Hehl's Traction Engine Blows Up

Hehl's Traction Engine Blows Up

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The Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, Daily News Correspondent, Union City, Indiana

Here is an interesting account of the Miami Valley Steam Threshermen's Association, as it appeared in the Dayton, Ohio, Daily News, and written by our good friend, Joe Fahnestock

A bout 5000 people of all walks of life swarmed in on the Elmer Ebert farm northwest of Anna, O., Sunday, (July 26) to partake of the good old American custom of by-gone days steam threshing.

As sooty hands reached up to open throttles and pull whistle cords, and pitch forks swung into motion, pitching grain, hundreds of cameras of all kinds, from pin-holes to Leicas, clicked away, and the glorious steam engine first successful attempt by man to channelize horizontal power into circular motion, by reciprocation, and mighty herald of the great Industrial Age once again held sway and called forth the tune of the day.

Some were content merely to stand with heads back and nostrils elevated to catch, more easily, the pleasant aroma of hot cylinder oil and coal smoke the most tantalizing of perfumes to a steam fan.

Others, more devoted, had to have their feet planted, firmly, on the engine platform. But the most fervently zealous of the lot, I felt, were some of the guys who believe it or not stuck so close around the engines that they wouldn't even get away long enough to eat an unforgivable sin in any thresherman's bible (ask grandpa).

While Elmer Egbert and son Jack, were busy, for the most part, belting the various engines to the separators and the Prony Brake, Art Heiland, their friend and neighbor, who helps them sponsor the Miami Valley Steam Threshermen's Association, each year, was busy helping to place the engines and otherwise fulfilling his official duties.

Each engine there got a try-out, both at threshing and pulling on the brake tests. The Case, the Frick, the Baker, the Advance-Rumely and the others. The only engine sitting idle was the huge 28-year-old four cylinder Aultman-Taylor gas tractor the largest engine there, having eight foot drive wheels, and a 55 gallon capacity radiator, the front of which resembles the flue-sheet of a steam boiler.

Said Art Heiland to Charlie Hummel as they peered up at this giant tractor, 'Why in the name of sense would anyone have paid out $5700 for thing like this when he could have gotten a steam engine for only $100 a horse-power.

'Besides', articulated Art, 'the farmer had to produce the full cash to get one of these. If he didn't have the cabbage when he went to the freight yards to get it, they just wouldn't kick the blocks out from under the wheels until he did produce it.

'But steam', concluded Art, 'steam was much cheaper, and the power she'd develop well this old gas tractor has a limit and when she reaches that she'll pull right down, but that's not the case with steam. You can just keep on screwing down the valve on a steam engine, and feeding more steam, even beyond the limit of rating.'

Later, when Heiland belted his beautiful Huber (return flue type) engine up to the separator and started pulling, he came puzzled and even anxious, when the boiler got low on water and the injectors didn't seem to jump effectively.

Investigating conditions at the side of the engine, I heard Art say, 'If I ever get my hands on the so-and-so who closed down this globe cock. He did it as a joke, but it could be a dangerous way of having fun.' Then the New Huber began showing her stuff again, as Heiland pulled back the throttle, and whistled the 'go-ahead.'

One of the most pleasant sensations of the event, however, was the exhaust sounds of Homer Holp's wonderful little Advance-Rumely. The crowd was fascinated as the load on the belt made the governors 'take right a-holt.' Holp, who' owns several engines, will later hold his annual engine meeting at the Brookville, Ohio, fairgrounds.

One of the many interesting demonstrations, however, was the plowing done by Charlie Ditmer and son Sylvester's Baker steam engine. They had a crowd around them listening to the sharp, distinct bark of the Baker exhaust clipped off by the Baker valve gear, as the little engine did its stuff, pulling six bottoms. 'What kind of power, other than steam, could do this on only one cylinder,'' said the Union City, cigar-smoking Charlie, as he hastily made a check-valve adjustment at the side of his engine.

Continuing to walk around in circles, meeting old friends while the sun cooked my remaining brains, I noticed Gilbert Enders of West Lodi, Ohio. Enders, stocky, firm-jawed steam engineer, who, with his disheveled hair, seemed as he stood there in front of a hot, smoking Advance-Rumely, to be the very personification of the age of steam. Said Gilbert, laying a firm hand on the front wheel to emphasize, 'It was steam engines, not nearly as good as this one, that broke open the west to agriculture.'

Attempting to cool myself in the shade of the giant Aultman-Taylor tractor, aforementioned, I looked up momentarily to admire its new paint job, when my roving eyes spied Ira Edger of Union City, comfortably perched up in the drivers seat, like a bird on a nest, watching everything and enjoying the cooling breezes wafting through under the roof. Ira used to run this big engine in threshing rigs.

'I'll bet you feel at home up there, don't you,' I yelled. Ira, puffing on a cigar, replied 'Yup, coolest place on the grounds.'

After packing my recording equipment back into the car I walked over through the field past a couple grain separators, a steam thresh engine and a model 'T' Ford (which seemed to be perfectly at home in the atmosphere) to the straw pile. Digging my friend Charlie Hummell out from under the straw, and brushing him off, I led him back to the car.

As we drove out the gate, Elmer Egbert and son Jack, who had slumped down, exhausted on a bench under a shade tree, waved goodbye, yelling 'Be see in you next year.'