Past and Present:

Soot in the flues

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Traction Engines and Threshing Machines

A couple of house-cleaning items before we launch into this issue's collection of correspondence and photographs.

First off, the web address for the Pawnee Steam School published in previous issues of Iron-Men Album was incorrect. The correct address should read: We try to get it right, but somehow dropped the ball on this one. Apologies to the Oklahoma Steam Threshing & Gas Engine Association and to any of you who tried unsuccessfully to access their web site with the wrong information.

Secondly, since our listing of steam schools in the January/February issue of Iron-Men Album we've learned of two other steam schools that didn't make our list.

First up is the Carriage Hill Farm Steam School, which will hold classes April 12-14, 2002. The school is going into its 14th year of steam engineering training, with the class limited to 30 students. The emphasis is on classroom instruction with hands-on training, and special attention is also given to safety, boiler construction and practical operating techniques. Tuition is $75, which includes all materials and lunch on Saturday. For more information, contact Nick Krimm at: Steam Operations Group, 7800 E. Shull Rd., Dayton, OH 45424, or e-mail at:

Chris Baldo in California e-mails us that the Roots of Motive Power will hold a class April 6-7, 2002, in Willits, Calif. Tuition for the class, Introduction to Steam Engineering Safety, is $25, and enrollment is limited to 30 students. Emphasis is on classroom presentations, hands-on operation of boilers and steam engines from the Roots of Motive Power collection, and of course safety. For more information, e-mail Chris (, or contact Bobbie Yokum/Registrar, Roots of Motive Power, Steam Engineering School, P.O. Box 1540, Willits, CA 95490.

Case Engines and Rock Crushing

Our first letter this issue comes from faithful contributor Larry Creed, R.R. #13, Box 209, Brazil, IN 47834, who writes:

'I would like to thank Gary Yaeger for his excellent (as usual) old steam photographs. I am confident that Gary will come across a picture of the elusive Case 6 HP traction engine. I never dreamed a picture of a double stack Minneapolis traction engine existed until a steam friend placed the photograph in my hand.'

Tommy Lee has an outstanding collection of Case memorabilia and literature, he has spent countless hours studying steam engines produced by J.I. Case. Tommy is sure to be able to answer any Case question I may ever have.

The following three photographs are all from the state of Indiana. Like Gary Yaeger, I will jump straight into the Case quagmire.

Creed Photo #1: A Hoosier threshing crew donned their finest derby hats when they posed for this photograph in front of a short smokebox compound Case traction engine and a Case threshing machine.

Creed Photo #3: Rock crushing in Indiana. The date of the picture is unknown, as is the make of the engine running the crusher, but it could be an Aultman judging by the crown on the smoke stack.

'In photograph #1, I would like Chady Atteberry to note that his 'Hoosier' threshing crew did not lack 'style,' as the derby hats clearly illustrate. The steam engine is a short-smokebox compound Case. My 1905 Case catalog listed the following 'compounded' traction engines: 5- x 8- x 10, rated 9 HP; 6-1/8 x 9 x 10, rated 12 HP; 7 x 10 x 10, rated 15 HP; 7- x 11 x 10, rated 20 HP; 9- x 13 x 11, rated 25 HP. The Case threshing machine is hand fed and has what Case termed a 'Common Folding Stacker.' Until the addition of self-feeders and wind stackers, a large separator could be pulled by a relatively small steam engine.'

'Photograph #2 is of an Avery single-cylinder/straight-flue steam traction engine. In 1914, Avery was building their under-mounted, double-cylinder traction engine, available in 18, 20, 22, 30 and 40 HP. The single-cylinder/straight-flue engine was available in 25 HP only. Single-cylinder/return-flue engines were available in 16, 20 and 30 HP as a traction, portable or skid engine. Note the reverse-mounted cylinder - the heater runs almost the length of the boiler.'

'Photograph #3: I have many old photographs of steam engines and threshing scenes, but this is the only picture I have of a steam engine pulling a rock crusher. Indiana has quite a large amount of limestone, which can be easily quarried. The problem is crushing the stone to a size that can be used. You can tell from the wheelbarrows on the ramp that this was a labor-intensive job where you earned every dollar you made. It is hard to make out any details of the engine, but the crown on the top of the smoke stack suggests it could be a C. Aultman.'

'I would like to thank Iron-Men Album for the coverage of the Medina, Ohio, accident. I do not believe the previous editor would have waded into the controversy like Richard Backus has. The true tragedy is the entire incident would have never happened with proper accumulation and application of steam knowledge that has been amassed in this country and Canada for well over 100 years.'

Aultman & Taylor Separators

Nello Mungai, 23 Skyline Dr., Hickory, PA 15340 writes:

'When I received the January/February Iron-Men Album I sure was surprised to see the pictures on pages 27 and 28 of the 30 x 46 Mew Century thresher that was sold new in 1915 to the Beatty brothers, then in turn to Frank Gormley in 1957.' Around 1980 I was lucky to buy it and 1 gave it to our oldest son to run.

'We still have it, and it is still in working condition. We are not using it now because I am up in years, 82 next July. Frank and I used it at the Tri-State Steam Show for quite a few years. I have seen a lot of machines working, but this one is the smoothest runner of all. It is a hand-feed with a blower and will really clean the grain.'

'The Tri-State Steam Show was started by my father-in-law, Dean Fullerton, his brother, Chuck, and Paul Crow back in the 1950s and it is still running.' I spent a lot of time helping the show as show director and then as president for a number of years. When I started they were all 'old men' to me, now I am the 'old man.'

'Steam shows sure have changed over time.' Those 'old men' who lived in the steam age liked to tell some good stories about what happened to them, and some of their stories I will never forget.

'I helped out for over 30 years at the steam show, and I always had in the back of my mind what happened in Ohio this past summer. That is the reason I never wanted to have a 'tug of war' with steam engines.'

Reflections on Medina

Thomas Stebritz, 1516 E. Commercial St., Algona, IN 50511 writes:

'Over the years, my experience has given me a practical eye in regard to what's what and who about most traction engines.' An example is Curtis Cook's picture on page 1 in Soot in the Flues in the January/February 2002 issue of IMA. It's a nice picture of a Buffalo-Pits engine, and looks to be a 15 HP. The thresher is a Russell with a Lindsay feeder.

'I read with interest the guest experts opinions about what caused the demise of the Case at Medina, Ohio. I observed this old relic being put together by Neil Miller at Alden, Iowa, in the late 1970s at his farm near Alden. By 1980 Neil's health was not good and he sold all of his steam engines and other machinery at his closing-out sale in 1980.'

The Case was not completely done, and I believe the boiler was not tested by then. Looking at the pictures in IMA we see a staybolt hole in the crown sheet, and the number of threads indicated the plate to be a sparse 3/16-inch thickness. Looking further indicated the plate around the flue holes to be 3/16 to -inch. I'm fairly sure this boiler was re-tubed at this time. The owner could have seen at the time this was a very questionable boiler, of course maybe he was indifferent to this.

Before we point any fingers at anyone from the far past, it should be noted that the state of Minnesota passed this boiler once, maybe twice, for use at the Butterfield Threshermens Show. Warren Bellinger of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and myself rode that engine once at that show, and it wasn't our time to pass on as nothing happened. The pictures showing the deterioration of the plate and stay-bolts makes me believe that the boiler came from out west and was used with alkali water, which caused its wasting away.

The state of Minnesota and the state of Ohio both slipped up on this boiler, and it makes a person wonder what kinds of tests were put on it to pass it at all. The crown sheet was determined to be about 3/16-inch thick. If a boiler inspector had used a test hammer to tap on the crown sheet it would have probably sounded like tapping on an oil barrel. He also would have gotten a bath. I would say that a cold water test would have dropped the crown sheet at 200 psi, quite probably a lot less.

Something must be understood, and that is that this engine was used very little after it was restored and the boiler did not accomplish its deterioration of any amount in its remaining years of existence. Really, the boiler was ready for the cutting torch after it was restored - a hard thing to say, but it's the truth. Reading some of our guest experts' procrastination was interesting, sometimes amusing. And by the way, threaded stays in the older boilers were 12 threads to the inch, not 11.

'In the last few years the engine magazines have printed accounts of engine restorations, one being a Frick half buried in a pile of dirt. The whole thing is questionable - how old and how thick is what's left of the boiler plate?'

'If you can find an engine with a basically sound boiler that needs some rebuilding some place in the boiler, that can usually be done all right. But don't patch up some piece of junk just to have a steamer of your own.'

'In the January/February IMA there is an article about taking care of your boiler and replacing your fusible plugs -you should approach this very carefully. If 50 people were to use this advice, 49 would tear the plug and plate out with a wrench. Instead, remove what's left of the plug by drilling.'

'After looking at the shape of the crown sheet, consider drilling and tapping in a size larger stay-bolt, then drill and thread a new hole for the fusible plug. Another way to fill in the fusible plug hole is to drill a hole end to end and put in a 1-inch diameter flue. All of this would eliminate the shrinkage caused by any welding. Ninety-nine percent of all firebox plates are generally 5/16-inch plate, except the tube sheets. After 1913, the 40, 50, 65 and 80 HP Case fireboxes were made out of 11/32-inch plate, except the tube sheets, which were 7/16-inch plate.'

'People look at these -inch plate boilers and assume that the firebox plate is the same. Actually, except for the tube sheet, which is -inch, the rest of the firebox is 5/16-inch plate, maybe up to 3/8-inch. I have put flues in a number of stationary and traction boilers and have observed all manner of use and abuse. I never played the fool around any boiler.'

'Our guest experts have pointed their fingers in different directions.' 1 see someone made a remark about some galvanized pipe that was used. I don't really understand all the remarks about the crown sheet - the fusible plug was probably limed up on the water side.

'Those extra-long fusible plugs didn't work like they were supposed to and melted out somewhat on the water side, which is why engineers cut the non-threaded excess of the plug off before inserting it into the crown sheet.' This was certainly true of a Universal Boiler Russell engine. When the water was in the bottom of the glass the front end of the crown sheet was starting to get bare, and one of those extra long plugs would be about to melt out.

'The owner of the 32 HP Case and the owner of the 20 HP Case had something in common they were both in over their heads and ignorant of most of the rest. Common sense was missing. It's time to put the whole matter to rest for good, with no more silly suppositions and finger pointing.'

Is it a Frick?

Ed Gladowski, 1128 W. Gardner St., Houston, TX 77009 writes:

'Maybe you can use this picture? It is a copy of an old postcard given to me by a friend who found it in Florida. There is no information, date, location, stamp or postmark on the postcard. The engine looks to me like it might be a Frick, but I am no expert. Maybe some of our knowledgeable readers could say for sure. Good luck with the magazine.'

Reeves Identification

Melvin Pierce, 7204 131st Ave. SW, Scranton, ND 58653 writes:

'Congrats on the 'new' IMA. Here's hoping you can take it to new and higher ground yet.'

'In reference to Gary Yaeger's Photo #2 on page 15 in the November/December 2001 IMA. This is a somewhat unique photo of a double-simple Reeves 25 HP (clearly pulling a steam lift plow) in that most Reeves plow engines were cross-compound. This one is a double-simple 25, the main argument for this being the large barrel size, which would be the same barrel size as a 32 HP compound. And it is clearly not a 32, because all 32's had an inverted, U-shaped support from one end of the crank to the other, and Yaeger photo #2 does not have that U brace. It would show clearly in the photo if it were there.'

'It is an early model, before s/n 5000, because of the square front axle. It has the optional 16-inch wide front wheels, 12-inch were standard. Note how small the left cylinder looks. Now compare that to the large size of the 25 HP cross-compound in my photo #2.'

'Photo #1 is a Reeves s/n 4438 U.S. lap seam, 20 HP double-simple. Same boiler as a 25 HP cross-compound. Note how small in diameter, how long and stretched out it looks, compared to the boiler in Yaeger #2. This one has 12-inch front wheels, clearly a smaller diameter than Yaeger #2, thus Yaeger's must be the larger 25 HP double-simple, with the 32 HP cross-compound boiler.'

'Photo #2 is an early, pre-s/n 5000 Reeves 25 HP cross-compound engine located near me. It also has the square front axle, making it pre-s/n 5000.' Note how large the left valve cover is compared to Yaeger #2 and the long, narrow boiler barrel. Also, note how the water tank rides higher in relation to the barrel? On Yaeger #2 it looks lower because the larger barrel of the 25 HP double-simple would be higher. Also, Yaeger #2 does not show any interceptor valve linkage. All that shows is valve gear linkage, not interceptor, as the interceptor comes down below the valve, almost to the hand hold opening on my Photo #2. It is not there on Yaeger #2.

'Photo #3 is a Reeves 25 HP cross-compound, still owned by me. My grandfather, Charlie Pierce, bought it used in 1917. This is a photo taken, 1 believe, in Dalton, Minn., in 1958 right after he originally had it fixed up. Note again the long, narrow barrel.'

'Photo #4 is another photo of the Reeves 25 HP cross-compound, taken at Rollag, Minn., in 1958. That is Charlie Pierce by the right front wheel. Note it has the rounded front axle, not the earlier square one.' The number of this engine is unknown, it was gone when he bought it in 1917. Note it has the large, optional 16-inch front wheels. See how they do not look as large in Yaeger #2 because the larger barrel size of the 25 HP double-simple makes them look smaller. Compare the diameter of the barrel against the size of the front wheels, and see how much larger diameter the barrel is in Yaeger #2. Thus, it must be the 32 HP cross-compound boiler, but it is not a 32, because it lacks the inverted U brace.

'I hope these photos help show how unique Yaeger #2 is, the 25 HP double-simple pulling a steam plow, especially, and help to show what makes it a 25 HP double-simple, not a 25 HP cross-compound. It is clearly a double-simple.'