Soot in the Flues

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I know it's winter now, but you know the old saying if winter comes, can spring be far behind? And I'm sure many of you are spending the cold winter nights preparing for the good hot days of reunion time. New ideas, new restoration jobs, new stories to make in the upcoming months. So keep busy and get your mind in gear to send in many articles for the ALBUM. I'll surely be waiting to hear from you. We haven't been having much input for this column and I sure would like to be getting more mail.

For those who dig poetry, here's one by Emily Dickinson called


The robin is the one
That interrupts the morn
With hurried, few, express reports
When March is scarcely on.
The robin is the one
That overflows the noon
With her cherubic quantify,
An April but begun.
The robin is the one
That speechless from her nest
Submits that home and certainty
And sanctify are best.

VIRGIL MARTELL, 20205 43rd Avenue S.E., Bothell, Washington 98012 writes: 'You were wondering how we felt about steam power other than farm traction engines, in Soot in the Flues column. Well, I for one, enjoy them all very, very much. And I sure do enjoy all the IMA and GEM and your comments are all warm and refreshing. So thanks to all for the great magazine.' (And thank you, Virgil for the kind comments).

BRUCE MCCOURTNEY, Syracuse, Nebraska 68446 sends in his subscription renewal and comments; 'Sure would be hard to do without it. Wish it came every day. I am one of the charter subscribers and I have all copies to date. I have a few of the old American Thresherman magazines, too. I was 79 on January 13, 1985, so I was around when steam was used. I ran my first steam engine the summer I was 9 years old. My Dad had three steam rigs when I was born. Through the years my father and I together had 42 steam engines, 23 at one time. I have two engines now, a Case and a Russell. We used them for threshing, trading and a lot of house moving. We covered a big territory in the house moving business. I put four engines through bridges in my time no fun in that! For hurt, had broken bones, etc. I have experienced leaking flues, cold winds, snow, ice, mud, sand hills and sand holes, slipped valves in cold nights and etc. but still love steam engines. I always wanted everything on a steam engine to work except the engineer.

'Well, it's time to turn on the injector and close the draft.' (Nice hearing you reminisce about the old days, Bruce).

'Thanks for printing my letter in the Iron-Men,' says BILLY M. BYRD, 369 Harrig Street, Madisonville, Kentucky 42431. 'I've gotten several nice comments on it. Now I have another favor could you please put this story about Mr. Hill in your Album.

'Let's call it The Edgar Hills Make Plans for Threshing Show Edgar Hill, local retired farmer of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, has owned and operated steam engines, built miniature steam engines and now is the owner of a steam engine quilt. Hill was in Adams, Tennessee in July for the annual three-day threshing show and his wife, Helen, displayed the red and white quilt she made as a steam engine display. 'The quilt was his idea,' Mrs. Hill explained, 'and I transferred with carbon and pencil all of the pictures and pieced them on their true colors.' The engines are Case, Keck-Gonnerman, Rumely and Russell. The steam show has been conducted each July for 15 years to depict an era when steam was king. Thousands attend the varied exhibits during the three days. Hill, who has missed only the first of the 15 shows says it has grown until they are about to run out of room. As a young man, Hill farmed and used steam-powered farm equipment. He recalls the wheat threshing days and enjoys the gathering each summer in Adams.

'Mrs. Hill has no idea how many quilts she has made and says the steam quilt took about six months to complete. 'I hope quilting doesn't die out. I'd like to see young people get interested.'

'Hill was 80, October 8th and moved to town when he retired and he recently sold his last steam engine, a 50 HP Frick. During his lifetime, he owned and operated a 20 HP Advance, 50 HP Case and 22 HP double cylinder Keck-Gonnerman. He quit threshing with steam in 1954, but during the Tennessee-Kentucky Show at Adams, he was in his usual place firing New Howell's 19 HP Keck-Gonnerman engine on the sawmill. Mr. Hill serves as a Director of the Association.'

An interesting bit comes from ELSNER MACHACEK, 714 Union Street, Northfield, Minnesota 55057 as he says: 'The picture of Number 328 was built in 1905. They sure did a beautiful job of restoring this locomotive. In our city we have two colleges, Carleton and St. Olaf. In September of each year we have a four day celebration the defeat of the James gang. The Jesse James gang came to Northfield to rob the First National Bank in 1878. They killed the cashier because he did not want to open the vault. The citizens soon found out what was going on and they were armed with guns and began to fire at the robbers. One of the gang was killed on the street before he could mount his horse. They also killed a bystander on the sidewalk. Some of the gang also were wounded. Each year this robbery is reenacted. This past year of 1984, people came from nearby states to. see the action. We had seventy thousand people here. Thought the folks of the ALBUM might be interested.'

A brief reminiscence comes from ALLAN LINDEN, Route 2, Box 276, Isanti, Minnesota 55040:

'Back in the winter of 1930-31, I believe it was, there was a man who bought 40 acres of pretty big timber about a mile east of our place. He told the farmers in the surrounding area if they would cut down these trees and make them into logs for lumber, they could have the tops free for firewood. A lot of the farmers didn't have very much wood so they all got a lot of wood cut for their own use.

'One farmer had a pile with 128 loads in it, and he had a home made saw rig with a car engine for power. He mounted the saw right on the drive shaft so it was a direct drive to the saw from the engine. It was a dangerous setup, as there was no belt to slip if the saw got pinched in the wood.

'One big drawback with this saw rig was that when you moved the rig, you had to lift the saw rig and move it sideways. And there were some stumps by this big woodpile, and they had to lift it over the stumps. It was an awful lot of work, as it was oak, elm, basswood and hard maple in the pile.

'They sawed the logs with a 25-85 Nichols and Shepard steam engine on the saw. They had a hand dug well right by the steam engine and a hand pump above the well. This pump was run with the steam engine, with a shaft attached to the flywheel shaft on the steam engine. This shaft was run out to a support above the hand pump. There was a crank on the end of this shaft with another shaft attached to the pump so this pumped the water they needed for the engine, while they were sawing.

'I think he charged $5.00 @ thousand feet for sawing the logs, and he furnished both the mill and the engine.

'There wasn't much snow that winter, so they cleared off all the trees. No chain saws in those days, just 2-man saws and axes.

'I remember there were two brothers who cut a lot of wood there, and they walked over there and back every day. They lived over three miles from where they cut. The man who bought these 40 acres of timber only broke even on the deal. He got 500,000 feet of lumber from the 40 acres.

'It was a lot of fun to watch the steam engine running the saw mill, and I wish they wouldn't have quit using steam on the sawmills.

'In those days we weren't interested in taking pictures, but I really am sorry we didn't have some pictures taken out there. The man who sawed these log used to thresh our grain also. How well I remember when he moved from one farm to another. The threshing crew used to sit on top of the separator, on the flower pipe. Plenty of time, no rush. Nowadays everything has to go so fast, and still we have less time.'

'Hello and God bless you and all of the Iron-Men family,' writes JOE DANIEL STORY, 6617 N.W. 31st Terrace, Bethany, Oklahoma 73008.

'I am enclosing a picture of the 2/5 scale Model 65 Case traction engine that the Lord and my Dad I built together and thanks to the Angels, too. It took a lot of work but was worth the effort. Thank you all for such a good Christian magazine.'

The photo above is that of a 1/3 size model of a 1915, 65 HP Case traction engine that was completed by Lt. Col. MauriceL. Johnson, USAF RET., 3903 Kinser Pike, Bloomington, Indiana 47401.

A new member to the IMA family writes us as THEODORE E. VOIGHT, Box 1251, Kings Road, Crete, Illinois 60417 sends this: 'Enclosed are shots of a Sturdevant 15 HP vertical engine we acquired in connection with an alternative energy project. It has a 6' cylinder and 5' stroke, 400 RPM and 125 PSI steam. It is in running condition except for the missing flyball Gardner 1' parts as indicated on the photo.

Would appreciate a mention in your letters to the section for information on this machine. Sturdevant is now a division of Westinghouse, but they tell us that this piece is too old and they have nothing in their records. Any help the readers could give would be most appreciated.'

INGVARD HAUGEN, Route 1, Box 102, Hannaford, North Dakota 58448 says his son owns a Grayhound tractor and they are wondering if there is any information on them, or any knowledge of these machines. Theirs is complete and runs well, but they are interested as to how they can learn the age of the machine as well as some history. It was purchased in Pennsylvania so it's a long ways from home. They would also like to know who built the machines. (I think this is a gas tractor but they wrote and requested this to be in Iron-Men Album).

'This picture was taken in 1907 threshing wheat on J. J. Marsh farm, Etica Township near Lewiston, Minnesota, East of Rochester, Minnesota. They threshed about 3600 bushels of wheat a day. It is a Buffalo Pitts steam engine 25 HP, had eight wagons for threshing. A water tank is right beside the steam engine. The horses had fly nets on them. People in the picture are unknown,' states LYNN MARSH, RFD #5, Rochester, Minnesota 55905.

A letter comes from MARK SHELDON, Star Route, Box 120, Floral, Arkansas 72534

'I've enjoyed your magazine for years. Recently I bought a 23-90 A.D. Baker uniflow, #1535 and would like to find out the date this engine was built. I've been told it was made around 1919 or 1920. Fred Wahner of Wentworth, Missouri bought the steam engine new and spent most of its working life threshing, then sawmilling.

'Would someone know what year Abner Baker started using the uniflow cylinder on his engines.

'Another feature this engine had was a super heater unit installed in the smoke box, to find out more information about the super heater A.D Baker used in his engines and whether there are any Baker engines still with these in place and operating.

'I will appreciate any information.' (As noted elsewhere in this column, Herb Beckemeyer has a list of Baker owners which may interest you.)

A brief story comes from WILLIAM J. STEWART, 308 S. 12 Street, Independence, KS 67301:

'Would like to share with you an experience I had in the late '40's. I was a beginning telegrapher on the 'extra board' for the Frisco Railroad and working an assignment one day a week each in Fredonia, Severy, and Beaumont, Kansas. One week I didn't have a car available so the next freight going west after I finished work would pick me up and let me off at my next station. This particular time I boarded at Severy for Beaumont. The engine stopped at the station and I climbed on. 'When I got aboard, the engineer called me over to his side and said 'You can help me operate the engine. We need some slack so we can start moving.' Apparently he had already initiated the brake release. He pointed to a big lever and said 'That is the reversing lever. Move it back about the same distance as it is forward. The big lever on the left is the throttle. Pull it out a few notches, then push it back in.' The engine backed up a little. 'Now put the reverse lever back where it was and open the throttle a few notches.'

'We started to move, and as we gained speed, he would say open the throttle a little more. Finally we were up to cruising speed (I don't know how fast). I wouldn't say it was a smooth ride-that engine bumped and bounced and jerked horribly. I don't see how it stayed on the rails. It must have been mild however occasionally one of these engines were called on to pull their passenger train and I am sure it went much faster in passenger service than hauling freight.

Anyway, as we left Piedmont we started up the grade for Beaumont and the train started slowing down. As it slowed, the engineer would have me add more throttle. We were pulling the maximum tonnage the engine was rated to pull up that grade. Finally the engineer said, 'See that gauge there? It is the steam pressure on the cylinders. It reads about the same as our boiler pressure (I don't remember the pressure). That means our throttle is wide open. To get more power we need to increase the stroke on our valves. Move the valve lever forward another notch.'

Then he cautioned me, the drivers are beginning to slip a little-and if they start to spin, close the throttle immediately. Meanwhile we will sand the rails. He showed me a small lever and said 'Pull that lever down (about 90 degrees) and hold it 3 or 4 seconds long enough for the drivers to go around once. If you leave it down, in about five minutes we would be out of sand and we are a long way from up the hill'

By sanding the rails the drivers didn't spin; adding a couple more notches on the valve stroke kept us going and we pulled into Beaumont where I thanked him for letting me operate the engine and I got off. He doesn't know how much I appreciated the opportunity to ride and operate that engine. I didn't really know myself then, but I do now.'

'I have just returned from a most rewarding trip through a portion of the ancient world of Asia Minor or, as we know it today, Turkey,' says CARL M. LATHROP, 108 Garfield Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940. 'As usual, I always have my eyes open for steam. I looked behind each of the Seven Churches of Revelations and in the cities of Cappadocia for any signs of steam.

'Finally, I came across this 'ancient' decapos (2-10-2) of the Turkish Republic Railways. This coal burning steamer was hauling a freight train near Philadelphia (Alasehir) in the area of the only one of the Seven Churches not censured by Paul.

'Knowing the firmness of your faith, I thought that you might be interested.'

'I enjoy reading your magazine and seeing the pictures of the old steam traction engines,' writes JAMES B GROVES, Route 1, Box 269, Stoddard, WI 54658. 'I have always been a steam fan. I remember the threshing days with steam power. I never owned a steam engines but I threshed for more than twenty years with gas tractors. Before my retirement when I was farming near Fountain City, Wisconsin, I had a neighbor, John Moser, who had threshed, hulled clover and sawed lumber for about sixty years and much of that time he used steam power. In the later years he used a Rumely Oil Pull. This kind of work was very much a major part of his life.

'I am sending a picture of his grave stone he bought twenty years before he died. As you can see, he had a steam engine engraved on his stone. He also had a special steam whistle he wanted to take with him when he died, so when he passed away in 1953 his neighbor put the whistle in the casket with him. This stone is in the beautiful Fountain City, Wisconsin cemetery located on Highway 95 about a mile north of Fountain City. I thought the readers of your good magazine might be interested in this little story about a man who loved this way of life.

HERB BECKEMEYER of R2, Box 159, Champaign, IL 61821 says he has just finished restoring a 1938 IHC W30 tractor which took about two years of his spare time.

'I did get to show the A. D. Baker at 3 shows and cook sweet corn 2 days this past summer and took in 3 sales Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Lewisburg, Ohio and Geff, Illinois. These sales were like old home week visiting old friends and making new ones.

'Now, in regards to my list of A. D. Baker engines and owners. I have added 7 engines since the list was printed in 1982. What I wish to know, are there such engines as #441, #861, #907, #17426, #17545 and #17551 and others hiding out there somewhere in the good of U.S.A.? Nine Baker engines have changed hands since the list was made up.

'Anyone who would like a copy of the list I have need only contact me and I will send one.' (Let's hope there are more Baker owners out there to add to this list!)

Well, that's about it for this time, so I know before long you'll be out there tilling the ground and looking anxiously to those mouth-watering garden products. So get all the equipment together so you're all set as soon as frost is over. Be talking to you next time.