Soot in the flues

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Ah yes, Spring is just around the corner, now! This has been the mildest winter in recent memory in our neck of the woods, and already the buds are everywhere with the promise of what's to come! Swaps and auctions, time to clean out the barn and get ready for the summer shows.

Our 24th annual show directory has gone out to many of you who order it each year. It's hard to believe that the book has grown to a whopping 288 pages this year. You won't find a handier, better way to carry around all the information you need on steam and gas engine shows, so order one if you haven't already!

In the meantime, we've got lots of letters and great stories this month, so let's get to them:

SEAN CULLEN, 20 Widley Road, Cosham, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO6 2DT England, writes, 'I am seeking any information at all about an engine which was exported from the United Kingdom to the U.S.A. in about 1960. I am particularly interested to know if the engine still exists.

'The engine in question was built as a three ton steam roller by Wallis & Steevens of Basingstoke, Hampshire, England, in 1929 with works number 7983.' It was converted to a tractor, running on pneumatic tyred wheels in 1953. At the same time, it was converted from coal firing to gas firing.

It is one of fifteen engines built to the same design, known as the 'Simplicity.' The design had a number of unusual features, the main one of which is that the boiler is inclined to make the engine safer to drive for inexperienced drivers (at least this was the theory). The engine has a single cylinder and its belly tank is triangular in shape.

'I look after a similar engine at the Hollycombe Steam Collection at Liphook in Hampshire, England, and am searching for any relevant information.' The photograph above is of the engine I look after. The front fork on No. 7983 would lie across the engine rather than fore and aft, as our engine is a late model with some differences.

'I would welcome any information and in return would be happy to help anyone who has any queries about the engine movement in this country.'

'Thank you for your help.'

RUTH BITNER, Collections Curator, Western Development Museum, Curatorial Centre, 2935 Melville Street, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7J 5A6, writes, 'I was very pleased to discover the article titled, 'Hovland Inventions Have Stood The Test of Time,' submitted by A. W. Redlin of Summit, South Dakota, in January/February issue of IMA. Hovland's inventions are a valued part of the WDM collection'.

A scene from the Rough & Tumble Engineers' Threshermen's Reunion in 1952 sent to us courtesy of John V. McDivitt, 858 Sarver Road, Sarver, PA 17055. This summer the club will hold its fiftieth reunion.

'I might add that the collection also contains a series of blueprints of the traveling thresher.' The machine was truly a wonder, and years ahead of its time.

The article on the Fire-Proof Champion traction engine made by the Waterous Engine Works in Brant-ford, Ontario, was also of interest. The WDM collection contains the portable version of the Fire-Proof Champion, and is thought to date to the mid 1880s. Waterous advertised the Fire-Proof Champion in the Farmer's Advocate of August, 1885, as the 'Best Threshing Engine in the World.'

For information of your readers, the WDM collection contains more than 70 steam traction engines, more than 200 gas tractors, as well as stationary and portable steam and gas engines. Collections are shown at four exhibit branches in Saskatchewan: Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Saskatoon and Yorkton. The Curatorial Centre in Saskatoon houses dozens of additional examples which are not currently on exhibit.

Special events held during the summer at the exhibit branches feature the demonstration of selected steam traction engines, tractors and other agricultural and domestic artifacts. This year's show dates are as follows:

Saskatoon, Pion-Era '98: June 27-28; Yorkton, Threshermen's Show & Senior' Festival: August 1-2; North Battleford, Those Were The Days: August 8-9.

For more information, please call the WDM at 1-800-363-6345 or write to 2935 Melville Street, Saskatoon, Saskatechewan, Canada S7J 5A6. E-mail address is You may visit our web site at www. sfn. saskatoon,

GERALD DARR, 2220 Bishopsgate Drive, Toledo, Ohio 43614 writes: 'During the Depression days I was growing up on a farm south of Clyde, Ohio.'

In the community there was one tenant farmer who put his bundles of wheat in the barn. It was no doubt a requirement of the landlord. The landlord lived right on the property adjacent to the tenant house.

This farmer was the only one in the threshing ring to put bundles of wheat in the barn. To me it seemed like a lot of extra work. It would take two men in the mow to stack the bundles and two men pitching off of the wagon to make any time.

'My father said the bundles went through a sweat in the barn. Perhaps another reason was to clear a field if you were putting it back into wheat so you could plow the field'.

'There was a lot of grain wasted with this extra handling and the rats and mice played havoc with it in the barn.'

'Of course, farms were smaller in Ohio during this period and a great deal of the farming was done with horses.'

Perhaps 20 acres of wheat was the most a farmer had in wheat. I do not recall that oats was put into the barn. This took a lot of space where hay was normally put. I know some areas in the U.S.A. stacked their grain outside and threshed on the spot. The same went for hay. These practices were not followed in our community. Now, a person sees stacks of baled hay and straw in the field or near the barn. I know threshing was done differently in other parts of the USA.

We loaded the bundles on a hayrack. One man pitched and the teamster loaded. Some parts of the country they had bundle racks on the wagon and a man pitched his own bundles helter-skelter on the wagon.

'I would like to read other stories of IMA readers about how it was done in their area.'

'Enough threshing. I will be looking for articles like this in future IMA issues.'

From the Corson family archive: Town of Nanticoke (New York) steam engine, Nelson Green, far right and on the engine Courtesy of Mark Corson, 9374 Roosevelt Street, Crown Point, IN 46307.

(Gerald, we offer our apologies on the errors we made on the part of your letter which appeared on page 14 of our March/April issue. Apparently, we misread your letter when we typed the article, and did not catch the mistake in proofreading. Port Clinton is in Ohio, not New York or Ottawa.)

GEORGE CADDELL of 12465 S. 1050 W, Westport, IN 47283 says, 'I am writing this letter to beg for some help from the Peerless experts. I am restoring a class T' Peerless traction engine and can't find any information on this model. The catalogs my friends have loaned me show the 'TT but nothing on the T.'

'I need to know what HP rating it has, what years they were built, and is the serial number stamped anywhere on the engine? The brass tag is missing from the engine bed. Thanks. '

Where is this elusive engine? DENNY ALYEA, 41 W. 500 Street, Greenfield, Indiana 46140, asks about it. 'This engine was built by my father, Paul 'Pete' Alyea, (now deceased), in the 1950s. It is approximately 2/5 scale or 40% of a Case 60 HP engine.' In 1963, or thereabouts, Joe Gunn Gregory, (now deceased), of Russellville, Kentucky, persuaded my dad to sell the engine to him. At some point Mr. Gregory then sold the engine to a Mr. Finis St. John (also now deceased) of Guntersville, Alabama. Then sometime between 1985-1992 Mr. St. John sold the engine to an unknown purchaser.

Having always regretted selling it, my dad eventually tried to find it. By that time Mr. Gregory had died and my dad couldn't find out its latest location. In 1990, after my father passed, I took over the search for the engine. I was on a cold trail until this past fall, when I met a friend of Joe Gunn Gregory. That is when I found out it had been sold to Mr. St. John. This is where the trail went cold.

'Since October of 1997,' I have made approximately 250 phone calls throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, following all kinds of leads. All, unfortunately, were dead ends.

'Here are some of the specifics, as I remember them. They may have been modified some in the past 35 years:'

The boiler was homemade, the smokestack base is the 'old style' with a flanged base. There was no 'Case' heater, there was no ladder. The rear wheels were covered with rubber lugs from cut down tractor tires, the coal bunkers were made from 'diamond tread' steel. The tread was on the inside), the cylinder cover was made of stainless steel, the connecting rod bearing cover was made of brass. I was told that while under ownership by Mr. St. John, some type of asbestos was added on the boiler to insulate it.

'If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of this engine, please write to me at the address above, or phone (317) 861-3930.'

Scale Avery made by H. C. Christgau of Grand Meadows, MN, (engine #7 built) at the Cedar Valley Engine Club show.

PAUL RENO, 3254 Kansas Street, Oakland, California 94602 sent us this letter, 'I just got the latest issue of IMA and I enjoyed the article on the 'Roots of Motive Power.' I was up there last September and took these pictures to send you but had never got around to it. If you want to see steam, and hear good whistles that is the place. The show is in the valley among the redwoods. A few years ago, when I was there I went up to town for Sunday morning breakfast. Looking off the hill into the valley, the only cloud or fog in the sky was right over where Cris Baldo had the big boilers running.'

The Saturday night BBQ is worth the trip up there. The show is free. I only wish I was closer so I could help out more. When they make steam, I mean they make steam, not someone's pop off valve blowing off. I don't recall one blowing off the two days I was there in 1997. With their school they have more and better help nowadays. That is the only steam show I've been to in the last two years.

Raymond concrete pile driver. This driver used to drive piling for the Pacific Telephone building at 13th and Franklin Streets in Oakland. Last time I saw it in use was in the '60s driving piles for the Cypress Freeway over crossing that fell down in the big quake of 1989.

I go along with Mr. Bredemeier. I like to see all kinds of that old farming equipment working. But dependable work horses to use are not easy to come by today. Sandwich Company made a lot of wooden horse machinery. I would like to have a set of those big cast oblong gears that were used in the old wooden Sandwich gas engine balers.

The only two surviving balers I know of are at King City, California, and Union Gap, Washington.

'We have the three parts for a J.D. grain elevator, wagon lift and a two horse powered sweep. I had intended to get hitched up this winter, but with the rain and the mud, I can't get at it. Also, I have a one horse sweep powered grain grinder to paint and reassemble for show use.'

We will not be having the Branch #6 Show at the Koster Ranch this year as it is geared to the grain harvest, which in the San Joquin Valley is May 31st to June 15th. The National Show will be held in Chowchilla, California, June 12-14, 1998.

'As I see it, the schools should teach more on how to build a fire in a boiler and maintain it.'

'1 do hope everybody read about Rough and Tumble 1997 steam school, page 20-21 in the March/April IMA. Recommendation was, don't pop that safety valve, it is for safety. The fireman is the regulator and 65-75 p.s.i. is absolutely plenty for an engine on display or a parade of stop and going.'

'This is an old sawmill photograph that I thought you might like for the Album . I am sorry I don't have any information to go with the picture. I found it in a used-book store and they didn't know anything about it. Maybe some Album readers may enjoy it anyway, and maybe someone may even recognize something about the picture. One thing for sure, they must have had plenty of draft in that boiler with a stack that high! Thank you for such a fine magazine.' E. GLAD-KOWSKI, 248 Deans Rhode Hall Rd., Jamesburg, New Jersey 08831-3003.

Well, that's it for this issue, keep those letters coming, and get ready for all those spring events around the corner!

Linda and Gail