Report From The West

Content Tools

1121 Hilltop Lane, Modesto, California 95351

Well, the time has once again come to send in my annual report of steam comings and goings out here on the west coast as I took part in or had some word of. And by sending into all three magazines, will insure adequate coverage to all the steam men in the country.

To start things off with, I started the 75 Holt crawler tractor out at Miller's a few times during the summer and during the year, I added 2 more gas engines to my collection a 1 hp Fairbanks-Morse type Z, with open crankcase, Bosch high tension oscillating magneto high tension ignition with spark plug, a 3 hp FM-type Z, style C self oiling, with enclosed crankcase, FM high tension magneto ignition with spark plug and a single cylinder Magtag hp Multi-motor 2 cycle which is now in the shop being put in running order. Parts are still available from the Maytag factory for both the old single cylinder and later double-opposed piston 2 cylinder 2 cycle engine, for those collectors who have these engines and wish to restore them. I filled the Aultman-Taylor boiler for firing, but when leaky flues developed, drained the boiler and just left it set in the shed until proper repairs are made I am no boiler-maker.

Loren M. Wade did a lot more restoration work on his 50 Case engine during the winter. A new crankshaft was made, the clutch was rebushed, new eccentric made, bottom strap and top bracket complete were turned out in his shop together with some other minor parts. A new wrist pin was made, new brasses for it and new crankpin brasses were turned out this engine now runs like a fine watch. Outside of a good cleaning and painting, I know of nothing more to be done to this engine to complete restoration.

In May, we went up to G. A. Humann's at Gerber, and helped out with the 2-foot gauge steam locomotive during his annual spring model railroad show one Sunday. This is a fine-running engine with Walschaert valve gear and steams easily on wood fuel. I miss the air brake on it when running it. During the month of July, Godfrey and his son Paul, moved a 20-foot side-hill Harris from the ranch of the owner about 22 miles from their home, near Chico to the home place with the Russell 16 steam engine. The Russell was hauled on low-boy to the location of the harvester, the Case tank wagon was on hand with a team of mules and driver to supply water and Mrs. Humann drove the truck with wood and extras required. Wilbur A. Skaar also assisted in the long move, which commenced at 7:00 AM in the morning and they reached Los Molinos, about 3 miles from the farm about 9:00 PM that evening. They moved along back roads where possible and then along highway 99 balance of trip to Los Molinos. Next morning, they had to move the outfit over the Sacramento river at the Tehema bridge. With an 8 per cent slope on each approach and the bridge having overhead cantilever construction with side angle braces, this presented mainly a problem of clearance and holding back on the descending approach. With Wilbur guiding in the center of the bridge and Highway patrol and county personnel flagging, the move was made successfully by the afternoon of the second day and all was safely home. The harvester was built in Stockton in 1930 and used last by the former owner in 1957. It is ready for service now, if needed. The exhaust stacks had to be removed to clear the bridge superstructure! A most unusual undertaking in this day and age.

In August, we headed for Oregon by car for the annual WSFA business meeting and the Mikkelson threshing bee. Enroute, we stopped at McCloud and found former Santa Maria Valley railroad 2-8-2 locomotive #21 in the McCloud shops having the super heater units removed preparatory to complete refluing of boiler and a general overhaul of the running gear. The locomotive will be stored here and used on excursions during the summer months according to future plans. Night found us in Yreka, where we stopped in and visited with the general manager of the Yreka Western railroad. They still have 2 serviceable 2-8-2 locomotives, #18-19 that are used on excursion trips and he stated that they had extra parts on hand and would maintain steam as long as the boilers could be made pass ICC inspection. A new engine-house was under construction which would house both the 2 steamers and 3 diesel locomotives of the railroad. There will be steam around this part of the country for some time to come from all that I could learn.

We arrived in Silverton, Oregon on the 18th and settled in the motel. Then out to Harvey's to get ready for the show. The Case 60 had just been reflued by Roy Heinrich, of Hillsboro and a helper, and with the 12 Case and fine butt-strap boilered 50; plus the 16 Russell, and 2 12 hp Russells, the steam power was in readiness. Grain was stacked some in shock and some in loads on bundle wagons, to give everyone a variety of olden times. Harvey had acquired a type H, style Y Fairbanks-Morse 2-cycle oil 25 hp, engine 8x9 Ingersoll-Rand air compressor and air reservoir from a cement plant over at Dallas, if I remember correctly and set the whole thing up on a large frame. It used about 2 gallons of diesel fuel oil during both days of the show and it was in operation most of the time. A shingle splitter powered by a 2 hp upright Greyhound gas engine was brought in and in operation during the show, splitting shingles for demonstration. Mr. Cole brought in his 90 year old French stone burr mill and set it up to grind threshed wheat into flour, powered by Harvey's late John Deere 'D' tractor. At ten cents per pound, the flour was a sell out large quantity was sold. Over under the trees, a number of models were set up and in operation. The Case portable 18 hp had been used to saw up wood for the engines steam does all the necessary work for threshing; then was set up under the walnut tree to furnish steam for small stationary steam engines brought in by Dr. Denieor, of Grants Pass and another whose name I do not recall. Mr. Robinson, of the Robinson well drilling service in Salem, had restored a 1908 Star #21 steam-driven well drilling rig completely. It required all new timbers, most of which were sawed out in a local saw mill to special order, as some of the timbers were nearly 30 feet long and 6-8 inches thick, by 8-12 inches wide. The boiler, which is of the combination type, has a portion which is horizontal, uses 2 inch flues, of which several were replaced, and has an upright portion with a shallow dome on top I am told it is a low-pressure type for about 60-80 PSI. It had new grates cast and a special rope, as used on this rig years ago, was obtained through the Star Drill people from the original source in the east, @ .81 cents per foot350 feet was purchased from the manufacturer who still had about 3,000 feet of this rope in stock. The rig is powered by an eleven horse upright steam engine of what make I don't recall, with Stephenson valve gear on it. This rig was restored from the original specifications and was in operation both days demonstrating how it worked in old days. A shallow hole was dug and it could be used again, if needed. It is one of the very few in the entire country in existence.

Tom Graves, of Tigard, has his steam boat set up and in operation during the show. It has 2x22 inch double cylinders with a boiler psi of 115 pounds. It is of the stern wheel type with boiler built to Tom's ideas and burns wood efficiently. It is a show stopper. Saturday, Roy Heinrich and I pulled out with the 50 Case and 22x38 Red River special machine, set up and threshed the loads off the bundle wagons and one small stack of grain. The wind changed shortly after belting up and for a while, had trouble keeping the drive belt on but managed to finish up without re-setting. This was a common occurrence during threshing days with a wind suddenly switching after setting the machine.

Due to the high boiler inspection fee charged by the State of Oregon, only the 6 engines were under steam, rest were available for display. Saturday evening, the annual WSFA business meeting was conducted after a fine dinner in the Silverton High School. All business brought before the meeting was disposed of and election of new officers are as follows: W.E. Richardson, president; Hilman Lovelien, vice president; John Berry, secretary-treasurer and rest of board of directors was retained. Rodney Pitts was appointed as chaplian.

Sunday, the engine crews were on hand early to fire up the engines and get ready for the parade after dinner and afternoon's threshing. I fired up the 50 Case, George Walton was running the 12 Russell, Bill Hermans was on his regular 12 Russell engine and Leonard Miller, of Santa Rosa, Calif., was running the 12-36 Case. A Mr. Peterson was on the 20 Case and Walter Mehmke was on the 16 Russell engine. Clarence Haarsch was running the 15-30 Oil Pull, Carl Kirsch of St. Paul had his 45 Holt in action and then last but not least, Al Hermans, of Portland, had his 25 Best tractor all over the grounds. Mr. Percy Dezotell had his 1929 12-24 Hart-Parr there, and this tractor is a beautiful job of restoration, complete to decals and paint job. Ed. T. Currans assisted by Harvey Lively and one of my boys for one day, sweated and labored over getting the 29 radiator sections soldered up for the 30-60 Oil Pull's radiator. Sunday, they got things together and then only a pop and snort from the tractor when they tried to start it. Monday, after cleaning spark plugs and changing magneto, it took right off. What luck! Over in the machine shed, Carl Carlson and several of the fellows finally got a 10 hp Root & Vandevoort gas engine with make and break ignition started after I loosened up the frozen ignitor and the fuel pump was worked over. Brass tag said made for John Deere Plow Co. The sidewalk chiefs offered plenty of advice, but none of it seemed to work!

After dinner was served from the hamburger stand at noon, presided over by Mrs. Mikkelson and her capable staff of sisters and friends, the whistles blew both at 12:00 noon and again at 1:00 PM, the parade passed in review with all engines and equipment and the announcer commented on them as they passed by his station. Then, the 22-inch McCormick-Deering separator was pulled over to one stack by Bill Hermans on the 12-36 Russell engine, set up and threshing started. Roy Heinrich and I set up the 50 Case engine and Red River Special machine with Leon Gifford as separator tender at the other stack and commenced threshing. Other engines and tractors ran a-round and belted up to the fan to test their power. Only thing that happened out of the ordinary was blowing a fuse on the transformer and for a while, the crowd was out of drinking water engines had plenty! The stand then really sold pop and soft drinks. The entire show had hot, dry weather, just right for threshing and the crowd totaled about 6-8,000 people. All events went off without a hitch and by 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the threshing was finished, belts thrown and rolled up and machines and engines headed for their big sheds. By 6 o'clock, all the engines were put away for another year and such cleaning as remained to be done was done next day by Ed Currans, Guy Kyler, Harry Fisher, myself and few others who helped with the final work. When we finished, the place was nearly back to normal again. Another show is hoped for next year. We then headed for home. During the show, my wife and boys rode on a steam-powered excursion train on the SP-&S branch between Banks and Vernona, west of Portland, and then took movies and taped the train by 'chasing' it.

The G. A. Humann show was set for Sept. 3-4, so loaded up the pickup with the 6-inch burr grinder, LB 3-5 hp gas engine, tools, belts and took off for Gerber with one of the boys the 2nd of the month. We arrived and after settling in our motel, went out to the farm and found things pretty well organized, with a number of displays already on hand. There were an 18-32 cross-motor Case, Yuba Ball-Tread, two Fordsons, an 1875 McCormick reaper in running order, 105 John Deere self-propelled rice harvester, large Case 4-wheel drive tractor and a new Oliver self-propelled combine. There were 7 or 8 gas engines in operation. Harold Squires of Oakland had his 1 John Deere with make and break ignition and 1 hp FM Z with magneto and high tension ignition. Jack Lucas had his Novo, LB 3-5 hp IHC engine and 20 hp FM type H style Y hot head engine mounted on a trailer and in operation. A 4 hp Cushman mounted on original skids and entire engine original was running. My LB IHC 3-5 hp and the 6-7 hp FM Z style C gas engine, which was belted to my 6-inch IHC grinder grinding shelled corn both days. The 2-hole Marsailles corn sheller was belted to a upright stationary steam engine with steam supplied from the Advance 20 boiler when in operation.

Ten acres of good wheat had been cut with an 8-foot John Deere binder and stacked into 6 stacks. Two stacks were threshed during the show with a 22x36 Red River Special belted to a 16-30 Rumely Oil Pull tractor. The three steam engines, 16 Russell, 20 Advance and 20-60 Gaar Scott threshed the rest of it during the show. Glenn Weagent set up under the walnut trees with his steam generating plan the had his own crowd around all the time. The 1929 GP John Deere tractor was belted to the 6-inch IHC hammer mill, grinding wheat was sacked up in small sacks and the meal sold both days.

Saturday morning, the Gaar Scott threshed one stack of wheat, followed by a team of mules baling straw with an old horse-powered hay press. This was followed by a kind of progress of plowing, lead off by the mules pulling a walking plow, followed in turn with the Fordson tractor pulling a 2-bottom plow and the Gaar-Scott steamer pulling a 5 bottom plow and really socked down in the ground to make the ole' engine work. I ran the Russell both days. George Sheesley fired the Advance and Leonard Miller worked on the 20-60 Gaar-Scott. In the afternoon, after dinner the whistles were blown, the parade was held of all equipment and all the parade of harvest progress lacked was men carrying a hand sickle and a cradle; the progress was represented by the old reaper, binder, threshing machine, pull harvester and then the self-propelled type. Threshing again commenced with the Russell engine in the belt then more plowing and corn shelling and grinding of it wound up the day. Both schedules were the same during the show and everything went off in fine shape. Les Boulden and my son Richard had charge of the 2-foot gauge Koppel steam locomotive giving people rides constantly both days and in the evenings, movies and stories were shown and told. The machines worked well, but the Case plugged up several times on dry grain, of all unusual things. Next year, Godfrey says he will plant another variety of wheat. A huge straw pile was left, as both machines threshed into the same pile. The fine team of mules also pulled the Case water tank around supplying the water for the engines as needed. They added a great part to the entire proceedings. The work was done by mostly WSFA members and another show is planned for next year. The crowd was about 2,000 people both days and there was an old 1935 airplane taking off and landing periodically. 2 old fire trucks were on display and some old Model T Ford cars were present and in operation. It was a most successful show.

I went down to the Arthur Bright farm near LeGrand. He farms 2,000 acres in this area including a large nursery, hog raising and feeding operation, cattle feeding and he has a herd of 23 longhorn cattle! The stock came from the game preserve in Wichita, Oklahoma and the herd steer has a horn spread of 6 feet. He started collecting old gas tractors and engines 2 years ago and now his collection numbers 200 items, including a 12 hp Advance steam traction engine and a fine 25-75 Case traction #27154 which was purchased up in Canada last June and hauled home. He also has a 36-56 Aultman-Taylor wooden threshing machine that needs a little work and a set of belts to make it ready to thresh and a lot of old gas tractors, some early Holts and gas engines. This collection is another story in itself and I will only mention briefly here that he plans a steam threshing in another year or so when he gets things lined out. He is a fine fellow and I hope to have him in the WSFA shortly. That's all for this year.

The hobby magazines are doing their usual good jobs and were joined by the Gas Engine Magazine, published by Rev. Elmer Ritzman, publisher of the original steam magazine, Iron-Men Album magazine and it, too, fills in a gap heretofore lacking a publication as is specifically is a gas engine-gas traction publication. Mrs. Smith deserves a big compliment by making available to we collectors good reprints of old machinery catalogs that otherwise might be lost forever. So keep up the good work. Pictures of the shows will follow.