automobile agency. He later entered the field of farm machinery sales, at one time was a J. I. Case dealer.

For years Roy had a dream of restoring Case steam traction engines and operating them in public parades, etc. He acquired a Case 50, a Case 40 and a Case 60 hp engine. He spent thousands of dollars putting them into top condition.

He displayed and operated engines at the Boulder County Fair in Longmont, was in political parades, Shriner parades and others less known. He was always ready to show his engines in any good cause.

In 1959 he was invited to display one of his engines at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. He took down the Case 40, operating it at the fair grounds and running it in the big parades downtown. He received wide publicity and praise for his public spiritedness.

Roy was one of the charter members of the Rocky Mountain Steam Club, also a member of the Jerome DeBacker Memorial Steam Museum group, which is building a home for its engines on the DeBacker farm four miles east of Boulder.

Roy was married to Miss Mildred Flynn of Ault, Colorado. She survives him as do two sons: Roy Tidwell, Jr., Rawlins, Wyo.; and Robert Tidwell, Tahachipi, Calif.; and one daughter, Sylvia Tidwell, Longmont.


Mr. Vogel is well known at Mt. Pleasant Reunion where he comes flying in each year. He does dusting and student instruction with his plane. He is a photographer of no mean ability and brings us movies and slides that are from that far country. They are entertaining and educational. Fact is he is a very interesting man! We are happy to have this word from him. -Elmer.

Remarks written by some writers on their fellowmen and denouncing some makes of engines and separators, seem to be placing themselves as righteous judges.

As to painting engines, I see nothing wrong in cleaning and painting an engine like it was when new. There is no reason why an engine should be left dirty and greasy, unpainted or standing out in the elements. They are just as authentic when used to thresh or parade when painted. I thresh grain, beans and clover. I run six bundle wagons pulled by mules and horses but do not condemn those who have an engine and take it to a fair ground.

Another writer seems to denounce all makes of engines but one as to power and performance. In this part of the country, had it not been for smoke belching, water wasting and loud exhausting engines, the farmers would have had to use flails or horse powers. Certain makes of engines never got this far west.

I have been running threshing machinery for 35 years and still do. I believe some engineers can take an engine and do better than others on the same engine.

Here is an interesting article on Locomotives:

Did Steam Die Too Soon?

Railway Fans, the most sentimental of all breeds of enthusiasts, have cause to weep in their beer! An expert has it that Steam died prematurely!

H. F. Brown, an American railway consulting engineer, went to London recently to read a paper to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Its theme: The all-embracing economics claimed for Diesel-electric motive power do not appear in the statistical record'. And he had bushels of figures to back his case.

If bigger trains are being hauled today in the United States, he argued, it is not primarily because of dieselization but because the railways have been closing branch lines and suspending passenger trains making many stops.

Steam engines have been built more powerful than any diesel unit and are capable of doing the long haul jobs just as well. But the railways pitted brand new diesels against predominantly elderly steam power, which is scarcely a fair test. Today, as the diesel age, their repair costs are running much higher than steam's. The initial capital cost, and hence the charges for interest and depreciation, are also higher.

Mr. Brown's conclusion was that diesels pay off in yard work, but not on the main lines!

All of which, infortunately for steam puffs, is an academic argument.

All the cumbersome supporting plant for the steamers the facilities for fueling and watering them are gone now, they will never be rebuilt.

But, if Mr. Brown is right, it is sad to think that the haunting music of the steam whistle need not have vanished from the land.

By ED VOGEL, Buhl, Idaho


I am particularly impressed with the report on Page 11 of the Jan-Feb issue, 1961, in which is given the economy tests of 6 engines. The writer is not in a position to say much about the Harrison Jumbo, or the Baker engine, but I have operated a 32 hp Port Huron, and have owned many makes of engines, including a 16 hp Advance and 35 hp Advance. Also a 10 x 13 Russell or a 30 hp and I have found that between the three engines there was very little difference as far as economy was concerned.

The 16 Advance was a simple, so was the 30 hp Russell. However, the 35 Advance was a tandem compound and, all being equal, was as economical as the 32 Port Huron which was also a compound.