Steam Engines & Threshing Machines

Forney Photo #1

Forney Photo #1: Twisted wreckage, possibly a Case.

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Log Hauling Update

Derek Rayner, 9 Beagle Ridge Drive, Acomb, York YO24 3JH (, alerts us to an error in the contact information at the end of his excellent article in the May/June 2003 issue, Log Hauling in California in the 1880s. We inadvertently dropped out a digit in his phone number, which should read: (00 44) 1904-781519.

DeLoach Mills

Regular contributor Thomas Downing, R.R. 3, Box 149A, Ellwood City, PA 16117, sent us a brief follow-up on his article on DeLoach Mills that appeared in the March/April 2003 issue of Steam Traction.

Tom says he was contacted shortly after the article appeared by Fred E. Wilder of St. Petersburg, Fla., who told him that a left hand DeLoach sawmill belted to a stationary steam engine is on display at the Georgia Agarama in Tifton, Ga. Fred says the sawmill is still functional and is used in demonstrations and for some custom sawing.

Traction Troubles

John Forney, 4131 E. Road, Bellwood, NE 68624, sends in pictures showing the aftermath of 1915 engine explosion and a Russell that fell through a bridge in 1925. John writes:

My father gave me these pictures some 50 years ago. The first three photos show a shelling outfit that blew up somewhere in western Nebraska. The crew was inside eating dinner, so nobody got hurt. I can't say for sure what kind of engine it was. If you look at the wheels, particularly the one that's resting on the cob pile, it does look a lot like a Case. Maybe someone can identify it.

The last picture is of a 1922 25 HP Russell; the thresher is a Minneapolis 36-64. Note the rope coming off the Russell's flywheel and the Hart-Parr tractor on the other end of the rope. When Mr. Shrader bought this thresher he ordered it with an extra-heavy tongue, and he told me years later, 'I'm sure glad I did, it saved my life.' They had to cut the drawbar pin out with a hacksaw. This all happened in 1925. I bought this thresher years later and pulled it with a 50 HP Case, and it gave that old 50 all it wanted.

Thanks for the new title for our great magazine. I knew Elmer Ritzman, and he did a great job over the years keeping the spark alive.

Thoughts on Groton and Reeves Power Ratings

Lyle Hoffmaster, 1845 Marion Road, Bucyrus, OH 44820, writes in with thoughts on the Groton pictured in the March/April 2003 issue and information on Reeves power ratings. Lyle writes:

The pictures sent in by Brad Vosberg, Gary Yaeger and Melvin Kestler were all great! However, Vosberg's picture the Groton engine was the real gem! Now, I have never seen one of these engines or even a catalog, just pictures, but this picture is the most revealing I have ever seen. It's the gearing!

The crankshaft pinion apparently meshes with the larger gear just behind and back of the flywheel. This larger gear must be keyed to a shaft, which appears to go over the top of the boiler, where another pinion on the far end of this shaft must mesh with the larger gear just in front of the left hand of the man who is standing on the platform. This gear does not appear to have a differential in it, so the differential must have been on the rear axle, and a key in the rear axle must have driven the right-hand drive wheel. Does anyone have one of these engines or a catalog that would tell us just how it really was?

Taking the power from the main shaft by means of a pinion was nearly a universal practice, power then driving a larger gear called by one of several names, such as an idler, intermediate or first reduction gear. I will hereafter just call it an intermediate gear.

This intermediate gear almost always meshed with the master gear of the differential, which caused it to mesh with these two other gears twice per revolution. It pivoted on a cast iron bracket, bracketed to the boiler. If the gear teeth on the intermediate were diametrically opposite when loaded the gear tooth pressure on the pivot bearing was doubled. The gear, being made generally of cast iron, was not very hard, further adding to the heat. That, plus marginal lubrication, caused it to be a hot-running gear.

A 25 HP straight-flue Avery came to our farm in Illinois to straighten some waterways using a 10-foot blade. The intermediate gear got so hot, heavy grease would run off like thin motor oil. They never finished the job.

The Groton's intermediate gear driving through the shaft cut the load (or rather divided it) between the bearings on the cross shaft, and having only one meshing of teeth was much better. If they had just put the differential on the cross shaft it would have been a very superior geared engine.

The list on the following page is taken from Emerson-Brantingham Parts List No. 133 for Reeves engines. Published in May 1917, it states: 'We have established new ratings on Reeves Steam Traction Engines, and give below both the new and old ratings. For the convenience of our customers we have used the old ratings in the descriptive matter of this list.'


Regular or State-Style

Canadian Special and High Wheel Engines (with A.S.M.E. Boilers)

Old Rating

New Rating

Old Rating

New Rating

16 HP

50 HP

16 HP

60 HP

20 HP

60 HP

20 HP

75 HP

25 HP

75 HP

25 HP

90 HP

32 HP

100 HP

32 HP

120 HP

40 HP

140 HP

During the two or three years the old Reeves Company made the Canadian Specials they used the same rating as used with the State's-type, which they had been making previously. The dual rating used by Emerson-Brantingham was of EB's own doing.

Spalding Photos

Charles E. Hitchcock, 3412 State Road 90, Aurora, NY 13026, writes in about the Stevens engine in Spalding Photo #3 in the January/February 2003 issue of Steam Traction. Charles writes:

I read the comments several people made about that picture. One was puzzled about the water tank, so I took another look at my Stevens engine. It doesn't have a water tank, but it does have two large tag bolts in the side of the boiler that could have been used to mount a tank. I can see no other use for them, and they have been on the boiler a long time. The rear wheels are the same as those on my Stevens rims, with the lugs all cast together. I am sending you a copy of a circular from Bowen & Quick, in which you can read about the connection of Stevens and Wide Awake. Please note the arch in the frame that allows the front wheels to turn without hitting the frame. I know of no other machine made like that. I have a Wide Awake machine in my shed to make a comparison.

The last Wide Awake was made in 1911, just 11 years before I was born. On the day I was born a life-long friend of mine was threshing buckwheat for my father on the farm where I now reside. His name was Henry Gosline and he used a Birdsall traction engine; I now have that old engine.

As you may have gathered, I have been interested in old machinery for quite some time. In fact, we held the Spring Grove Steam Show for quite some time. We would have several thousand people over a weekend, until insurance became a problem. No one ever got hurt, but people would bring in alcohol, and that was a no-no with our insurance. We threshed grain, baled hay with horses and steam power, husked corn, threshed beans, ground flour, threshed clover seed and had a steam boat on the pond. Everything but the steamboat is still here on the farm.

As you can see I am not a writer. I am just an old farmer who likes old machinery. You'll note I made no comment about any of the rest of Mr. Spalding's pictures. If I had, it would have been guess work. We don't run steam engines with guess work.

Steam Popcorn

James C. 'Pop Corn Jim' Elliot, 19475 County Road 146, New Paris, IN 46553, writes:

I want to wish you every success with Steam Traction. I have run a steam popcorn wagon for the last 22 years, and depended on Iron-Men Album to keep in touch with the steam hobby. There are so few of us with steam poppers we have no kind of organization, and I know of no one else running regularly.

I hope you do not limit your material to steam traction engines only, or I will be chopped off. I do represent a part of American's steam history, and steam poppers were made in the U.S. only.

Curious Kitten

Some months ago Kitten steam engine fan Jerry Kitten, R.R. 2, Box 6, Slaton, TX 79364, sent in a photocopy of an ad for an 'Improved Traction Engine' built by F. Kitten's Machine Works, Ferdinand, Ind., builders of the well-known Kitten return-flue engines. Jerry bought the ad at an engine show last year, and it was marked as having come from the Feb.15, 1892 edition of the Ferdinand News. This in itself is a curiosity, as it turns out the Ferdinand News didn't start publishing until 1906. Kathy Tretter, editor and co-publisher of the Ferdinand, Ind., paper, suggests it may have appeared in an earlier local paper, but attempts to confirm that have been unsuccessful. The ad, featuring two cuts of the engine from different perspectives, is clearly genuine, but we'd still like to know more.

Jerry notes several curiosities with this Kitten, not the least of which is its engine mounted so it extends beyond the rear of the boiler. Note also that the smoke stack is in the center of the machine, with the firebox appearing to almost sit on top of the boiler. Jerry notes the ad's mention that 'the fire returns two times,' and this is a big clue concerning the boiler's construction. In 1889 Kitten patented a two-pass boiler, one in which heat from the firebox made two passes through the firebox before exiting through the flues. The shell extending to the front is a water reservoir plumbed to an injector for replenishing the boiler.

Jerry was also curious about the issue of the small legend - 'R.J.H. Smith-CO. Cin.O' appearing under the left front wheel in the lower cut. Steam historian Robert T. Rhode confirmed our suspicion the name referred simply to the engraver of the cut, but Bob was also interested in the engine, noting he has a photograph of a Kitten with the smoke stack at the very front, not the rear as per standard Kitten return-flue practice.

The advertised engine is noted as a 12 HP unit, and advertised as weighing 7,800 pounds, with water. We have yet to find any confirmation that this engine was ever built, and it's possible this was a one-off that failed to attract any prospective buyers. If anyone can shed further light on this unique traction engine, we'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, we hope to have more to share on this curious Kitten in the next issue.

Gladkowski and Spalding Photos

Kevin M. Small, EO. Box 92, 1279 Perry Highway, Portersville, PA 16051, read Ed Gladkowski's request for identification on a photograph we first ran in the November/December 2002 issue of Iron-Men Album, and again in the May /June 2003 issue of Steam Traction. Kevin says he knows what the engine is, and he also has thoughts on the photos sent in by John Spalding and published in the May/June 2003 issue of ST. Kevin writes:

I would like to identify the nice photos sent in by Ed Gladkowski and John Spalding in the last issue. Ed's photo on page 22 is of a 12-16 HP Frick. It is a center-crank engine, and it is unusual in that the rear drive wheels have round spokes instead of the flat, strap-steel spokes used on all their later traction engines. This engine was probably built around 1895-1900.

John's photos really had me stumped for a while. Photo #1 looks like a center-crank Case. However, the Sawyer Massey Company of Hamilton, Ontario, also built some early center-crank engines that look very similar to the Case. I am going to leave this one up to our friends Lyle Hoffmaster and Chady Atteberry.

Photo #2 is a 22 HP Gaar-Scott return-flue compound. The thresher also looks like a Gaar-Scott with Garden City wing feeders. How many years did Gaar-Scott build these engines? Are there any left?

Photo #3 is an 1892 16 HP Phoenix built by C. Aultman Company. This engine is a water front return-flue straw burner. It has a balanced slide valve and Stephenson link reverse. There is a picture of this engine in the September/October 1965 Iron-Men Album. This engine is at the late Joe Rynda's yard in Montgomery, Minn., along with many other rare engines. Thanks for sharing your photos, John.

My first photograph shows a 1911 32-120 HP American-Abell built in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is a cross-compound, rear-mount plowing engine. The photo was taken at Birnie, Manitoba, Canada, in 1912. Notice the extension wheels on both front and rear axles. American-Abell used flatstrap steel spokes on both front and rear wheels on the 32 HP engine. These front wheel extensions have round spokes. American-Abell used a longer front axle to accommodate the extensions. I cannot tell if they have skid rims or not they look like Advance Company wheels to me.

The rear drive wheel extensions give the engine a total width of 16 feet. This engine also has a boiler jacket, intercepting valve, steam reheater and straight-line balanced valves. The 32 HP engines were built from 1909 to 1912, & there known; one in Rocanville, Saskatchewan, one in Saskatton, Saskatchewan, one in Wetaskiwin, alberta. John Spalding sent in an excellent photograph of a 32 HP American-Abell that appeared on May/June 2002 Iron Men Album.

The next three photographs were taken at the National Threshers Reunion in Wauseon, Ohio. The 26 HP Advance compound belongs to Graham Sellers of Coldwater, Mich. This engine gets a good workout on the sawmill and prony brake.

The 25 HP Gaar-Scott rear mount belongs to John Schrock of Mason, Iowa, and the 10 HP Gaar-Scott belongs to Bill Roberts of Somerset, Va. This rare little engine was built in 1884.

The last picture shows a 25 HP double-cylinder Rumely owned by Dennis Rupert of Hillsdale, Mich. Justin Rupert is the engineer, getting ready to go to work on the prony brake. The National Threshers will be hosting the Rumely Product Collectors Expo, June 26-29, 2003. It will be the largest gathering of Rumely products ever. Thanks for a fine magazine.

Gladkowski and Spalding Photos and Other Thoughts

Like Kevin Small, regular contributor Gary Yaeger, 1120 Leisha Lane, Kalispell, MT 59901 (yaegerg® was also intrigued by Ed Gladkowski's and John Spalding's photos. Gary writes:

I was looking at the photo of the 'unknown engine, possibly Frick,' owned by Mr. Gladkowski and decided to join in on the identification process. I went to friend Jack Norbeck's book, Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines, for clues. This engine has the same smoke stack as the 1885 Daniel Boone Frick shown in Jack's book on page 116. The steam dome size and placement on the boiler barrel is classic Frick. This engine has a curved spoke or dogleg flywheel like the early Frick engines had, and a right side flywheel and left side steering wheel was a common Frick feature on their earlier engines. It has an early shim ring change, speed-type Pickering governor with the large diameter drive pulley and cylindrical shaped leather belt, common to (I believe) all Frick engines.

The control levers lay on their sides, which was a common Frick feature, and the clutch pulley and mechanism is consistent with some Frick engines. The front wheels and hubs are definitely the same as all early Frick engines after the wooden spoke type was discontinued. The rear hubs have several square holes, which were quite common on Frick engines, although they varied the number of holes due to hub diameter. The most unusual item on these driver wheels is the use of round iron spokes. I don't think I have ever seen a Frick with round spokes in their driver wheels. The side water tank with hand-hole cleanout is also non-typical.

I would bet that if we could go back to the many steam traction engine builders in this country, we would find that as problems arose or someone had a better idea, they made changes as required or desired. As an example, my dad had a 20 HP Reeves Highwheeler built in 1916. That engine was created by Emerson-Brantingham Company, purchaser of Reeves & Company, due to an excessive contracted purchase of 96-inch driver wheels from contractor Illinois Steel Company, intended for the slow-selling Reeves 40-65 HP gas tractor. The 16 HP Reeves Highwheeler served the same purpose for an excess of 90-inch 25-50 HP Reeves gas engine wheels. Reeves' genius head engineer, Harry Clay, designed these engines, which in use (not sales), were a huge success. With that said, my vote is the engine in Mr. Gladkowski's photo is definitely an early Frick engine.

Since I have already opened this can of worms, I'd like to report what my dad said regarding the Reeves 20 HP Highwheeler Canadian Special he and his brothers owned. They hooked their Highwheeler onto the same plows (six sections of six-disk Emerson plows cutting a swath of 36 feet on the level) that they pulled with their Reeves 32 HP cross-compound Canadian Special. Dad said the Highwheeler would easily pull the load on the flat, but they had to drop a plow in the hills due to slippage, not power loss. The large diameter wheels provided more ground contact and larger gearing provided lower tooth pressure, enabling the 20 HP Highwheeler to pull a much greater load than a standard wheel type 20 HP double-simple Canadian Special Reeves.

I am going to attempt to guess Mr. Spalding's return-flue traction engine photos in the May/June 2003 issue.

At first I was sure that Photo #1 was a Case center-crank return-flue engine, possibly a 16 HP. I had even written down a list of features that supported my thought on this matter, but then I received a letter from Tom Stebritz informing me the engine was actually an Ames. I went to Norbeck's book, and there it was on page 63. It's definitely an Ames, built by Ames Iron Works, Oswego, N.Y.

Mr. Spalding's second engine is easily identifiable as a Gaar-Scott side-mounted, Woolf compound return-flue engine. My Gaar-Scott catalog shows only a 30 HP, but they may have built other sizes of single-crank, tandem-compound engines. The Big Forty Gaar-Scott had a double-tandem compound engine. The return-flue engine pictured has the later type of smoke stack top casting, in which the upper casting mounted outside the steel stack tube. On the earliest type of Gaar-Scott return-flue smoke stacks, the casting went inside the steel stack. The faint Gaar-Scott company logo, which featured a tiger on double globes, is shown at the center of the face of the front water tank, removing much of the mystery.

Photo #3: I believe this engine could be a C. Aultman Phoenix return-flue. The only 'contact' I have ever had with a Phoenix was in an early Iron-Men Album issue, which featured a Phoenix return-flue engine that had recently been purchased by the late 'Steam Engine Joe' Rynda near Montgomery, Minn. This may even be that engine? If I am mistaken, I am sure there will be those who can (and will) correct me. If I am correct, my wife would wonder how I would remember particulars of an engine like this when it is likely I am uncertain of what I consumed for breakfast.

Finally, I bumped into a photograph I had in my files I think readers will enjoy. I first saw this photograph in some Montana Centennial material published by our state in 1989. I wrote to the address listed with the photo, and the son of Richard Redle, the man who owned the Aultman & Taylor wooden separator pictured, sent me this photo. The year wasn't noted, but the straw stack was done in one setting near Columbus, (west of Billings) Mont. Mr. Redle never said if there were any scrawny chickens looking for blown over grain in this straw stack. I wasn't able to find out how many acres were involved, but it had to be quite a few, even in a good crop year. Of course, many of the crops grown in the old days were bred to have taller straw aiding operators of binders, in contrast to the shorter grains raised today for combines.

The most pleasant surprise, in my request to copy Mr. Redle's photo, was his father's J.I. Case thresher and steam engine operators field pocket guide, which he donated to my personal collection. The notes hand written in such books by old timers are so very interesting.

Steam Siren

Ron Baer, R.R. 1, Port Colborne Ontario, Canada L3K 5V3 (, has come into possession of an old steam siren, and wonders if anyone knows more about it. Ron writes:

The Inco Metal Company gave me a self-acting siren when I retired two years ago. It was used until the 1980s, when it was taken out of commission. They used it to signify shift changes, fire calls and the 9 p.m. curfew for the city of Port Colborne. I have not been able to find much information about it. The brass tag on the whistle reads: R Brown Patent Self-Acting Siren, Manufactured by the A&F Brown Company, New York U.S.A. Possibly someone might have information on it and when it was made?

The whistle was actuated by steam produced from the company's furnaces, which always had an excess supply. The whistle has a 3-inch feed line and required large amounts of steam to work. When blown, it could be heard for up to five miles.

Threshing Returns to Vigo

After a six year hiatus, threshing returned to the Vigo County Fair Threshing Show, which is held in conjunction with the Wabash Valley Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Show at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds in Terre Haute, Ind. Reader Tom Champion, 1728 S. 8th St., Terre Haute, IN 47802, writes in with a quick look at last year's show. Tom writes:

Champion Photo #1: Mike Weir (left) and Tom Champion make repairs to the old canvases for the McCormick-Deering binder.

We finally had enough volunteers to restart our wheat threshing and baling operation. The shutdown came after we lost our core threshing men: John Greene (baler), Bob Johnson (Baker steam engine pro), Burll Bogart (Huber steam engine pro), and Henry Youngblood (Case steam engine pro). They have all passed away except Henry, who retired for health reasons, and they made our show (which started in 1988) a great success.

During the past four years we put together a new group to give us a fresh start. We started baling hay with our 1923 John Deere baler, with David Pigg's John Deere A supplying power the first year and my John Deere B and Kenny Nordmeyer's John Deere A the following year. The Porter family of Terre Haute, Ind., brought their Advance steam engine to power the baler in 2001, and we put on a good performance that year at the fair.

Champion Photo #2: Tiffany Weir feeds wheat bundles into the bailer at the Vigo County Fair.

For 2002 we didn't have a steam engine and to think there are six of them within 20 miles of the show! Instead, we had Mike Weir's John Deere 60 tractor belted to the Belle City separator, loaned to us by Francis (Tootie) Bogart of Merom, Ind. We had to shut the separator down four times for repairs during the show, but Tootie and his repairman, Warren Cole (also from Merom, Ind.) and Dewayne Moss, Farmersburg, Ind., managed to keep it going. Leroy and Jason Nenerman of Pimento, Ind., also helped, and Joe Minnis, Minnis International Inc., the Terre Haute Case International dealer, transported the separator to the grounds. John Curry, co-owner of I.C.E., a Terre Haute-based structural company, got the separator safely home. This type of help is what makes the show a success.

Last fall I tried getting new canvas for the wheat binder, but the two Amish groups I contacted told me they no longer use binders and no longer made the canvas. I took some oak out of my stock and cut new strips - 18 for the lower platform and 10 for the back elevator. I was able to get new 14--pound canvas from the Main Tent Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Mike Weir and I started the reconstruction of the binder canvas. The canvas came from the company two inches too wide, so my wife, Barbara, sewed an overlap in the center to get the width right.

I have met with Mike Weir and his family, and they have agreed to help produce the threshing show from now on. Old Father Time has closed in on me, and it's time to turn things over to the next generation. I am confident Mike can handle it all, and I will be happy to accept the honorary title of emeritus director. The 2003 show will be held July 5-6, and Coen Hutchinson can fill in more details. You can call him at (765) 832-6730 or e-mail at:

We must all try to keep this kind of history alive, and we should all remember if we don't preserve what we know and have for future generations, it will be gone forever.

Spalding's Corner

John Spalding, 112 Carriage Place, Hendersonville, TN 37035, sent us a treasure trove of vintage photos of traction engines but with a twist.

John won't identify the engines, instead, he wants readers to test their knowledge and identify the engines in his pictures. This issue's traction teaser has some clues, and the first person to correctly guess its identity gets a free copy of Steam Engine Guide by Professor P.F. Rose.

If you have a comment, question or reminiscence for past and present, please send it along to : Steam Traction, 1503 S.W 42nd St., Topeka, KS 6609-1265, or e-mail: