Soot in the flues

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Now you and I both know you will receive this magazine long before New Year's Day, but this is the Jan.-Feb. issue of 1981 and so I am going to start this column out with a little something to think about for the new year--called The Unmarred Page by Grace Noll Crowell from Tapestries of Life book--Let us not forget the revelry and the din--That ushered in the new year late last night;--Let us be mindful that God hands us each-- A beautiful white page on which to write--Our record of the days He gives, and He asks only that we live them worthily.

To begin with the letters, here comes one from JOE HABEGER, 900 Northeast 8th Street, Madison, South Dakota 57042: 'I found the article on Keystone Skimmers in your Sept.-Oct. issue to be most interesting as I have a #3. I hope to complete the restoration of this machine within the next year or two. The only other one we know of is at Charleroi, Pennsylvania, and the man who has it also has a #4.1 would like to know of any others that may still be around. Maybe, like the Big Four, there are more than we think.

By the way, add one more Big Four west of the Mississippi as one has been exhibited here at Prairie Village for several years.'

Next communication comes from MELVIN R. GRENVIK, 115-lst Avenue N.6, Kenmare, North Dakota 58746: 'Congratulations again on the continued fine quality of the magazine and on a challenging Unclassified Photos Section. For those interested, here is how I read them from Nov.-Dec. issue.

No. 1--the engine is an early Gaar Scott reverse mount single cylinder 13 HP. No. 2--An Advance Rumely with special freighting wheels and a canopy that might not be the original. No. 3--This is a Russell, probably 16 to 20 HP and burning straw? No. 4--This Nichols & Shepard double simple is likely the 20 HP version. No. 5--The Case in this photo could be either the 36 HP or 45 HP models--the young fellows standing by the drive wheel make for a tricky perspective. No. 6--another Russell, judging from the distinctive crown on the smoke stack and the arrangement of the governor belt. The width of the driver suggests about 16 HP. No. 7--here is an Advance straw burner with homemade bunkers and canopy.

I am working to put together a short article on horsepower ratings of steam traction engines, a subject on which there seems to be much confusion. I will send it along when I get it finished if it makes sense. (Please do, we'll be looking for it.) Thanks again for a fine magazine. (Thank you for writing, we enjoy hearing from you and we need more articles--Anna Mae.)

JOHN L. BRIEN, Athol, Kansas 66932 sends this letter to be in the I.M.A. but I am sure the tractor isn't steam, but here goes: 'I have been thinking of writing for some time. First, I want to say I particularly enjoy your magazine and look forward for the next issue to come. I see in the Nov.-Dec. issue my name was mentioned by my good friend Loren L. Butler, of Kearney, Nebraska.

I am sending two pictures of the same tractor, but taken a number of years apart. And, yes, I have had quite a lot of experience and sweat operating it--mostly threshing, and a person earned what you got out of it.

My Dad often said there were more Emersons worn out cranking them than from running. And, of course, I got my share of cranking, because I was young and stout. My Dad bought the tractor from the Smith County Roads Department. He had given up on it for grading roads because it had only one forward speed.

But later on, he bought another from the Foster Farms near Colby, Kansas which had a three speed transmission and using parts from the two made one pretty good tractor. Incidentally, my Dad has a letter in the May-June, 1957 issue on page 13 titled E. R. Brien Writes, and you fellows that may have that magazine can read about his experience as a thresher man for 55 years.

I have a number of pictures of his three threshing rigs that he bought and will send them to the Album from time to time. (Please do and perhaps stories to go with them??)

One picture shows the engine on the way to the Stuhr Museum at Grand Island, Nebraska after my Dad sold it. The other picture is of an Emerson Big 4 running a Rinessylinder corn shelter. I am on the tractor. The cobs went in the cob shed and the corn went in the granery. This picture was taken in the Spring of 1933.

Chatting with us through his letter comes this: 'I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for printing the article about Mr. Donahoo and Mr. Hill. If you could only have seen the expressions on these old fellows faces when they saw it. It really made their day. They wanted all their old friends to see it-- you know, these old timers and others like them, helped make this country what it is--they are both what I call Country Christian Gentlemen. I felt it would be nice for them to have some recognition of some sort and you have made it come true. We are all grateful.' (Happy to oblige.)

This next letter is one written to Carl Lathrop of Madison, New Jersey from ROBERT J. WORBOIS, 2849 Schade Hill Road, North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania 15642: 'Dear Mr. Lathrop: Your article and picture in the September-October 1980 Iron Men Album Magazine on the Big Four tractors interested me as my father ran one in Saskatchewan in 1913. He had a picture of it published in the September-October 1963 issue of I. M. A.

My mother still has the 1912 booklet on these tractors. In it is a picture of a Big Four tractor in Utah clearing sage brush.

I wonder where the other two Big Four tractors are located in the United States? My father saw the one in Saskatoon just before he died in 1957.'

NOW--the next two papers of communication are letters written to two men from CARL M. LATHROP, 108 Garfield Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940 after they had written letters for the column Soot in the Flues--

The first letter from Carl is to EDWARD STAUFFER, R.D. 2, New Holland, Pennsylvania 17557--and these letters are being placed here so you can benefit from them also: 'I saw your letter in the Soot in the Flues column of the November/ December issue of the Iron-Men Album. You asked about removing steam cylinder oil from condensate. Perhaps I can help.

You might look up the May/June issue of the I. M. A. I did an article in that issue called 'Bangor Packet.' On page 7 I talked about a sponge like material that is placed in the condensate tank to remove the oil that carries over with the steam from a reciprocating steam engine.

The sponge is a natural sponge that you can buy in drug stores or the bathroom supply section of a department store. One brand name is Loofah which is distributed by Distinctive Distributors, Boston, Mass. 02215. This material comes from the Luffa plant and is the dried fruit of that plant. In its natural state it is about a foot long and three to four inches in diameter. As sold in the stores for about 75? it is about 6' long--they get two from one seed pod. In the dry state they are 'rough as a cob' but when wet are quite soft.

They have a natural affinity for absorbing oil. When they are saturated with oil from absorbing it from the water they can be regenerated by simply washing them with detergent.

These were used by seagoing engineers for years before the turbines took over from the reciprocating engines. Hope that this helps. Let me hear from you.'

The next letter written by Carl is to DALE H. HOPKINS, of Ryder, North Dakota and to LOREN L. BUTTERFIELD, Kearney, Nebraska: 'Each of you have letters in the Soot in the Flues column in the November/December Iron-Men Album about the Big-4 tractor item that I had written. Your letters were both along the same line so I am writing one letter to both of you. However, before going any further, I wish to express my appreciation for your interest in not only my article but in the I.M.A. itself. I think that we all feel a real kinship with that fine publication.

Of the many articles that they have run from me I believe that I have received more mail from this one short item than from any of the others. It all began quite simply in that my wife and I were visiting our son who lives in Moab, Utah, and works for Southern Paving Company as their business manager. They have a mix plant in Monticello and we were there in October last year in Monticello while he was showing us some bean land that he had purchased. Knowing of my I.M.A. interest he showed me the display that the local Chamber of Commerce had arranged. I would say that about 98% of what I wrote in that article came from the plaque that they had erected.

Based upon all of the letters that I have received I believe that there are sixteen of the Big-4's still around. Mr. Hopkins, there are actually five in North Dakota, two more than you mentioned.

Blaine Griggs has been keeping a list. I hope to work with him and put together some more information about the list. Bob Worbois has an old catalog. Perhaps he will let me borrow it so that I can make photocopies of the pictures and other interesting data.

In the meantime, thanks again for your interest.'

This man needs some help and so sends this writing along with some pictures: and it comes from M. A. (MIKE) HALL, 44W059 Empire Road, St. Charles, Illinois 60174: 'I have been reading your column in both Iron Men and Gas Engine for some years (Gas Engine from the original issue, and Iron Men for some time prior to that) and enjoy both magazines immensely.

Since it appears that your column has access to a world of information, I should like to avail myself of this service.

A few years ago I acquired a two cylinder steam engine that has me buffaloed. The party I got it from told me that it came from a sawmill that burned down in upper Michigan.

There is no question that this engine was in a fire as it was covered with tar which apparently melted on the roof and dripped all over the engine, plus the babbitt in all of the bearings was melted out.

All in all, it's pretty much of a basket case; however, all the parts are there so it really won't be too much of a job to get it running.

Here are the statistics: twin cylinder, 3' bore, 4' stroke, inverted 'V' with reverse. I am enclosing a front and rear view of this engine as it appeared when I got it.

Incidentally, I called the Erie, PA Chamber of Commerce and they informed me that they never heard of the Crossley Company.

I would certainly appreciate any information I can get on this engine relative to horsepower, color, original use, etc. If and when I ever get it completely restored, I'll send along a couple of pictures.

Thank you so much for your time and for a couple of fine magazines.'

CALVIN ANDERSON, Glenham, South Dakota 57631 has some more to say on the Big Four: 'In an article in the September/October issue of I.M.A. it was stated there are only 3 Big Four tractors remaining in the United States and that there is only one West of the Mississippi River.

There is one in our family in running condition, in South Dakota along Lake Oahe, at Glenham, South Dakota. It was purchased at Chamberlain, S.D., in 1968 and hauled up here on a flat bed to be used at a threshing bee. Due to the death of the operator the Big Four is no longer used. It was purchased by my brother, Palmer Anderson who sponsored threshing bees at his farm each fall until his passing in 1975.'

This next writing is quite informative and interesting and comes from FRED FOX, 233 County House Road, Clarksboro, New Jersey 08020: 'Looking through some old company magazines loaned to me by a friend, I came across a few items which I thought might interest readers.

The first item is naturally the steam engine, which according to its dimensions must have been powerful enough to drive a factory. The outrigger bearing other side of the flywheel was probably mounted in or on the factory wall with the drive shaft running the length of the building.

The governor was obviously driven by a belt off the crankshaft to the little pulley seen to the right of the square bevel gear box. The main steam valve is shown but where the governor was hooked to--I can't make out. Another unusual point is the method used to operate the valve gear.

The double ended turning lathe is certainly a link with the past for this was used for turning locomotive drive wheels after they were mounted on their axles. Notice the chain and ball weights around pulleys on the carriage feed screw. I finally came to the conclusion that their purpose was to drive the top feed as the carriage moved, thereby cutting the taper on the wheel tires. Perhaps there are still some of our old locomotive machinists out there that could give us more information.

The third and most outstanding item I think is the construction of a 42 foot vertical turning and boring mill built for export to Canada. The table driving gear for this machine being 261/2 feet in diameter with a 13 inch face, there being 330 teeth at 3 inch pitch. Containing six segments, the gear ring was bolted together and mounted on a central web of cast iron with the whole weighing some 30 tons.

Apparently the gear hobbing machine was no toy for it must have been constructed special. The time taken to cut this gear was around 230 hours, the hob used 12 inches in diameter, and 12 inches long, and at that time was the largest gear of its kind ever cut. After 30 years I wonder if it is still in existence and whether a Canadian reader could tell us.

As to the Craven Company, two brothers started the business in 1853 in Manchester, England, and seemed to have been quite prosperous up until 1953 at least. Some time later the company was taken over by another company and so on, as happens in these modern days, with finally a liquidation. Seems a shame really for here is another severance with the past.

P.S.: A reader was asking how the grease and oil was removed from feed water. In the marine world there were three methods, the first being to pass the water through Terry toweling (very course and unbleached). Second method is to pass the water through sponges, but real sponges are expensive. The third is to use coconut fibre which in the old days was much cheaper. In each case, each was placed in a basket (tray full of holes) and fitted into the top of the main feed tank. The toweling once oil soaked you can do little with, sponges were sometimes washed out in kerosene and boiled in caustic soda; coconut fibre was thrown away. In these modern days why not try the synthetic sponges, they are fairly cheap and can be bought anywhere.

RAY SHERA, Box 250 Lyens Valley Road, Lander, Wyoming 82520 is interested in corresponding with people who collect early John Deere A tractors.

I came across this interesting poem recently and thought I would share it with you--we all go shopping --but how about this list?


My kindness shelf is almost bare,
I'm getting low on love, Completely out of thankfulness . . ,
Must send for more, above.

I should exchange some jealousy,
I didn't order that!!
I need a box of tolerance
For mine tastes rather flat!

Oh, yes, I must put on my list
The fragrance of God's peace.
I need a big supply of joy Before the price increase!

I noticed patience is on sale . . .
I need so much today.
It looks becoming anytime
And mine is tell-tale gray.

Humility is terribly dear ...
I can't afford it now.
But oh, my stock is almost gone,
I'll pay for it somehow!

My sense of humor is a mess
Should be repaired today.
My flask of goodness has been lost
Somewhere along the way.

Extravagant my shopping list?
I wonder how I'll pay.
I can't afford to skimp or save . . .
So I must shop-TODAY!

(written by Marjorie Cooney)

Next comes a letter from RODNEY M. PITTS, president, Western Antique Power, Inc., DBA Antique Powerland which is in the state of Washington. 'The unidentified photos in the November/ December 1980 issue rings a bell with me in at least two of the pictures. The head-on view of a Russell (No. 3) with an Advance separator just HAS to be the George Scheideler 20 HP #15472. Photo was taken sometime in the mid-thirties. We presently have this engine loaned to us here at Antique Power-land. It is still in fine shape and threshes every year during our show. Mr. Scheideler lived two miles south of Woodburn, Oregon. His son is still on the place.

The photo of a gent leaning in cab window of a 22 Hp Advance straw burner (No. 7) was taken in southern Alberta in 1907. That is Cortex 'Cort' R. Miller who later lived near Yacolt, Washington and had a steam powered sawmill. He was, to our part of U.S., what the late Leroy Blaker was to his part of the country--that is when it comes to steam engine operating. He taught classes at the college in Pullman, Washington, about the turn of the century. Mr. Miller passed away in the early fall of 1961. He ran one of the early Remington engines about the same time he was teaching the college classes. They were the forerunner of the best steamers of San Leandro, California.'

JOE KEARSE, 13 South view, Rolla, Missouri 65401 needs help as he writes: 'I have a Bean engine, serial number 6957, 6 HP, 800 RPM. Right now the old Bean is in pieces on the floor--Gollybill, hope I can put it back like it was--would like to hear from anyone who can tell me about this critter. I would sure like some information on it. The carb is a whizzbanger to look at--Hey, have I already given it away that I am new at old engine fixin? I better stop or you will cancel my subscription.'--(No, we would never do anything like that Joe, and I hope you get some letters of aid--we're glad you're interested in trying to repair or restore the old Bean engine. Also, might say I enjoy your type of conversation--gives us a chuckle.)

I've come across an article on How to Know You are Growing Old from time to time I will use some of the illustrations hope you enjoy them and get a laugh. Everything hurts and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work. The gleam in your eyes is from the sun hitting your bifocals. And now for a few words of wisdom: Prosperity begets friends, Adversity proves them. Sometimes the Lord calms the storm; sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child. When an optimist gets the worst of it, he makes the best of it. Bye Bye for now much happiness in '81 and with all your trials still have some fun Love you all.