Soot In The Flues

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Well, for this issue, we are grateful to have lots of letters and a great deal of pictures, as well. We thank all of you who have taken the time and made the effort to write to us this month, and now we'll go right to those letters:

OPLE B. SWARTZ, RR 2, Box 300, Muncy, Pennsylvania 17756-9336, writes: 'I receive the Baer's Almanac every year. In the 1996 book I found a source for steam traction engines.

'I have lived on a farm for 60 years which my husband's parents owned. They and my husband have passed away. When I cleaned the attic I found this piece of equipment, made of brass, and am sending you a picture of it. It has E.C. or C.C. Brown Company on it with 8 or 2-48 or 4B on it. I heard my father-in-law tell of working on a thrasher machine run by a steam engine. As you can see, the piece has three holes and is hollow on the inside. There's a hole on both sides, with one hole on top of one side that a rod or pipe could screw into it. Can anyone identify this piece?'

EDWIN BREDEMEIER, RR 1, Box 13, Steinauer, Nebraska 68441-9755 says, 'Enclosed is a picture of a steam engine water wagon. Can anyone identify its make? It has some brown paint on the axles, hub cap numbers 683, and axle skeins are number 1164 with an R and 1165. No other marks. Thanks.'

We also have this from A. MORK, 5439 264th Street, Wyoming, Minnesota 55092-9023, 'Some thoughts now that the last show has ended in this area.

'First, thanks to the volunteers for their many hours of work.I haven't seen a show that wasn't at least good, but perhaps a couple of my thoughts would make them even more enjoyable.

'How about a price for those of us who stay more than one day?

When you have the parade (we all like this), how about doubling up some so it is completed in about an hour? When 5:00 o'clock comes, don't shut down everything but stagger some stands and exhibits for those of us who like to hang around at night. Thanks to those who have a dance or some music, but how about a spark show, when safe.

'Also, I really admire working the engines on the Baker fan, the incline, or the 'teeter-totter.' Last thought: enjoy the flea markets but go easy on size and content.

'Again, thanks for another too short but enjoyable season.'

TOM STEBRITZ, 1516 E. Commercial Street, Algona, Iowa 50511 sent this letter in response to our September/October issue:' Reading David Bakke's account of his restoring his 65 HP Case steam engine, it's nice to have the wherewithal to do what he did with the engine. Back in the 1940 's a lot of good engines were cut up. That 65 HP Case I had a tug of war with the junk man over, and in this case I won, however it was pathetic to see all the other good engines get cut up. Many 'glad handers' watched most of the engines get junked. Then after shows like Mt. Pleasant started, they had to scour the bushes to find an engine to show off with.

'About the other 65 HP Case restoration, Kevin L. Rice's engine, we have to go back to Harry Schell of Blue River, Wisconsin. He saved the engine over fifty years ago, which is the reason why it's around today.

'Way back when, if you had one engine you were considered an idiot. If you had two engines or more, you were a complete imbecile!

'You wonder how many ulterior motives there are in this hobby today. I bought my first engine in 1944 at the age of 17. It was a 1913, 60 HP Case, #29816. I was raised around steam, and to own an engine was a fulfillment of a dream. Back then, as such, you were regarded as someone gone wrong. However, the grapevine and publications like The Farm Album emerged to show us we didn't stand alone. Gradually small gatherings of like interests sprang up. These gatherings were run on a shoestring and if the bills got paid the people involved were satisfied. However, somewhere people followed the wrong turn and decided to get more of this and more of that to pay for it. So at a lot of shows we have overkill.

'I mean no disrespect for either David Bakke or Kevin Rice. They are living in a whole different attitude environment than we did back when.

'Bakke's 65 HP Case I owned for 31 years. I got it in 1949, sold it in 1980. The engine was in sound shape when I got it, however the valve gear was noisy. I rebuilt most of that and took the crankshaft out to put in a new crank pin. The throttle I replaced with a brass Buckeye slide throttle. Case Company built a bum throttle. The 60 HP Case I had, my late father put a Buckeye slide throttle on it when he owned it years ago. The 60 HP Case had a tapered brass valve against an iron bore, however that 1919 65 HP Case had an all iron throttle straight bore cast iron to cast iron fit. A poor excuse for the throttle and it leaked for years before I got the engine.

'The boiler of the 65 HP Case was built April 15, 1919, and tested April 30, 1919, by the Hartford Insurance Co. The boiler test was 247.5 lbs. and the allowable working pressure was 165 lbs. p.s.i. The engine was built May 6, 1919, tested May 15, 1919, and shipped from the factory on June 28, 1919 with a 40'x62' Case thresher to Ventura, Iowa, where it ran for 18 seasons. The engine was bought in 1937 by a friend of my father's for $175. My father and another friend ran this engine to its new home about 50 miles northwest. The engine had several owners. The last was a farmer company that traded their old short smoke box 20 HP Case to a junk man to get a newer, better engine.

'A few years later the same junk man was back to buy the engine again for junk.

'I don't know what motivates most of the steam engine owners of today, maybe just a little bit of what impressed me from childhood. First, a father who was a lifetime steam fan. My father had a row of engines in the backyard in town. One time they were a 1912 25 HP single Rumely; a 1902 single Gaar-Scott Universal; about a 1903 15-45 Case and a 13 HP single Nichols & Shepard. He bought the Gaar-Scott for $20.00 in 1925 for the grates to use in the Rumely. He had to block off the ends four inches to make up the length difference. The 15 HP Case he bought for $5.00 in the Thirties. The 13 HP Nichols & Shepard he bought in 1930 for $5.00 also.

'That 22 HP Gaar-Scott was my engine in the backyard. It's too bad that we didn't have a few people with fat checkbooks around after WW II ended. $1000 would have bought about ten good engines. As for me, I was always a day late and a dollar short!'

After our November/December issue, we received another communication from TOM STEBRITZ, 1516 E. Commercial Street, Algona, Iowa 50511: 'Much has been written about boiler practice lately in the Iron Men Album, however, let's not go overboard and start shaking in our boots! In the first place, anyone who can see what they see by visual inspection, could tell if the boiler in question would be worth the trouble to test it at all.

'I have seen quite a number of boilers in different states of repair and disrepair. I put flues in a number of boilers similar to the boiler shown by Mr. Conrad Milster, especially what is called type C Kewanee and type S Pacific. These boilers were a 3-pass type, a firebox with a combustion chamber on the back end with a number of flues leading back to a smoke box above the firedoor and a second stage of flues above these going back to the smokestack. These were designed to take up as little space as possible. They were put in schools, churches, municipal buildings, theatres, etc. The pressure was generally two to five pounds p.s.i..

Once installed, a lot of these boilers were ignored and never washed out. The boilers had plugs high on the sides and on the four corners, but none in the front end, showing all the tubes of both passes of tubes. A lot of these boilers just sat and finally filled with scale, wouldn't steam and started to leak. I had a welder I know cut through a couple of flue holes, then cut out all the 30 to 40 lower stage flues. We washed out the boiler, then he veed the piece of flue sheet he cut, very carefully welded it back in so he finished in the holes with a file. Then we put the new flues in. I put some flues in a much older type C Kewanee in a church a number of years before. It had been leaking in the combustion chamber for a long time and it was so thin, after rolling the flues, they wouldn't tighten, so I told the janitor to get a welder and seal-weld the flues. This was in the winter and this makeshift repair got them by, as the boiler was too far gone to keep.

'A boiler well taken care of could be good up to 50 years of use. A traction boiler wouldn't function at all under the conditions described of the type C Kewanee boiler. It's been agreed that putting water in a hot boiler will not blow it up. It's generally considered a fact that the boiler in question was ready to blow and most certainly a cup of water didn't cause it to explode. A number of years ago a certain railroad tried to blow up a couple of old locomotives. They were put on a rural siding, steamed hard, blown down so the crown sheet was bare, then water was put in. Well, all that happened was a blue crownsheet and bunch of foolish people!

'A lot is made over the ultrasound tests on a boiler. Does this give a reading of some sort on the plate or what? In the last few years we have seen engine prices go up. I have seen ads of $12,000 up to $15,000 and more for engines of 1902, 1903, 1905 and later. Some tell of having ultrasound, most of these have 9/32 inch plate in the boilers.

'What's the good of an ultrasound reading, say on a crown sheet, when the stay bolts are rusted around the point near the crown sheet and on the fireside the flange of the stay bolts is burned off?

'I saw a 45 Case boiler a few years ago that let go about up to ten years ago. Four green old engineers were firing it up and as I was told it wasn't up to full pressure when the boiler made a loud thump and all the water and coal and soot blew out in a big cloud, and the would-be engineers thought that the world had come to an end. The stay bolts in crown sheet just disconnected. More old 9/32 inch plate and apparently a condition like I just described. This was not a dry crown sheet. Had the boiler inspector put on another 10 lbs. cold water test, he might have accomplished the same thing, not picking on the inspector.

'Reading some of Larry Creed's letter, I agree about whether or not a certain boiler shop could or would put in rivets or threaded stay bolts. In the future I plan to build a scale 110 Case boiler and use threaded stay bolts, the boiler proper and seams would be welded, but this ethic would not include the stay bolts and rods. I can't agree on what's called modern technology. Should you have to replace a number of weld in stay bolts on a model boiler or a large one, you would have to butcher the firebox plates with a cutting torch to get the stay bolts out. Another thing, doing a cold water test and one stay bolt lets go, the cause and effect could cause a number of stay bolts close by to let go also.

'On a large all-welded boiler you can find a splatter weld head between two to three inches diameter, that would be a real mess to clean up to replace a stay bolt modern technology!

'More dumb technology supposed to be superior is to see bushings welded over bare holes in a boiler. Up to 1 inch size bushings including the threads are about 3/16 inch thick. Why not fit a 3/8 inch plate, drilled for tapping, with a inch width area around the hole, spot in the line with the holes in the boiler proper, weld around the plate, then tap out the united plates and you have a job that looks like an intelligent person did it.

'I had a boiler maker from Des Moines, Iowa, look over my boiler plans and I drew the boiler up with six hand holes like on the big boiler, and I asked if they would be legal. He said yes.

'About Mr. Creed's statement concerning a bad boiler in need of repairs because of seeping or dripping stay bolts. Could be a boiler all limed up; could be you need a cutting torch. I have seen a number of low pressure stationary boilers leaking in different ways, but if he is talking about a traction boiler leaking like this, you'd better run for cover.

'Before you consider a cold water test on, say, a traction or portable boiler, take out all the hand hole plates and plugs and see what the staybolts and rivet heads, especially, look like. A marginal boiler can stand a fairly good test but, what does that say if you don't know what you've got?

'The idea of fixing up an old boiler to steam it again is alright if the most of the boiler is basically very sound. But, I saw a boiler that was rebuilt that should be, hopefully, good for 100 lbs. steam at best. A number of these around don't look too good to me out in public, however, the original boiler is about 88 years old and has mostly 5/8 inch plate.

'About the anonymous phone caller concerning boiler explosions: don't hide behind the phone, come forth!

'About the Gettysburg Railroad boiler failure, one opinion is they were pulling hard going up a hill and apparently the firemen weren't watching the water glass very carefully. Could be the hard pull raised the water in the glass. What happened was terrible, but human failure apparently was the cause. This happened at times years ago.

'The railroads and the F.R.A. always took good care of the locomotive boilers. If the pressure was 200 lbs. steam, the cold water test might be 205 to 210 lbs. They didn't make a habit of trying to bust a boiler like the state inspectors try to do.

'I would have to agree with Mr. Creed about Peter Bouley's comments about boilers. Mr. Bouley is, I'm afraid, at the mercy of his insurance inspectors. Why else would you build a scale boiler using inch tube sheets and inch back head plate? I discussed this with a Des Moines, Iowa, boiler maker and he shook his head. A model boiler can't ever be compared to a large full-size boiler in any way, because of the reduced steam and water area, coupled with the fact that most model boilers are generally made from 3/8 inch plate from 1/3 scale and up. I am most certainly unimpressed by the color pictures of the boiler that got red hot.

'It would depend on the boiler's age, of course, but it's very possible that the boiler could have been looked over to see if there were any bags in the plate. If not, the boiler could have been washed out and the flues rolled and fired up again. The plate being red hot went through an annealing process not to be recommended of course, the way it happened.

'Mr. Rhode's copied material about boilers should impress a number of engine owners. As for myself, the writer of some of the would-be facts and truths I'm afraid dealt in overkill a lot of the time. The argument that a boiler should have an 8-10 safety factor, why not 15 or 20 or more?

'Considering that the manufacturer's printed testimonials remarking how a certain engine was running yet at 10 to 11 years of age would indicate what a company considered the life of an engine.

'I encourage our steam engine owners to write more to fill up the magazine, and have a lot less technical stuff. It's alright to know something about a boiler, at least enough to know to get by operating one, but not to the point of overkill.

'About your center picture, we have a middle 1880s rig clearly visible, on the fuel box is the legend Russell & Co. and the tailings elevator says Gaar-Scott & Company. The engine is a firebox return flue and has it on the link valve gear.'

And this letter comes from GARY YAEGER, 146 Reimer Lane, Whitefish, Montana 59937. 'Hello, I had a couple of items I wanted to send you in case you might need fill for your column. Since I've had a nice summer playing with steam, I just wanted to share some of it with your readers.

'Carl Mehmke called me in late August and said he was having a plowing day at his museum east of Great Falls on September 23rd. The 22nd was the last day of the Choteau Threshing Bee, so Austin Monk and I decided to get up early Sunday morning and take in the last day of that show on our way to Carl's. The parade was over about 3:00 p.m., so Austin and I decided to drive on through Great Falls to see if we could be of any help to Carl. We found everything ready for the next day, but Carl and Martha insisted we go to dinner with them and their other guests. We then turned in, in anticipation for the next morning.

'I had given Carl a nice large appropriate steam whistle for Christmas a couple of years ago on the condition that it went on Walter Mehmke's (Carl's father) original 32 HP Case and I'd get to toot it someday. Carl told me Sunday afternoon he was putting me in charge of the engine for the next day. I was very honored to be at the helm of Walter's first steam engine; the engine that paid for their farm. I met Walter in 1956 when our family had stopped to look at his blossoming engine collection. He and I became good friends. Walter Mehmke and John Wayne were both heroes of mine!

'I should have the facts in front of me before I make a fool of myself. Off the top of my head, I think he bought the engine secondhand from Briggs Implement in Great Falls, in 1921 for $3200.00. I do know this engine broke most of the farmland between Great Falls and Belt, Montana.

'We learned on Monday that Carl was celebrating his induction into the Steam Hall of Fame for the Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Association. One of ten people in the hall of fame, Carl is the second Montanan.

Left to right: 20/70 Nichols & Shepard double, 110 Case, Mike Yaeger taking a picture of the 32 Case and the wide wheel 75 Case plow engine.

'I was the first one to throw a fire in an engine the next morning. (Graham Sellers would have been proud of me. Although Carl only furnished one match, I stole a book of them from the motel the night before!) Besides the 1907 32 HP Case, we had the 1911 110 HP and the wide wheel (36' wide) 75 HP Case, as well as the 20/70 double Nichols & Shepard, fired up. The plowing went quite well in spite of the fact that Carl had 2.5 inches of rain in his rain gauge from a couple of days before.

'Martha and some neighbor ladies really put on a fine meal at noon. Anyone who went away hungry could only blame himself. The noontime fellowship with all of the old friends and engineers, is as enjoyable as running an engine.

'I found an old engine picture in a photo album my wife had borrowed from her cousin. The engine is an old pre-1900 return flue (I believe) Gaar-Scott, belonging to my wife's late great-grandfather, Richard F. Waters of Odessa, Nebraska. Her grandfather, Jefferson Davis Simpson, is sitting on the feeder of the threshing machine, which would date the picture around 1908. Jeff married Cecelia Waters, whose twin brother Roy is sitting on the drive wheel of the old return flue.

'When we had our family home for a weekend reunion in early August, this summer, my seven year old grandson Maverik Bursch of Spokane asked his uncle Mike Yaeger to show him how to 'drive' our 15 HP Case. He was doing very well steering and wanting to learn how to be the engineer someday. I had reported a couple of years ago in an article that Maverik was a fifth generation steam engineer.

'Richard F. Waters was Maverik's great-great-great grandfather, making Maverik, in fact, a sixth generation steam man and Mike, a fifth generation. I'll have to settle for only being a third generation steam nut.

'So much for my 'soot.' You girls keep up the good work with our magazine.'

From CARL LATHROP, 108 Garfield Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940 comes this: 'My interest in steam and trains and the railroad industry is sometimes the subject of discussion when I attend cocktail parties. 1 live in the sophisticated commuter suburbs of New York City and I often refer to my neighbors as the 'highly varnished' set. The conversation usually runs to bridge, golf and the sorry state of the Yankees. However, someone is apt to turn to me and ask, 'What got you interested in running a railroad as a hobby?'