Soot in the flues

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We're happy to report that we have quite a few letters again this month and we truly appreciate the efforts of all of our contributors. We're also enjoying the turn in the weather as spring blossoms are all around us as we go to press with this issue. Spring is in the air with all the hopes of a great summer to come fields full of children playing, spring concerts and school activities are everywhere in our local scene. And the spring steamups have begun!

Now on to the mailbox!

LOUIS PATTERSON, 308 W. Frisco, Blackwell, Oklahoma 74631 writes: 'Most people don't know about the Great Race for Time that was held between Winnipeg and Edmonton. It wasn't done on purpose, but rather, through a series of events it happened on the Canadian National Railway System. The event took place about the winter of 1956/1957.

'The Canadian Railway had just been dieselised. One of the new diesels was scheduled to pull train No. 1, the Super Continental, but during the night the temperature dropped to minus-28 degrees. The next morning the new diesel would not start! The diesel fuel had congealed. But they still had one of the CNR's (Canadian National Railway) big, dependable steamers, so Engine No. 6226 was drafted into service to pull train No. 1.

'They backed engine No. 6226 up to the Super Continental, and she headed out of Winnipeg fifty minutes late. The engineer had her highballing down the track; all the while the fireman was working hard trying to keep steam pressure up, while the extremely frigid temperature was sucking heat from the boiler. To make a long story short, No. 6226 pulled into Edmonton with her whistle blowing constantly, because they made it to Edmonton on time! That is just one of the many reasons they call the big Northern-type steamers dependable!'

This was 'scribbled by' RALPH KELLY, 1144 North 750 W, Kokomo, Indiana 46901: 'I enjoyed Mr. Mix's article about Harry Woodman-see and all the other stories about him. This is an incident I have never seen mentioned. It happened at the Jim Whitbey show at Fort Wayne, Indiana, many years ago. Harry did his hill climb and belting up blindfolded act. There were two younger fellows attempting to balance an engine on the teeter-totter planks. They never got close to a balance and finally gave up, backed the engine off and let it sit. The announcer said, 'Harry, show them young fellows how that's done.' Harry got on, drove the engine on the teeter planks, stopped the engine, got off and as Harry started to walk away, the front end of the engine started to slowly settle down and when it came to a balance position it stopped. Harry had a broad grin on his face and gave a puff on his pipe as he walked away with the engine balanced on the teeter-totter.

'Bill Anderson on Grand Ole Opry of WSM Nashville, sings a song about an old fiddle player, called 'The Trick of A Master's Hand!' I think that title could apply to Harry operating an engine.

'The week before, Charlie Morris asked directions as he and his family wanted to go to the show. I told him to turn on Carroll Road and he would come to it. Later in the day I saw him there and he said, 'We followed you for a short distance.' He told his boy to 'Follow that Dodge up ahead' (my wife had a Dodge Dart at that time), but he said, 'We lost you at the traffic lights.' I told him it was a good thing he lost the Dodge because we came in my IHC pickup truck.

'We moved to a different farm in 1931. On the previous farm we used a 15-30 IHC tractor to thresh with. The threshing outfit now was a company-owned outfit, shedded on the next farm down the road. I was one of the neighborhood boys there the day the crew got the engine and separator out of the shed. The first thing was to put the water tank on a Model A Ford truck. The truck was used as a school hack during school term, but when school was out, off came the hack bodies and the trucks were used for farm use until time for school to start in the fall. Next, a hay rope was wrapped around the fly wheel several times and tied to the Model A and they rolled the engine out of the shed. It was a Port Huron and the separator was a wooden Red River Special.

'One time later they were threshing where the Green Acre Golf Club is now. They were firing the Port Huron with some dry wood, and a spark set the straw stack on fire. Loose, dry straw makes a quick, hot fire with a little breeze. The thresher was hurriedly pulled away with no damage. I guess that was an indication of things to come. They stored the outfit in another barn because the first one became unsafe. In the spring, lightning struck the barn and the Port Huron and Red River Special were destroyed by fire.

'The thresher operator went west of Frankfort and bought an Advance Rumely engine and a steel 36-56 Red River Special and water tank for the now unheard of sum of $125. The outfit had always been shedded and was in excellent condition and ready to use. The Red River Special had one of the long Heinikie feeders that was easy to feed from any place on the wagon.

'It was used two or three seasons, but eventually the shortage of help, tractors replacing horses, combines and pickup balers ended the big rings here. Nobody remembers the serial number. Harry Wood mansee told me one time it was possible that he helped build the Advance Rumely at the factory.

'Both the Advance Rumely and Red River Special, still in excellent operating condition, went to serve their country in World War II.

'I enjoyed Mr. Rhode's article about hauling bundles. We had a job of rye one year, on a rough, hilly farm. I thought the rye straw was the slickest I ever tried to keep on a wagon. If you ran over a rock or dropped in a hole, it either went this way or that way. My load looked like it was pregnant when I got to the separator.

'I still go to engine shows in my area and really enjoy them. Last summer was pretty hot in Indiana, but you gotta go when they have them! Attendance was down last year, but I hope for good weather this year.'

'I am restoring a 32' x 54' Keck-Gonnerman separator #6278, and need some information on the original colors,' says LEONARD W. BRUNS, 6335 Co. Road 325, Fulton, Missouri 65251.

'I would like to get some color pictures or photos of both sides of the separator.

'If anyone has any information, pictures, or photos, I would like to be contacted. Any expenses incurred will gladly be reimbursed.'

From A. V. MORK, 5439 264th Street, Wyoming, Minnesota 55092 we hear, 'I'm an older former city kid that enjoys engines and belongs to an organization called the Minnesota Steam Engine Association. They are mainly based in St. Stephen, MN and are a group dedicated to steam, boiler laws, education and enjoyment of.

'My father, Alf Mork, came from Norway to America in the early '20s after being injured while an oiler on a Spanish ship. He said being down along the shaft in the engine room while sailing in the West Indies was a really hot time. He had planned to go to the Orient, but not speaking the language he ended up in the western hemisphere. Anyhow, he made it to the mid west, and his first job here was firing a Gaar Scott with straw for the Melby Bros. of Underwood, Minnesota. This prompted him to become a barber, later owning a beauty salon at Eighth and Nicollet in Minneapolis.

'Incidentally, the Gaar-Scott can be seen at the Lake Region Show at Dalton, Minnesota, a week after Labor Day. Enjoy the magazine and will be writing again someday down the road.'

ORVILLE ANDERSON, Rt. 2, Box 213, Madelia, Minnesota 56062 writes, 'I am in the process of restoring a Humming Bird thresher with a 40 inch cylinder and a 62 inch separating area that was made by the Wood Brothers.

'According to the history I have of this machine, I believe it was one of the first steel machines they built.

'The second owner of this machine added Garden City wing feeders and a Garden City elevator and weigher.

'I know the Wood Brothers quit using a beater behind the cylinder in the early years of production, but this one has the bolts in it where the beater was bolted down, and the sheet metal has patches bolted over the holes where the shaft went through, so I assume this machine had a changeover.

'I would like to hear from anyone who has a machine of this size that is in running order. I would also like to know if anyone has a good picture of the machine that would clearly show the decals.

'I am trying to make this machine as original as possible.'

TONY ROBERTS, Rt. 1, Box 149-B, Omaha, Arkansas 72662, tells us: 'While snooping in a flea market, I found the smoke box door to a steam engine. Can you give me any information about it? It looked like a good wall decoration to me!'

From TERESA CAT HANA, we received this: 'July 1, 1994 Ted Walker and I purchased a 1917 Peerless Geiser steam traction engine from Clovis, California, and hauled it home to Carson City, Nevada. We steamed it up a few times before getting it ready for the biggest days of our lives, which were coming in October 1995.

'I [Cat], Ted Walker's girlfriend, did most of the work on it, other than the repairs of broken parts and such. I worked for several weeks, sanding it down and getting it ready to paint. I took an electric grinder to sand all of the old paint off. Then as it started to look bare, we decided to paint it and keep it close to the colors that we purchased it in. The colors of our Peerless Geiser engine were red and black. I added silver rivets to have more color. Anyone with information on this tractor is welcome to call Ted Walker at (702) 883-3114, or write to us at P.O. Box 295, Carson City, Nevada 89702.'

Pictures from an old geography book sent to us by Gerald Darr carried this caption: 'After the World War, Rumania's large estates were divided into small farms. The owners of many of these small farms have not been able to purchase machinery to help them with their work and, therefore, are still using the old methods. An American tractor in the fields of Rumania.

This is an interesting story sent to us by GERALD DARR, 2220 Bishops gate Drive, Toledo, Ohio 43614: 'I am enclosing several photocopies of steam engines threshing in Russia. They are from a geography book circa 1931-1932, published by Allen and Bacon titled Our World Today.

'Perhaps the readers could identify the engines and separator. Nice looking engine in the one scene. In the other picture the engine is not as sleek looking.

'There are many other pictures in this geography book, of harvesting and planting and a picture of oxen pulling a binder.

'The cold wave continues here with some moderation coming next week [February]. It was 8 degrees below zero here this morning. Very little snow on the ground.'

This offering comes from: ELEANOR and MONTE MAY, 1360 Slaterville Road, Ithaca, New York 14850: 'We strongly disagree with the comments on page 12 of the March/April issue of Iron Men Album regarding boiler accidents. It is hard to understand ignoring an issue as important as this one.

Photo from Harris Jorgenson taken in 1944 in France, north of Paris. A man is feeding grain into top of threshing machine, while the women carry away the straw after it had gone through threshing machine. Man in center by machine is sacking the grain.

'We both enjoy attending many steam shows in the Northeast and believe that a serious accident could cause legislation which would severely limit or even curtail use of steam when the public is present.

'It seems to us that a thorough analysis of each and every incident should be printed in every magazine which is read by steam enthusiasts. It is only by making every operator extremely safety cautious that we can protect our hobby.

'We have a steam boiler and engine from a Hershel Spillman merry-go-round. Since we own a modern day Allen Hershel merry-go-round we were delighted to find it. Monte was extremely disappointed to discover he could not get it inspected because he has no history for the boiler. However, we both understand the reasons for the refusal. A serious incident with this boiler could cause repercussions that would close down steam shows as we know them.

'Monte would be pleased to continue this discussion by phone, (607) 272-8224, or e-mail Montesteam @'

The comments that the Mays refer to were made in reference to our decision not to reprint the article or pictures which had already appeared in the September 1995 issue of Trains magazine. We reasoned that by printing the reference to a previously published article, we would enable readers who had an interest to go to the source and see and read more detail of this accident. In the past, we have been criticized for reprinting such accounts, and have pledged not to do so. Indeed, this particular accident had to do with a train, and NOT a steam traction engine, which is the focus of the readers of IMA.

We concur with the Mays' concerns about safety, of course, and agree that prevention of accidents is critical to the continuation of public steam exhibitions. We have run numerous articles and discussion in this column on boiler safety and will continue to do so. We welcome comments from others.

'I'm a long time subscriber to Iron Men Album and thought you might be interested in these pictures,' says HARRIS JORGENSON, 12935 Rut-ledge Circle, Minnetonka, Minnesota 55305. 'I took them in 1944 while with the Army Engineers pursuing the enemy into the north. They were taken somewhere north of Paris.

'We came upon these farmers threshing. The machine was set up right in front of the granary. Everything was under one roof their home, barn, chicken coop, granary, etc. Four different farmers formed a square. They each had their grain stacks in front of their home. This was a gala affair. They all cooperated and worked together. Note the white shirts, dresses, hats, etc.

Portable steam engine used for power when threshing. Man with white shirt was engineer. Man beside him was another G.I. (Harris Jorgenson photo).

'The other two pictures [at right] were taken in 1918 in western Minnesota, near Artichoke Lake, and show grain being stacked.