Readers’ Letters Touch on Engines From 18 HP Gaar-Scott to 50 HP Case

Past & Present: Postcards, news of steam events and schools reach our mailroom

past2

A 1909 postcard scene of a steam-powered sawmill, possibly in the Jackson County, Iowa, area.

Content Tools

Firing a Case
Louis Mittelman, Gordonsville, Va. (e-mail: lmittelman@verizon.net), shares a photo. Louis writes:
Please accept for publication a photo of old-time Gaar-Scott man Bill Roberts, Somerset, Va., firing a 50 HP Case at the Somerset 31st Annual Steam and Gas Pasture Party, Aug. 24-26, 2006. The Pasture Party is held annually on Bill’s farm.

Star Engine Update

Paul Weber, Winchester, Ky. (e-mail: psweb921@aol.com), fills us in with some useful information on the 1885 5 HP Star vertical steam engine from the article “Steam Engines, Mules and a Canal Boat” in the Steam Traction Spring issue. Paul writes:

This is a very nice article with outstanding photography. The reason for this note is to address the information about the 5-by-5 Star engine. I acquired this engine from the late Charles “Icky” Barker of Lexington, Ky., in about 1980. The best recall by those who have information from this era is that the engine came from Indiana.

Around 1990 John Neagley, who had a position at the Ludwig Mill, expressed interest in the engine for mill use. John came to Winchester driving a Metro Parks pickup truck. I agreed to donate the engine and was assured by John that a placard naming the donor would be displayed.

For a quick reference: While Icky still owned the Star engine he wanted to mount the 30-inch belt pulley. Having no way to bore the pulley hub, he had a friend with a small lathe turn the pulley end of the crankshaft to fit this small bore, which can be seen easily. By the way, the shaft was not bent when it left here.

A second less obvious reference: The governor valve had gotten leaky and allowed the engine to over-speed under no load. As a temporary repair I built the spool up with copper plating. A person who disassembled the governor would notice.
Hope you find this information helpful for your records.

Russell Collectors Website
Douglas M. Scheetz, 561 29th St. N.W., Massillon, OH 44647; (330) 875-6022 (e-mail: doug@russellcollectors.org), would like to announce the development of the National Russell Collectors Assn. website. Doug writes:

"We started the National Russell Collectors organization a few years back and found it very difficult to sustain a newsletter, membership list, etc. We are now back in business with our new website: http://russellcollectors.org.

"We have been up and running for a few months and already made some interesting new connections. We obtained some original factory build records and have been developing a 'known to exist' database that we are constantly updating. I’m confident in its content and am now ready to announce to the world we are back and better than ever. Please check us out!"

Scenic Postcards
Loren Schutt, 1278 180th St., Wheatland, IA 52777; (563) 678-2321, found some interesting postcards he wanted to share. Loren writes:

I am enclosing some postcards I thought might be of interest to Steam Traction readers. All of the cards were bought from vendors, so I have no special information on them.

Photo #1 is a sawmill scene. It is the only one of the three that was sent through the mail. The message on the back is dated Jan. 11, 1909, postmarked the next day. The postmark is somewhat indistinct, but appears to be from Andrew, Iowa. The scene is certainly compatible with that area of Jackson County, Iowa. The photo shows a steam-powered sawmill with the engine beside the boiler. This is a reminder that not all more-or-less-portable saw rigs used traction or self-contained portable steam engines.
Photo #2 is of a New Huber traction engine and a Case water wagon. On the back is written, “J.J. Fisher, Aug. 6-14.” A 1914 date for the photo seems realistic.

Photo #3 is of a Geiser Peerless traction engine, a lumber wagon and an unidentified piece of equipment. There is no information on the back of this card. The sign on the front of the engine says, “Green Flag Roofing, sold by Kellinger (or Mellinger) LBR. Co.” There appears to be a four-letter word written circularly inside of the corner of the sign before the “G” in Green.

In the Spring 2007 Steam Traction, pages 30-31, at the bottom is a photo of an engine identified as “A Reeves steam traction engine working … ” The engine pictured is a Nichols & Shepard not a Reeves. You can see a similar engine in Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck, page 189. I hope this information is useful.

Editor’s note: Loren is correct, it appears the engine is indeed a Nichols & Shepard.

Minneapolis Engine?

Ray Lightfoot, 138 Emerald Road, Seneca, SC 29678; (864) 886-0095 (e-mail: lghtfthm@aol.com), would like help identifying an engine. Ray writes:

Here is a photo of my grandfather, he is the one holding the oil can, and an unidentified steam engine powering a threshing machine. The photo was taken in Winnebago County, Ill., in the late 1800s. I have looked at various books and sent the photo to a few other people with no one being able to identify the manufacturer.

One of the unique features is that the smokestack is at the rear of the machine rather than in the front. Also, there appears to be a water tank on the front with hoses running to it. There may be some markings on the fire door, but I can’t make them out.
I have received three suggestions as to the origination of the engine: The first suggestion was an Avery, the second was a Huber and the third, which I believe is the best fit, a Minneapolis Machine Threshing Co. traction engine. Jerred Ruble, Hanlontown, Iowa, owns a 22 HP engine that looks similar to the engine in the photo. I have sent a letter to Mr. Ruble, with my photo, to see if he agrees they are from the same manufacturer. Thank you in advance for any help or direction you can give me.

Proper Attire 

Rev. Jim J. Templin, Blue Ridge, Texas (e-mail: lorija799@aol.com), sends us a photo of “properly attired engineers.” We should note that Jim is a Deputy Boiler Inspector for the state of Texas. Jim writes:

This is a photo of three real good steam friends standing in front of Mike McKnight’s (Mason, Tenn.) 18 HP Gaar-Scott steam engine. We are modeling Chady Atteberry’s approved steaming garments at the 2006 Pawnee (Okla.) show. Beside the fact that it is good to look “historically correct,” overalls are just the most comfortable things to work in. Pictured from left are Patrick W. Traubert, Plano, Texas; myself and Mike.

Grandpa Waldie

Tim Waldie, 822 Langdon Road, Standish, MI 48658; (989) 239-5175, is on a search for a model engine built by his grandpa. He is hoping someone will respond with an answer. Tim writes:

I would like to start by telling you a little bit about my grandpa, Wayne “Gus” G. Waldie. If you knew my grandpa, he went by the name Gus; I’m not sure how he acquired this nickname, but everyone from far and near knew him as Gus. People came from all over to see Gus. They would bring all different types of parts or gadgets for him to look at because they were either broken or just wouldn’t work. Grandpa would say, “Come on, let’s go back to the shop and see what we can do.”

The main reason people stopped was that they would have a part that couldn’t be bought or too damaged to be repaired, so grandpa would start from scratch and make them a new piece. Grandpa made lots of different types of gadgets, including many types of small engines including old-fashioned engines for running popcorn and peanut machines. He also liked to make steam whistles and was always filing them trying to tune them, to make the sound he was looking for.

Grandpa built three huge projects he took all over the place for show. The first was his 1/4-scale Case 65 HP steam engine, which he bought a 1/4-scale Port Huron thresher to run with. (Featured on the cover of Iron-Men Album, May/June 1975.) The engine took him all of five years to build, which he built in the basement of the house. This, of course, was where his workshop was at the time. He bought the blueprints and some of the engine castings from Alexander Enterprises and machined them. The rest of the parts he built by hand. The spokes are made out of big spikes or nails, the water wagon was made out of a half of a barrel and hand truck wheels.

After he was all finished building the engine, with some help from farm boys from across the street, they laid boards on the basement stairs and pushed and pulled until they got the steam engine out of the basement and the back door. He spent lots of time rebuilding the thresher, which still looks really good.

Grandpa’s second project was a Rumely OilPull made entirely of spare parts he picked up from various places. The OilPull had a 1-1/2 HP hit-and-miss engine. I remember this well because he painted one full horse and then a half of a horse on the engine.
Grandpa’s third project was a scale model 1901 Oldsmobile car with a lawn mower engine and transmission. He made the spoke wheels out of wood with bicycle tires.

After some time passed, all of the things grandpa made, he sold. He passed away Nov. 13, 2006. In the days following, as all of our family and friends remembered him, we began talking about the things he did in life. I was talking to the Zadunics, the farm boys from across the street, on the subject of whom the steam engine, the OilPull and the car had been sold too. They didn’t know and they thought the steam engine, water wagon and thresher had been sold to a person by the name of Charles London in about 1980.
Following the funeral, I did some searching and gave Chuck a call, unsure if I was looking in the right place. When Chuck answered, I asked him if he owned a 1/4-scale Case 65 HP engine and he said yes. I think my heart jumped as I explained to him who I was and he was very delighted to be speaking with me.

After confirming he still had all the equipment and talking with him for some time, without even asking him whether he might be interested in selling everything back to us, he asked me if we wanted to have the engine back. I was shocked! Of course I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me he was very glad I called because he was thinking about selling it. He really wanted to see the engine come back to the family where it should be, for all of us to remember grandpa.

Chuck decided to sell everything back for $1,000 less than he paid. On Dec. 2, 2006, Dad and I went to Port Huron, Mich., to pick up the engine. After arriving, Chuck showed how everything worked and talked about the past. We loaded everything on the trailer and before we left we had a cup of coffee with Chuck as he told some more stories. It was a great day for all of us.
I have been working on the engine since we got it home, doing some painting and touch-up work. It’s starting to look really sharp. Dad and I plan on going to at least one show, which will be the Pioneer Power Days in West Branch, Mich., this year. I hope to seem Wayne “Gus” G. Waldie’s dream live on for many years to come by showing the steam engine he lovingly built.

Grandpa Waldie was born in 1915 in Bancroft, Mich. and lived to be 90 years old. I would like to see if the readers can help. I would like to find the whereabouts of grandpa’s Rumely OilPull. I can’t seem to find anyone who knows where it has gone. I think the Rumely was a 1/4-scale, and somewhere on the engine, as with all the things grandpa made, he put a tag that said, “Hand crafted by Wayne G. Waldie.”

Grandpa sold the Rumely in the mid- to late 1980s to someone in Michigan, I think, but don’t know for sure. So to all of the wonderful readers, please help me find the whereabouts of this piece of family history. Please contact me if you should have any information regarding the Rumely OilPull. Readers may also contact my father, Ken Waldie, at 831 Langdon Road, Standish, MI 48658; (989) 653-2714; e-mail: ksnkwaldie@centurytel.net.

Doughty Valley Show

Mehl F. Young, 1151 Nottingham Square N.E., Bolivar, OH 44612; (330) 874-3584 (e-mail: mehlyoung@juno.com), is the secretary of the Doughty Valley Power Assn. and wanted to share the events of their past show. Mehl writes:

The 6th Annual Doughty Valley Power Show was held the third weekend in July 2006 at the show grounds, off state Route 557, about 1/2 mile west of Charm, Ohio. This was the second year at this location and quite a few improvements had been made to make the field better for the operation of engines and for the arrangement of the other displays.

The two full-size sawmills, each owned by a local organization member, were in almost constant operation, powered by various steam engines during the days of the show. Dale Minor operated his smaller sawmill with his model Case engine, and often had one of the model Bakers belted to it on another pulley at the same time. Much of the grain for threshing was raised on the grounds, with additional grain supplied by neighboring Amish farmers, the bundle wagons being pulled by teams. The separator and threshing crew get quite a workout!

The field had been plowed during the 2005 show by several steam engines and some antique tractors. Due to the considerable amount of rain, not much plowing was possible. Hopefully the weather this year will be more accommodating. The 10-plus, full-size engines represented were: Advance-Rumely, Baker, Case, Keck-Gonnerman, Peerless and Russell, with several model Baker and Case engines along to add to the fun.

The operators like to play. The general opinion is that “steam engines are no fun, unless you get them dirty.” And they do have fun!
Old tractors, hit-and-miss engines and other pieces of old machinery (some still used in the area) were also on display. This was an action show despite the weather. There were Baker fans, a Power Eater generator, a shingle mill, a dynamometer, a lumber edger, a pull sled and a tug-of-war, along with the machinery already mentioned. The show dates for this year are July 19-21, at the same location. For information about displaying, etc., write: Doughty Valley Power Show, 52498 State Route 651, Baltic, OH 43804.

WHSEA Steam School

Jeff Bloemers, 4597 County Road F, Waldo, WI 53093; (920) 564-62912 (e-mail: jbsteam@bytehead.com), releases the latest news on the Wisconsin Historical Steam Engine Assn.’s 2006 Steam School. Jeff writes:
The Wisconsin Historical Steam Engine Assn.’s 3rd Annual Steam School was held Oct. 6-8, 2006, at the Rock River Thresheree show grounds, Edgerton, Wis. The school was filled to capacity by Labor Day with students registered from California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

Several of the Wisconsin state boiler inspectors who attended our 2005 steam school returned in 2006. Jim Nowell, Winnipeg, Canada, and Tom Hall, Moorhead, Minn., instructors at Rollag, Minn., steam school helped with the instruction at our school. Thanks again, Jim and Tom! Other instructors were: Mike Wahl, New Holstein, Wis.; Paul Reckelberg, Luxemburg, Wis.; Charlie Hendrickson, Edgerton, Wis.; Jamie Stevenson, Whitewater, Wis.; Pete Deets, Baraboo, Wis.; Jim Laven, Muskego, Wis.; Tim Klade, Poynette, Wis.; Marty Studebaker, Milton, Wis.; John Malsch, Pell Lake, Wis.; and me.

The school went very well and we were blessed with great weather the entire weekend. Half the school is classroom, with the other half consisting of hands-on instructions with three full-size and two 1/2-scale model engines. Students are given a chance to operate and handle an engine. Engines were belted to a sawmill to show how firing is done under various loads with wood verses coal. Other classes included: pre-firing checks, steam theory, steam engine components, boiler construction, operation and maintenance, piping, valves and accessories, boiler water treatment and emergency procedures.

We are thankful we have the Rock River Thresheree show grounds to conduct our steam school. All the people that helped make it possible, the classroom and kitchen, campsites and showers, sawmill, cut-away boiler, the engines, and lots of room to run the engines, and the operating steam train for the night rides, make it an ideal set-up.

Our 4th Annual Steam School will be held Sept. 28-30, 2007, at the Rock River Thresheree show grounds, Edgerton, Wis. Register early, class is limited to 50 students.

For more information contact me or visit the club’s website at: www.whsea.org 

Rough & Tumble Steam School

John Johnson, P.O. Box 1068, Exton, PA 19341; (717) 442-4249 (e-mail: steamschool@comcast.net), is the director of the Rough & Tumble Steam School. He shares with us the excitement during the school. John writes:

Rough & Tumble Engineers Historical Assn. Steam School 2006 filled quickly. The steam school at Rough & Tumble is unique because students have an opportunity to operate a wide range of equipment. This is a rare chance for our students to operate antique steam equipment of historical value since the school was formed in 1994.

School starts the first weekend in the morning with John Geib instructing on operation, safety and maintenance of equipment. Students learn the mantra of “water, water, water” preached by all our instructors. The afternoon is spent operating fired equipment around our beautiful Lancaster, Pa., grounds. Operators quickly learn what it is like steering a 22,000-pound steam traction engine with a boiler of 600 gallons of boiling water and a running pressure of 120 psi around turns. They do take an art to maneuver, especially at busy shows like our reunion in August.

The second weekend, students start with cold engines, cleaning tubes, making the fires and performing necessary maintenance on operating equipment. We never said operating coal burning engines would be clean. Students then participate in steam games and finish receiving diplomas for their achievement. We always finish with exhilaration and lots of smiles! (I still remember when I took steam school a number of years ago; it was two of the best Saturdays of my life.)

We had the largest amount of equipment for students to operate of any school offered. We had six steam traction engines available. We also had our railroad engines, Little Toot and The Shay, available for students to learn as well as our Buffalo Springfield steam roller and an unusual home-built engine with a vertical boiler.

Our goal is to pass along the art of operating, maintaining and preserving our heritage of antique steam equipment and Rough & Tumble Assn., and to increase our volunteer base. 

Our steam school for 2007 was held May 19 and June 2 with Head Instructor Butch Biesecker. In 2006 we filled up in six days with 24 students of which two were women. Ages ran from 16 to 80, average age is 44.

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 66609-1265; e-mail: rbackus@ogdenpubs.com