My Blossoming Interest in Steam

Keck restored and loaded

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5681 Juhls Drive, Boulder, Colorado 80301-3010

I've been a subscriber to Iron-Men Album since 1957. So, as you keep asking for articles, I thought I might try one, although I don't have any great experiences to relate as many of your readers have submitted.

My first interest in steam began when I was growing up in the early Thirties on a diary farm we rented on shares from my grandparents in the township of Brookfield, Wisconsin. Grandpa's home was about three-quarters of a mile north of us on the same road. My bachelor uncle Adolph who lived with Grandpa and Grandma had two steam traction engines: a 16 HP Gaar-Scott single cylinder which was used mostly for silo filling, and a 20 HP Nichols and Shepard double which was used for powering the big Russell separator with twin wing feeders. This Russell separator was stored, when not in use, in a shed on our farm. So, it was a special day when we heard the whistle of the Nichols and Shepard as they left Grandpa's farm to come for the Russell. They would then take it back to Grandpa's farm to thresh his grain first, then my Uncle Johnny's next, who lived on the farm just north of ours, then ours last. I always enjoyed the threshing time of 'thrashing' as we call it because of the exposure to machinery, as our farming was mostly horse powered. I especially enjoyed when the time came that I was big enough to be sent out to neighboring farms for trade help. I loved 'pitching bundles.'

Then in September, we began silo filling with the 16 HP Gaar-Scott and a Gehl Brothers Manufacturing Company cylinder cut ensilage cutter. First Grandpa's, then ours. Uncle Johnny had his own 'Blizzard' ensilage cutter, which he powered with his 10-20 McCormick Deering tractor. The 16 HP Gaar-Scott was a very smooth running engine and from early on I thought someday I would like to build a model of it.

Even though it was hard, sometimes dirty work, my two favorite times on the farm were thrashing and silo filling.

Uncle Adolph purchased a used Geiser sawmill in the mid '30s, which he used to build a shed for the Russell separator and a sawmill shed on Grandpa's farm. He also, at that time, did some custom saw milling.

About 1947 Uncle Adolph bought a 22 HP double Keck-Gonnerman No. 1808 from the Norris farm several miles south of us. A few years later I started helping Adolph with his saw milling on weekends, gradually doing most of it myself. In 1953 I sawed all the roof joists, door frames, etc., for my new machine shop, from ash trees I bought off our farm. We used the Keck with a pulley and rope arrangement so I could operate the engine from the mill. The Keck was sure a nice engine on the sawmill.

1: June, 1958. Nettesheim Machine Co., Brookfield, WI. Keck restored and loaded on low boy for trip to Fond du Lac. Left to right, Adolph Nettesheim, Fred Reckelberg and Dick Carter.

In 1958 I restored the Keck, and Adolph let me take the engine to the Wisconsin Steam Antique Engine Club Show at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (see photo No. 1). I alone showed the engine there through 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961 with the assistance from my good friend Glenn Harmon of Lannon, Wisconsin.

In 1959, after corresponding with John Ackey of Dresser, Wisconsin, and Alden Moural of Milton, Iowa, the founders of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association, and after obtaining permission from Adolph to hold a show on his farm, Glenn and I organized a show under branch membership of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association, later to be known as Branch No. 2. With approximately 15 charter members, the following officers were elected: Glenn Harris, president; Gene Nettesheim, vice president; Harold Ney, treasurer; and Ivan Baxter, secretary. Three shows were held on Uncle Adolph's farm in 1959, 1960 and 1961. In September of 19611 moved to Boulder, Colorado, and the following year the shows were moved to the village park at Sussex, Wisconsin. I kept up my membership and attended as many of the shows in later years as possible.

5: Gene Nettesheim sawing model lumber with his model Gaar-Scott and model saw mill in his show exhibit trailer he uses for traveling to engine shows.

There was some steam and old engine interest here in Colorado, and I tried to be friendly and join in, but was treated as an outsider, so I finally gave up trying and now just attend shows around the country.

After I retired in January of 1984, I started building projects I'd had on my mind. First I purchased castings and plans for a Stuart No. 1 steam engine. Then I built a vertical boiler and installed the engine and boiler in our 12 foot row boat. It made a nice steam boat that we had many hours of fun with on the small lake behind our house (see photo No. 2). Next, I made a model of an Economy hit and miss gas engine and water pump (see photo No. 3). Finally in 1991 I started the model Gaar-Scott that I thought of for years. All I had to work from was a reprint of a 1909 Gaar-Scott catalog that I purchased years ago from Tom Smith, the founder of Engineers & Engines Magazine. I formed all the sheets for the boiler and riveted it together. The boiler has 12 flues and 93 threaded and riveted staybolts. I made all the patterns and castings, and did all the machining myself. I finished the engine in 1995 (see photo No. 4), and have the boiler certified for 100 p.s.i. working pressure by the states of Colorado and Wisconsin. By May of 1996 I had the water wagon and a model working saw mill completed (See photos No. 5 & 6). The good Lord willing, my next project will be a model of that Gehl ensilage cutter.