Bismarck, Mo. 63624
It was in the early summer of 1937, while living in Mulberry Grove, Dlinois, that I was approached by a local farmer who inquired if it were true that I had had some experience in running traction engines, and when I informed him that the report was true, he told me he owned a 20 horsepower Nichols & Sheppard engine and a 32 inch Keck-Gonnerman thresher. He went on to say that the engine was sitting in the middle of a farmer's field, where it had been for four years. The farmer who owned the field moved out of the way in time for the fall plowing of the fields. Not being too busy, and having a yen to get back on an engine again, I agreed to help him get the engine out of the farmer's way.
The engine was located about 3 miles east of Coffeen, III., and the owner decided we would drive the engine to Coffeen. Taking a truck with the water tank loaded on the back, together with a supply of coal and a number of accessories that had been removed from the engine, we made our way to the scene, arriving about 9 o'clock a.m. I looked the boiler over and decided it was reasonably safe, from what I could see. The hand hole plates were put into place, and while the owner filled the boiler, I busied myself putting the injector, steam gauge, whistle, pop valve, and various other parts in place where they had been taken off shortly after the engine was last used. To my surprise, no leaks showed up in the flues, so when the water began to show in the bottom of the glass, I started a fire in the firebox, keeping a lookout for leaks as the steam pressure began to show on the gauge, but no leaks showed up.
When the pressure reached 40 pounds, I tried the engine and found it ran reasonably good. Letting it roll over slowly, I turned the crank on the oiler for several minutes to work a good supply of oil into the cylinder.
When the pressure reached 75 pounds, I put in the pin (The engine had been relieved of some of the clutch parts) and with little effort, the drivers climbed out of the holes where they had sunk while standing for four years. The owner told me that the pop valve was set for 150 pounds, but before it reached that point, I took the fire poker and pulled the lever on the pop to make sure it wasn't stuck. We started down the road toward town and had not gone very far when I noticed the exhaust was a bit sharper than it should have been. The steam guage was mounted on the dome, and a bit hard to read, but looking at it closely I saw that I had considerably more than 150 pounds of steam. Not wishing to subject the boiler to the added surge of pressure that results from suddenly closing the throttle, I jumped off the platform, grabbed the hooked fire poker and ran up beside the engine and pulled the lever on the pop valve. I fired lightly the rest of the way and in due time the old 'Nick & Shep' was parked in the rear lot of a public garage.
Pictured is Phil Rowley, Treas. (cigar and white hat) on platform Feeder and Jump. Jim Ertle, director (back turned)-also on platform Feeder and Jump. Phil operates Buffalo Pitts Twin and Jim owns Baker Uniflow and also several large and unusual gas tractors. Both show and parade these nicely restored engines.
A few days later the owner approached me again and said he had decided to bring the engine home, if I would agree to run it for him. After a bit of hesitation, I agreed. If I remember correctly, the distance was about 18 miles. So, went back to Coffeen, built a fire and waited for the pressure to come up. When the gauge showed 40 pounds, something tore loose in the fire box, the steam started rolling out in billows from the fire door, draft door and the stack. My first impression was that the soft plug had let go, but I was sure I had a half-glass of water when I built the fire.
When the boiler had cooled sufficiently, I crawled into the fire box and found a small hole in the crown sheet, just at the edge of the hole where the soft plug screwed in. (The plug was still intact.) Removing the plug it was found that the thin portion of the crown sheet was no larger than a dime, while the hole that had blown out was not quite large enough to admit an ordinary lead pencil. It appeared that the threads on the plug had been leaking over a period of time, resulting in the flue sheet wasting away at that point.
Several methods of repairing were suggested by various people, ranging from calling the scrap buyer, to welding the entire hole and redrilling the soft plug hole at another point. The owner left it up to me.
The original plug was 3/4 inch, so I took a pipe reamer, reamed the hole large enough to thread for a 2' pipe. Fearing to use a cast iron plug inside the firebox, I went to a machine shop, had a plug turned from a piece of steel shaft, and drilled for fusible metal. The plug was allowed to extend slightly above the top of the crown sheet, after being screwed in with a 24 inch wrench.
In the process of reaming the hole to the larger size, we were able to get rid of the thin portion of the crown sheet. The engine was driven home without incident, and was used to make a neighborhood threshing run that fall. And that was my last steam threshing run.