Soot in the flues

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I am sitting here and thinking of Spring Things and Summer Madness that comes with the thoughts of getting the engines loaded, supplies packed and ambitions riding high to get on the road to the many steam and gas engine reunions. Won't be long now, you know. I'll bet many of you are set to go already, while others must put on the finishing touches to the 'GEM' of their eyes. I'll be thinking of you. It's been awhile since I have been to a reunion but have always enjoyed them, especially after communicating with so many of our Iron Men Family, a wonderful group.

While I have also been busy, my duties, etc. have not all been pleasant. Ed, my dear hubby, who has not been well since his stroke last May, is now back in the hospital. He was coming along pretty well, but Valentine's Day he was taken to the hospital again with congestive heart failure, gall stones which they will not operate on due to his heart condition, then he had pneumonia for a few days and is still in the hospital. He seems to be coming along fairly well, but now has some type of infection in his lungs and some complications. I'm sure he has some buddies out in Engine Land who have many problems also, but we just take a day at a time and sometimes an hour at a time. God will always help us through enough of this and on to the communications from you fine folks.

This is a very rewarding letter to read; it comes from BILL THURMAN, R.R. #1, Box 226, Archie, Missouri 64725. I think he must be an A-1 person of this day and age. Read on and I believe you will agree.

'I am writing this just to say thanks for such a fantastic hobby.' I am 27 years old and have loved steam engines all of my life. I never dreamed of ever owning one till I was retired, but thanks to many good friends my dream came true last year.

'I had restored old tractors since I was 16,' but it didn't excite me like seeing a steam engine run or hearing it on the belt, so I was always looking for the chance to run one.

'Well, last year at our annual show in Adrian, Missouri (I belong to the Western Missouri Antique Tractor Machinery Association),' I asked why a 1907 18 HP 'U' Peerless engine hadn't been run for several years. I was told the owner, Mr. Jim Courtney, couldn't find anyone to run it. I couldn't believe it that no one had stepped forward, so I wrote him a letter asking if I could help. He not only said I could, but would try to work out a deal with me to buy the engine.

'At the show I was thrilled to death to run the throttle for the first time. I have run tractors all my life, big and small, but there is no greater power than steam.

'Well, to make a long story short, Mr. Courtney sold me the engine. Without him I may have never realized my dream. I know he sold me that engine for a lot less than it was worth and I thank him for all the time and questions he has put up with from me. Also, I thank my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank B. Thurman, for their help, for without them I would be nothing. I thank Mr. Wilbur Hemming of Platte City, Missouri for showing me how to be a 'safe' engineer and putting up with a lot of stupid questions. Also Mr. Jim Bellis who helped repair the engine for a lot less than he could have charged. But most of all, I thank God for letting me live in this country and for blessing me with a wonderful family and friends and a wife who doesn't complain about the dirt and expense of owning an engine. I feel I am a lucky man indeed.' (You surely are Bill, but it is so wonderful you express it and it's wonderful the way these folks in this hobby like to help each other.)

'I would love to hear from fellow steam men as I am still a greenhorn.'

DOUG SELLERS, 1102 Peach, Abilene, Texas 79602 is seeking written information on an International Harvester 'Sterling' #705 threshing machine with 22' cylinder manufactured in 1916 by Heebner & Sons of Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He is hoping someone out there in Engine land can help him.

So come on Fellows if you have any data let Doug hear from you.

'I am in the process of restoring an Advance traction engine and need a little help,' says DEAN ALLING, Box 10264, Burbank, California 91510.

'I need to know the paint colors for trim and I would like information on this tractor's adjustment and operation. It is a Model 212F, #6744. I believe it to be a 12 HP and to be built in 1898(?). Thanks in advance!'

M.A. HALL, 44W059 Empire Road, St. Charles, Illinois 60175 writes us: 'Some time ago you published an article I wrote about my British table engine. Shortly after the article appeared, I received a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Lansell of Thomaston, Maine, informing me that they had an engine very similar to mine and that they also had a Weeden electric motor on which I had requested information.'

'A couple of letters back and forth and I now have pictures plus an excellent drawing of the commutator and brushes which were missing on my motor. Now I can fabricate new ones.'

'With all the complaints many people have, I felt it appropriate to hand out an orchid to those people who are willing to help other model makers and/or restorers my hat's off to you!'

'Memories' come to us from PERRY WILLIS, R.D. #3, Louisville, Ohio 44641. 'After a drought year in 1988, we had a wet spring this past year-1989. It was followed by a relief period and some farmers got a half-decent crop. Not 100% but enough not to be a total loss.'

While reading some articles of magazines, different sources of all kinds of machinery, brings memories of happenings of years ago.

The pioneers developed this nation and get little thanks for the hard labor involved.

Machinery has changed in design and size, and parts are hard to find at times. A modern piece of equipment is worthless if not working for the need of a part to replace the defective part.

'Memories of fixing farm machinery with few tools is heartwarming.' The older neighbors were the best helping hand an individual had. There are still a few around who share thoughts and ideas as we did years ago. Today your neighbor cares little for anyone except himself.

Most young men leave the farm and never go home to help in any way to ease the burden at harvest time.

'Brothers and sisters are at each others' throats to divide up the estate when the parents die. Some never did anything to help Mom and Dad, yet they do everything to stir up trouble.' (This may be true in some cases, Perry, but I'm sure we still have a lot of young folks with the old time views. I'm sure I don't hear from them all, but I do get letters now and then that make your heart swell with joy, especially from a nowadays-teenager. Come on young men, send me some more.)

A son who stays on and works and shares with his parents and buries them also, with no help for cost of burial, should have most or all of the estate.

When my parents died there was friction. I told my brothers and sisters I wanted nothing, yet I could have put in a claim for debts I paid in past years. It was a home and I respected what was done and what we had.

Most of all we started with was what we could afford. A person learns quickly to take care of a tool or piece of machinery. Where the money comes from today to buy expensive machinery is a mystery.

Farm prices are not much different than years back. More farmers are going bankrupt for their style of farming and for want of very big equipment. No upkeep and they cannot repair for cost. So they sell out and get a job-THAT does not solve the problem.

The Amish have large families. Most use horses, mules, some oxen and machinery 80 and 90 years old, some newer, but very few pieces. They live happily and share and most are respectful to everybody.

I do all I can for everybody, if help is needed. I share and I expect nothing as I believe in the old saying: 'Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.'

CARLTON JOHNSON, 2256 W. Wilson Road, Clio, Michigan 48420 sends the following as he writes: 'I don't remember seeing pictures of stacked bundles of grain in Iron-Men Album, so have sent in these two photos.'

'This man, Ed Lachels, who built these stacks knew what he was doing, as they are just about perfect.' It was an art that a few had and many did not have; to be good, they had to look good that is the shape and design and to shed water from rains. As a rule, wooden rails, boards or beams were put down on the ground to build them on.

The wing-feeder in the photo worked nice on threshing out stacks. The stacked bundles of grain to be threshed out later is the other picture. Both photos were taken from November 1908 American Thresherman.

We always look forward to the letters from our Iron-Men Family and the latest from CARL M. LATHROP, 108 Garfield Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940 tells us:

You will certainly recall the Hepburn/Bogart movie African Queen, and the steam launch of the same name that was described in the May-June 1982 IMA. It was almost eight years ago that I wrote that article and there has been a lot of water pass under the Queen's keel since then. I thought that I would bring you up to date on her latest adventure.

Her home port continues to be a Holiday Inn Harbor, Key Largo, Florida, although the old launch is now quite a world traveler, having been shipped abroad on a container ship in November 1986. After a few trips on the River Thames she was the guest of honor in the courtyard of the United States Embassy in London where a formal reception was held in her honor.

More recently she has been the subject of hearings before the Maritime & Fisheries Commission in Washington as a part of the petition to exempt her from the Jones Act so that this historic vessel could be put into revenue service carrying passengers. On August 16, 1989, President Bush signed the legislation that exempts her from the provisions of that Act. This 1920's era act was legislated to prevent foreign built ships from usurping our coast-wise shipping.

This, however, has not been without its problems. You will recall that the African Queen had been equipped with a boiler that carried the ASME code stamp. More recently she had been fitted with a boiler that has been built by the Semple Engine Company of St. Louis. This is a popular supplier to the private steam launch hobby, but unfortunately their shop can not affix the ASME code stamp that is required by the Coast Guard under whose jurisdiction she now comes. That has created a problem which her owner, Mr. James Hendricks, is working with currently.

To maintain the Queen's authenticity as near as can be practical, a boiler of classic design is being fabricated by the Dixon Boiler Works of Los Angeles. Richard T. Dixon has been in the business of building specialty boilers to the ASME code for the past 50 years. His handiwork appears in such places as the Disneyland and Disney World steam locomotives and the two Golden Spike replicas at Promontory, Utah.

Now that code problem just happens to bring me to a side issue that might be of interest to your readers. We have not manufactured any steam traction engines in this or any other country for a great many years. Similarly, steam railroad locomotives are no longer manufactured in the U.S. either. They continue, however, to be built in the People's Republic of China. In fact, three of them were purchased by tourist railroads and arrived in Long Beach, California, November 7th aboard the 'Trade Fir'.

During contract negotiations there was a problem in rationalizing Chinese fired pressure vessel manufacturing standards with the ASME boiler code accepted by most states, for one goes to

Boone, Iowa and one to Kane, Pennsylvania and one to Essex, Connecticut.

It's a long story but briefly there were some compromises worked out between the Chinese and our side. Mr. Joe Michaels, a professional engineer with background in code calculations, worked the problem to the satisfaction of all concerned. The engines going to Pennsylvania and Connecticut were built incorporating those changes under the direction of David Conrad of the Valley Railroad. The one headed to Iowa was a 'stock' engine and could encounter some difficulties.

'My activities on our Catskill Mountain Railroad (Serving The Valley of The Esopus) have pulled me away from steam somewhat, but I still look to IMA with affection. Our association has been an integral part of my retirement years.' (Thanks CarlI find this whole subject of the Queen and the new engines being built in China very interesting and informative. Write any time).

'I enjoy the articles and looking at the photographs,' says LOWELL M. ANDERSON, R.R. 1, Box 83, Heimdal, North Dakota 58342 as he adds another year to his subscription of IMA.

I have been constructing a model of a 1908 Advance. This engine is similar to one that threshed for my grandparents in 1913. I am currently working on a model of a 1912 25-85 Nichols & Shepard. The first one was built free hand. Since then I have gotten a small lathe which greatly helps with fabrication of parts.

'I was wondering if I could get historical information for a Nichols & Shepard by writing to White Tractor Company. Well, will close.' (Maybe some one of our family may give you suggestions or write you).

'Mystery of the Camelback' tractor comes from K. CHRIS HAMEL, 150 Glenwood Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey 07306: 'I am enclosing this letter with my order. I already have some of your published works.' They are of high quality indeed considering the rarity of many of the originals! I am 33 years of age and a railroad buff, also interested in such outlying areas as steam construction equipment and yes, traction engines.

Perhaps you can help me. I vividly recall a photograph of an unusual outsize steam tractor in one of the mechanics-type magazines. I would guess the article dated to the late fifties. I saw it in a stack of old Popular Mechanics, Science and Mechanics, etc. type magazines in a carton at the now defunct Jack's Auction Market in Pine Brook, New Jersey what would be called a 'flea market'.

This was around 1967, a warm summer night, and Dad and I were magazine mining, as it were. What immediately caught my eye was a huge steam tractor. The machine was photographed lying in a field and according to the caption was 'awaiting restoration'. It was more or less an unrestored 'fossil'. What struck me as most interesting about the machine was it had a cab over the center, actually aft of center, of the boiler, like a Camelback locomotive, and had enormous drive wheels eight feet in diameter and having a definitely spooky or spokey appearance. The machine also appeared to have a very high ground clearance, seeming like six feet between the boiler and the ground. The cab appeared to be of wooden construction. Also the entire boiler barrel appeared to be lagged somewhat along the lines of a water wagon, having a distinctive ribbed appearance (see sketch). I have managed to contact tractor historian Charles Wendel, and he thinks what I saw may have been a Case 150, but that machine did not have a center cab in the photos I have seen. Also the machine had a weird 'dinosaur groin' thing under the boiler, an ash pan, perhaps? Perhaps you Iron-Men can shed some light, if not mere filings, on this monster road locomotive.

'Some time ago (a few months) I sent a letter to Mr. Hedtke and never received a reply. Well, good hunting! And again, I am hoping you can solve this mystery of the past. Valve off and throttle closed! K.C.'

FRANK M. SILVA, 1 Wolfback Terrace, Sausalito, California 94965 sends this definition with his photo. 'This picture is of a model I acquired at a recent auction in San Francisco, of a Case 75 HP traction engine. It is 42' long with 12' diameter driving wheels, and is in excellent working order.'

'If you know of any available books having information on this engine, I would appreciate knowing the source.'

'I recently purchased a model steam engine that I have not seen before. I would like to know if some of your readers could tell me more about the engine. The insignia on the side has GB, N, Bavaria, on it. The boiler is 13 long, 4? wide; the flywheel is 5 diameter. It is an alcohol burner, 1' stroke. The boiler is brass as well as most of the other parts. I would appreciate any information and will answer all letters.' LOUIS G. SHAFER, 7125 Old Clinton Highway, Knoxville, Tennessee 37921.

I always like to tie up the column with some advice or words of wisdom. Today I have picked an acclamation of courtesy called 'Beatitudes For Friends Of The Aged' (that includes a lot of us doesn't it?):

Blessed are they that understand my faltering step and palsied hand. Blessed are they that know my ears today must strain to catch the things they say. Blessed are they who seem to know that my eyes are dim and wits are slow. Blessed are they that looked away when the coffee spilled at the table today. Blessed are they with a cheery smile who stop to chat for a little while. Blessed are they who never say, 'You've told that story twice today.' Blessed are they who find the way to bring back memories of Yesterday. Blessed are they who make it known that I'm loved and not alone. Blessed are they who ease the days on my journey home in loving ways. Esther Mary Walker

And you know what? I don't think that is a dissertation for the aged but for all ages, including me.

And I'll add a few more courtesies: Never speak loudly to one another unless the house is on fire (that's a pretty hard one). The greater the man, the greater the courtesy. Nothing costs so little and goes so far as Christian courtesy. Courtesy is a duty the servants of Christ owe to the humblest person on earth. The measure of a truly great man is the courtesy with which he treats small men. (These are taken from Uncle Ben's Quote book by Benjamin R. DeJong.) So as you make your trails and trips this upcoming 'reunion season', remember these few suggestions. I bet they will make a lot of folks happy, including you.

And don't forget to get the stories and little incidents that happen while you are traveling, all of us would like to hear from you. I'll be waiting for your letters. Love you all!