Soot in the Flues

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Frank Burris, who has been a long time contributor to this column has suggested that we continue to use the title Soot in the Flues by Anna Mae, even though Anna Mae has now passed on. We consider this a good suggestion, and we appreciate all the letters that have been coming in to our offices for the column. We think it fitting that we continue to honor Anna Mae's memory in this way, since she was so important to us and to our readers. We'd also like to ask all of you to share with us little pieces of inspirational wisdom which you may come across, as Anna Mae did. Now, to the first letter:

DAVE TAYLOR, P.O. Box 705, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin., writes, 'I recently received this letter from my good friend Barry Trindle of Earlham, Iowa, and I wanted to share it in part with you and your readers.

'I was sharing with Barry some of the details of the successful Steam Engineering School, sponsored by the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Association and held each year at Rollag, Minnesota. I am privileged to help with the school and told Barry in a letter how much fun we all have.

'I believe there may be a lot of us who remember when harvests were a bit different and can relate to what Barry has to share.' Barry Trindle's letter follows:

'I wish you could tell your students another side of the story, the side about neighborhoods of farmers working together to harvest the wheat and oats. A time just before my time when about 15 farmers worked together, even formed Threshing Associations' that owned the engines and separators. When a special service was held at a country church when the harvest started, and another one of thanksgiving was held when it was over, and at both services hymns that everyone knew and loved were sung. I don't believe condoms were distributed at these services.

'At noon, after they had made sure their team of horses was watered and tied in a shady spot, the men washed up in the yard and then ate a meal (after grace was said) of fried steak or fried chicken, or fried pork chops or fried ham, or roast beef or roast pork, or chicken and noodles or chicken and dumplings, or beef and noodles or. . . with mashed potatoes, brown gravy, fresh corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes, fresh green beans with bacon or ham, and wilted lettuce fixed in bacon grease. Also there was a bowl with fresh carrots, radishes, and green onions with a salt cellar beside each plate. Dessert would be a choice of apple, cherry, or peach pie with fresh cream or whipped cream or cheese. And gallons of ice tea to wash it all down. Lord, those women could cook!

'If there were any Catholics on the crew and it was Friday, there would also be a platter of fried fish, channel catfish, taken from the Raccoon River with somewhat less than legal bank lines very early that morning. (They didn't get up early and go fishing, they set the lines the night before and took them in about dawn). Sometimes this was the kid's job before breakfast. Funny thing about this was that the Protestants loved catfish to the point of passing up dessert for it while the Catholics seemed more interested in a second piece of pie.

'Today one guy in a $150,000 combine will harvest the grain in one tenth the time the threshing crew took. He'll work by himself, dumping the grain in trucks to be driven away later. Just one guy, no wife (she's working 50 miles away for $6 an hour), no kids (they're in day care), no Dad (he died young from cancer, maybe the chemicals?), no Grandma (she's in the nursing home). He has a cellular phone and a two-way radio but no one to talk to while he eats his turkey ham and lite cheese sandwich with a diet Coke from the Styrofoam cooler under the seat, so he just keeps running. In just a few hours the crop is gone for another year. This is called progress by some, but I don't like it.' (Barry has really struck a nerve here, I'm sure, with many of us.)

'This snapshot (below) is of the model D. June steam traction engine I built several years ago. It is as close a model as I could very well make of the engine my father owned in about 1916. Since there is very little information on the D. June line I had to do my own engineering in some cases. For example: I am not sure if the reverse mechanism I built into this tractor is like the one the original engines had. My only sources of information were an old catalogue my father left (he died in the flu epidemic of 1918), and a portable D. June engine in the Ford museum of Dearborn, Michigan (but it is a portable, not a tractor, therefore no reverse).

'If any of your readers have any information, or know where there is a D. June traction engine, preferably in working condition, I should be most happy to hear from them.

'My little engine is about 1/5 scale, it runs nicely, will drive a little saw, or will pull a couple of people behind it.

'I hope to hear from someone who can help.' W. K. WINKEL, 10614 Carlota, Houston, Texas 77096.

Austin Monk is shoveling coal into his 1914 50 HP in preparation to belting up to Doug McDougall's Baker fan. Doug is standing behind the engine.

From GARY YAEGER, 146 Reimer Lane, Whitefish, Montana 59937 we hear: 'I just thought I'd report on what's been happening my direction this past spring and summer.

'Last March about thirty interested people met at a coffee shop here in Whitefish to see if there was enough enthusiasm for an organization interested in preserving the power from the past. These men were from all over the Flathead Valley, Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Bigfork and Poison. We organized the Northwest Antique Power Association under the auspices of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association. On May 28th we had our first Crank Up and Steam Up at my place, two miles east of Whitefish. On display were my 15 HP Case, Austin Monk's 50 HP Case, three crawlers, around ten gas tractors and a couple of acres of old engines from Maytag up to Nick Poncelets 75 HP Cooper Bessemer mounted on a lowboy tractor-trailer rig.

'Then in June it worked for me to fly into Toledo to attend the 50th anniversary show of the National Thresher's Association at Wauseon, Ohio. In spite of five inches of rain during the show, I had a great time with many of my old friends and met many new ones too. The highlight of this show was when President Marvin and Treasurer Shirley Broadbeck made is possible for me to run their 32-120 HP Reeves Canadian Special Cross Compound. What was so special about that engine, is that my dad and his brothers plowed with it from 1920 through 1938. I played on it as a child, but when Dad traded it to Tyler Brothers in 1954, for a 20-70 Nichols & Shepard, I still had never seen it run. Roland Broadbeck made sure I spent time running it. I guess I even made the official video they will be selling of the show.

Michael Yaeger giving rides behind our 1909 Case 15 HP. His 'helper' is his nephew and my grandson, 5 year old Maverik Bursch. He makes 5 generations of steam.

'In August, I once again went to the Barnes Steam and Power Show at Belgrade. Montana, where I've been helping Austin Monk run his 40-120 Emerson Brantingham Peerless. My son Michael drove over from Helena on Saturday. His new Montana traction engine license was only about three weeks old. Austin Monk let him initiate his new license on the Peerless pulling the 20-bottom plow. Michael told Austin that it would be 'all downhill from here!' I got to fire the Peerless for Michaelas a matter of fact, I fired it all eight rounds. I didn't see Austin even run it this year. Austin seems to just get a kick out of putting someone new on it, when ever possible. His favorite pastime is putting 110 Case owners on it to 'convert' them!

Michael Yaeger is initiating his new traction engine license on Austin Monk's 40-120 Emerson-Brantingham Peerless, pulling the 20 bottom John Deere 14' plow. I was his fireman (with Wyoming coal).

'An old tradition of the first Barnes shows was reborn this 21st annual show, that of throwing crew members in the water tanks, clothes and all. All of the Barnes family got wet. Don Bradley, Doug McDougall, J. Hoffendasher, Gary Yaeger, and Dave Vaneck made up a few of the Montanans thrown in. Even John Schrock of Mason, Michigan, and Keven Small of Portersville, Pennsylvania, got thrown in. J. Hoffendasher, an IMA contributor, and former resident of Two Dot, Montana, told me he had the nickname, now, of 'Splash.'

'Again, on September 10 and 11, the Northwest Antique Power Association had its fall show and threshing bee at the Norman Borgan farm south of Columbia Falls. We had a pretty fine turnout for an infant club.

'It's time for me to sit back and reflect on another thrilling year of steaming and look forward to another one next year.

'Keep up the good work and hang in there, Anna Mae. We need you. God Bless you.'

WILLIAM M. LAMB, 346 Ethel Drive, Tates Creek Estates, Nicholasville, Kentucky 40356 and ROBERT T. RHODE, 735 Riddle Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220 send this:

'We hope our co-authored letter will do good. We present you with an editorial; maybe kindred spirits in Engine Land will agree with our point of view and help to preserve our agricultural legacy.

'To get to the business at hand, we call readers' attention to the fact that another state has limited the pressure to be carried in lap-seam boilers. The restrictions are so severe as to make the owning of an engine with such a boiler an exercise in futility, for one may own but scarcely run the engine! We respect the parties who invent such limitations, because they do so with thoughts of protecting against injury and, therefore, ensuring public safety. But we question whether or not enough consideration has been given to the public good. By restricting lap-seam boilers, we are throwing out the baby with the bath water!

Gary Yaeger at the 50th anniversary N.T.A. Show at Wauseon, Ohio, in June, sitting on Marvin Brodbeck's 32-120 HP Reeves Canadian Special Cross Compound. Our family plowed with this engine from 1920-1938. Being born in 1943, I'd never seen it run. I started playing on it in about 1947, though.

'To prevent citizens from viewing lap-seam-boiler engines running under sufficient pressure to thresh wheat or to saw lumber at reunions is to deny the public vital lessons in history. We suggest that forfeiting the opportunity for the public to discover North America's rural roots does us a disservice. And this loss is purchased at the cost of a mistake about lap-seam boilers!

'A good, sound, well-maintained lap-seam boiler enjoys just as much right to be regarded as a safe boiler as an equally good, sound. well-maintained butt-strap boiler. In Catechism of the Locomotive (1897), Matthias N. Forney wrote, 'A butt-strap seam. . .is little, if any, stronger than a. . .lap seam properly proportioned' (208). Who is to blame for the misunderstanding that butt-strap boilers are safer than lap-seam boilers? Ironically, we must point the finger at the steam-engine companies, who, at the heights of the steam-power era, made a 'talking point' (hence, a selling point) of their new-fangled butt-strap boilers. Then, as now, advertising promoted changes as 'improvements' so as to sell new equipment. When butt-strap boilers appeared, the clever public-relations staffs for the engine manufacturers hailed them as superior to lap-seam boilers and the sales ploy gradually became accepted as 'fact.' Today, certain persons may even assume that the 'fact' is an undeviating 'law,' like the law of gravity.

'We have never heard of a lap seam boiler on a locomotive-style farm engine coming loose along the seam (with either a mere rupture or a more disastrous result). This confident assertion does not deny the boiler explosions of the past, of which even one was too many and which occurred more than once especially in the earliest years of steam-engine history. Such explosions, however, seldom resulted from a failure of a lap seam. More often, they stemmed from carelessness.

'We hope all engineers at present-day reunions will be as careful and conscientious as we know most of them to be, so that no danger will ever darken the brilliant track-record of safety at these events. As the spiritual father of the preservation movement, the Reverend Elmer Ritzman, frequently stated, 'A good engine in the hands of a bad engineer is worse than a bad engine in the hands of a good engineer.' A course wiser than punishing the lap-seam boiler would be to insist that the few engineers inclined to be dangerous become more desirous of protecting themselves and the public from harm. As Dr. Robert H. Thurston wrote in 1904 (in A Manual of Steam Boilers), '. . . .the ignorance, the carelessness, or the utter recklessness' of a few people may account for nearly all catastrophes involving boilers (551). The kind of seam makes little or no difference.

'More important than the seam are these three factors:

1. The condition of the boiler.
2. The condition of the engineer.
3.  The safe working pressure as specified by the original manufacturer.

'Competent engineers can ascertain the first item through ultrasound, X-ray, hydro, hammer, and other tests. Through a little research, owners can determine the third factor what a given manufacturer established as safe for a certain model of engine and boiler. (Obviously, an engine today should not exceed its original limit.) As the companies which designed and built engines for use on farms gave all due consideration to safety, they were extremely conservative in all their estimates. Indeed, these engines and their boilers benefit from what is aptly termed 'high factors of safety.'

'The lap seam simply overlaps and may boast one, two, or three rows of rivets (in most cases). The more rivets, the more rigid the joint, but, the more holes, the less the integrity, or strength, of the boiler plate. Manufacturers of boilers understood such trade-offs. They also knew not to select high-grade metals. With considerable scientific prowess, designers determined the proper thickness of the metal sheets to form the boiler, improved the ways of forming the holes for the rivets, chose the best kinds of rivets, figured out the ideal number of rivets and rows, spaced the rivets to maximum advantage, and installed the rivets correctly. The technology of boiler-making occupies literally hundreds upon hundreds of pages in mechanical-engineering textbooks of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and, although errors were made early on (such as accidentally decreasing the thickness of the boiler plate by gouging or 'scoring' along a seam while calking or by placing the inner seam where it could become a ledge collecting sediment and deteriorating more rapidly), the wisdom of the boiler manufacturers transformed their craft into a high art.

'We do not have to fear that the manufacturers labored in ignorance. As Forney attested, designers every bit as bright as any in our own time understood that a lap seam and a butt-strap construction were both good and sound. The common butt-strap boiler places metal straps inside and outside the seam, which meets exactly edge-to-edge (with no overlap). The number of rows of rivets varies, with six being customary by the end of the steam-power era. The straps clamp the joint firmly together. The pressure inside the cylindrical form of a boiler pushes outward in all directions on that cylinder. In the example of a lap-seam boiler, where the metal edges overlap, one edge pushes hard against the side of the other, thereby keeping the joint tight. Forces in other directions may try to 'unroll' the cylinder, but, before that could happen, something else would give way, probably with the result that one of both tubesheets and/or the crownsheet (in so-called 'locomotive' boilers) would blow out or down. Textbooks from the engine era demonstrate that, if the seam is tight and no leaks have caused corrosion there, failures of the boiler are much more likely to occur in areas other than the seam.

'The typical butt-strap has no advantageous overlapping edges of the metal comprising the cylinder, but it does have a triple thickness at the seam: (1) the inner strap, (2) the barrel skin, and (3) the outer strap. Which is better: the lap seam or the butt-strap? The old adage answers the question it's six of one and a half dozen of the other.

Thurston noted that defective construction of boilers cause dangerous conditions far less often than leaking tubes and scale. Defective rivets, staybolts, and welds, Thurston showed, were troublesome but not as likely to lead to disaster as corrosion or general deterioration of the metal in the boiler deterioration from stress or from not cleaning the boiler often enough. As Thurston proved, seams gave way much less often than weak spots where decay or injury to the metal had occurred.

'We regret that some persons in positions of authority have so disparaged engines with lap-seam boilers as to confine them (in certain states) to remaining cold, silent, and unmoving for all intents and purposes, dead. We wish that the numerous good, sound, well-maintained lap-seam engines at our reunions nationwide would be allowed to be fired up and to carry pressure sufficient to thresh wheat or to saw lumber. We would like all such engines to boil, whistle, and move as live-steam demonstrations of the great American spirit of invention and as working testimonials to the agricultural heritage of our country and Canada.

'We trust that the seams of such lap-seam boilers will not let go, so long as appropriate caution be exercised. We are sure that the myth directed against lap-seam boilers can be exploded long before any such seam would give way. Thank you for letting us clean a little soot out of the flues!'

FRANK J. BURRIS, 1102 Box Canyon Road, Fallbrook, California 92028 sends this:

'A bit of constructive comment pertinent to the fine article by Mr. Maurice L. Hooks in the November/December issue of Iron Men Album concerning Reversing Linkages.

'Mr. Hooks is to be complimented for his patience in art work and much discussion concerning reversing gears for steam engines in the November/December 1994 issue of 'Our Tie that Binds' (IMA). It may be apropos to add a few comments with regard to the illustrations of the hypothetical single-eccentric direct rocker-arm design as depicted in the article; lest some of you model makers set out to construct an engine after the illustrative design and become disappointed because it does not perform as you expected.

'A bit of digression. First off; simple slide and piston valves must have 'lap' if the steam is to be worked expansively and economically within the cylinder. Secondly; the lap will require 'lead' if we are to admit steam to the cylinder at the beginning of the piston stroke in either direction. Thirdly; these constraints require that the eccentric action LEAD the piston action in the case of outside admission valve designs, and LAG the piston action in the case of the more modern piston valves as employed on a few traction engines but all modern of the last railway locomotives.

'Now, how much lead? Well, obviously, we cannot employ the splitting difference of 90 degrees. However, if one is to scale it out on the drafting board or even easily make a wooden model for his mockup, he will find that (according to the amount of lap) a displacement of 120 to 135 degrees will prove satisfactory. So, how is this derived in the single-eccentric reverse gears of locomotives? Ever hear of the combining link on Walschaerts, Young, Baker, or Southern valve gears? In those designs, the motion from a crank-mounted eccentric offset 90 degrees is 'combined' with the crosshead motion in order to yield a geometric sum of 90 plus 180 = 270 degrees; from which the opposite mechanical vector is 135 degrees, a very workable figure.

'On the fixed single eccentric as employed on Grimes, Woolf, and similar gears, the valve drive is likewise derived by combining the vertical block drive with the rocking horizontal component of the offset in the eccentric strap. A very ingenious contraption, indeed; except that there results a slight dissimilarity between forward and reverse motions. These oddities have been described in long-past editions of IMA by the dear long-gone engine wizard of Oregon, Pop Arnold, and also a very bright threshing chap from Canada whose name presently slips me. Please excuse for, when one passes 91, he lays his glasses down and forgets where he put them; even though he can recall events of the first year of his life like I am composing in my autobiography.

'In closing, let us recall the direct acting single eccentric reverse gear as employed in such faithful old Iron Men as Russell wherein the drive yoke to the valve was mounted on the eccentric BUT, upon reversing, this yoke was slipped across the eccentric (NOT through a center line, but) through a slot which was off-center which resulted in either ends of the straight slot being at approximately 120 degrees from centerline of the eccentric. Oh yes, in closing, Pop Arnold stated that, in the case of the Woolf gear, with piston on dead center, if the valve movement settled a bit different between forward and reverse, this amount was described as 'slip.' This did not occur with Stevenson Link, of course. If railway locomotives had lived a bit longer, they were likely to have emerged from their factories with Franklin or Caprotti poppet valves driven by gear train. So, be careful when you design a reverse mechanism for your model steamer! Otherwise you may end up with a solid single eccentric drive which is not conservative of steam and derives its reverse through 'throttle reversing' of the complicated valve as employed in Soule mill feed engines. I had one of them once, too!'

From THOMAS STEBRITZ, 1516 Commercial Street, Algona, Iowa 50511, comes this letter: 'Commenting first on the passing of Anna Mae, she and her husband both had their medical problems. Now these are past. My late wife also had many miseries in her short life; she is gone almost ten years now.

'I am writing to support Gary Yaeger's first opinion about #5 picture about the 150 HP Case.

'Mr. Yaeger you gave up too soon. Case experts are all wet about that picture. To the naked eye it is very evident that indeed the #5 picture shows the 150 HP Case. There is a lot of difference in the 32 HP and 150 HP. Front to back in the picture, the front saddle was very unique to the 150 HP. The engine frame on the 150 HP was different than on the 110HP or 32 HP. The 150 HP dome is center mounted, the upper link on the left side of the 150 HP is not visible because it is mounted on the side of the wing sheet.

'If you will look at picture #4 of Yaeger's, the upper left link on the 32 HP is very visible and sets on about a 45 degree angle and is hooked on a bracket, crankshaft level, just back of the crank disc. The angle is exaggerated because the driver on the 32 HP is smaller.

'The steam pump is visible back of the disc. Another important thing you will observe, the levers which on the 150 HP are all mounted on the right side of the back firebox unlike on the 32 HP. Another important point is the visible height of the 150 HP differential gear in the picture. The bull gear on the 150 HP is about 60 inches diameter, and the differential looks to be about 65% of that. However on the 32 HP or 110 HP the bull gears and differential gear are generally the same diameter.

'Lastly, the drawbar on the 32 or 110 Case is about even with the bottom of the ashpit. You will notice how low the bunker hangs in #5 picture. The drawbar on the 150 HP is about 10 to 12 inches below the ashpit to the bottom of the drawbar which positions the tank at 5 to 6 inches below the ashpit.

'The 32 HP Case had flat spoked rear wheels briefly, and this apparently is the reason why your experts jumped at their conclusions. These persons should clean their glasses and relook at picture #5. I repeat the 32 or 110 HP and 50 HP are so much different that the two engines as observed can't be confused.

'I have to wonder about Mr. Eric Campbell and his reasoning about boilers in general. When he talks about people using a single riveted barrel boiler and a hard time keeping the seams corked, a junk man should have been consulted.

'I wonder why Mr. Campbell believes a lap seam single riveted barrel should be leaking normally. On most tractors engines by the early 1880s the barrel was double riveted, a single riveted lap seam previous to 1880s would have only carried about 65 to 70 lbs. steam P.S.I. Smaller vertical and Scotch marine boilers built up to the 1960s were transitional and had some welding on them with a single riveted lap seam. These carried safely 100 lbs. steam P.S.I.

'About the boilers Mr. Campbell who told about blowing up a person, would have to see what was left of them to judge. Actually neither one was designed for more than 125 lb. steam P.S.I.

'About Mr. Campbell: 45 HP Case unless he owns one of the last ones, the plates, excepting the flue sheets, are about 9/32 inch plate.

The above ad originally appeared in American Thresherman, date unknown. It was sent to us by Ken Morse, Park House Apt. B-6, Norwich, NY 13815.

'I saw a 45 Case boiler at Tyler, Minnesota a few years ago, a man had bought a 45 HP Case from four town dudes. This boiler had been in use at south Minnesota shows for years. One day they were firing up and when steamed up this boiler blew all the water, ashes and soot out in a terrible chunk. I looked at the crown-sheet, as the man suggested who now owned it, and all the staybolts in the crownsheet had pulled loose and the crownsheet moved just enough to disconnect. What happened was burned off staybolt ends and thin plate were made thinner from years of use. The former owners got scared stiff. The new owner put a 50 HP Case boiler on the engine, and it's still around.

'If Mr. Campbell is around a boiler in use that's leaking I'd say RUN! But a boiler in general you shouldn't be scared of. Know what it is, and be respectful of its condition and act accordingly.'

We appreciate the expressions of sympathy our readers have sent in over the loss of Anna Mae. We have shared those letters with her family, and shall continue to do so.

We want now to encourage everyone to continue to write to us and send what you wish to share with our readers. Soot in the Flues will continue as a forum for IMA readers, and as always, we shall rely on you for your valuable questions, comments and pictures.