Peerless steam engine

John Shirk #2.


Content Tools

I hope you've all ordered your 2001 Show Directory by now, because this colorful, popular book has been moving out of our warehouse very quickly, and there's always the possibility that we will run out later in the season! If you ordered yours early, you ought to have it by now.

As usual, Judy Whiteside was selling Directories and other books down at the annual Boiler farm sale held each year in Lancaster County in late February. Unfortunately the two day sale was subjected to quite a bit of snow and some very low (for our area) temperatures. She reports, though, that she heard lots of nice comments about IMA

Well, we'd better get on to the letters, since there are again quite a few of them, and some really great pictures to share! Our first correspondent will be a familiar one:

GARY YAEGER, 146 Reimer Lane, Whitefish, Montana 59937 (e-mail writes, 'I'd like to say Happy New Year to you and your subscribers (although this will be belated wishes). I found some pictures I thought might be enjoyed by your readers. I know you will be getting show pictures this time of year, but most people still like some old pictures.

'I have found around fifty pictures of the Big Forty Reeves engines in their original elements not counting the dozens I have of the Smolik Brothers' 40-140 #6867. Friend Melvin Pierce of Scranton, North Dakota, sent picture #1 to me.' I think it is one of the finest pictures of the Big Forty I have, because of the crew. It is an early Canadian Special with the Broderick Brothers' boiler. Notice how the Ham headlight was placed in front of the king post for more efficient lighting. Also notice how they have placed a lantern on the front of the side water tank to illuminate the furrow, when plowing at night.

'Picture #2 is of a 32 HP Reeves U.S. cross compound in Montana's Judith Basin. That's my dad, Joe Yaeger, with his hand on the friction disk guide (power steering) handle. He was looking at it to buy it, but never bought it. It appears that Dad carried it around with him for some time, judging from the poor condition of the picture.'

Picture #3 is a copy of a picture Lance Barnes lent me. It is a 22 HP under-mounted Avery in the Gallatin Valley of Montana. I don't know how well the picture will print for you, but the engine has 'Montana Special' painted on the boiler barrel, above the injector's boiler feed line. My Avery expert-friend, Don Bradley, tells me that the spring mounting of the bull gears to the driver wheels is what determined the engine to be a 'Montana Special.' Don's dad owned an engine exactly like this one.

'Picture #4 is of an 18 HP Avery under-mounted also taken in the Gallatin Valley. Jack Huffine is engineering the engine, threshing. His little daughter Erma is sitting on the engineer's seat. I don't think 18 HP Avery engines were very popular here.'

'Picture #5 shows my friend Paul Reno beside Best engine #175, in California.'

'Picture #6 has Paul Reno at the steering wheel of Best #185 during a parade near his home in California. Paul helped restore this engine.'

'Picture #7 was taken in 1999 at the Barnes Steam and Power Show at Belgrade, Montana. Lance Barnes' 16 HP Nichols & Shepard engine, built in 1899, is pulling the weight transfer sled. Mike Yaeger is at the throttle, trying to coax a few more feet out of the engine, while Tony Blanton is at the steering wheel.'

I just received a huge package of steam traction engine photographs for Christmas from my friend Kevin Small. They were of the 2000 Tri-State (Mineral Beach) Show at Finleyville, PA. Included was a three page handwritten letter. Hopefully I will get a letter off to him before he reads my letter to you. Kevin knows I am a 'photo-junkie' and keeps me abreast of Willis Abel's fine engine collection. I had planned to fly out to last fall's show with Austin Monk, but it didn't work out. Maybe I will make it this year?

'Well, I guess that is about all I have for this time. Please keep up the good work, you do this with Iron Men Album. The reason the bill on my cap is rounded, is from me sticking my head in my rural mailbox to see if my next issue of IMA has arrived!'

We got a brief addition to GARY'S letter that reads: 'Please tell my friend, Larry Creed, that 1 was glad that someone could explain the phenomenon I experienced pulling what I thought was a whistle chain (actually tail feathers) on my Case steam engine. Never again will I get the egg before the eagle. However, that original Case squawking apparatus still forces me to wear hearing protection, due to his roost being under the canopy. At least when my ears ring from the squawking, Larry, it takes my mind off of my hurting prayer bones!' Larry, I never got around to calling our friend (Mr. Reeves) Lyle Hoff-master, as you suggested, regarding the 'canary on the window ledge' story. I will do that sometime when I have a couple of hours to spare. You made me come to my senses, so I won't be headed down the same rocky road as Chady. You helped me recall what Lyle once said about my affinity with the 'teeth talk' engine. Larry, if I recall correctly, our friend Lyle admonished me saying, 'Avery made a pretty darn good jack.'

'I would like to commend Larry for the continuous flow of fine engine pictures he provides all of us. I was really impressed with the manufacturing process he provided all of us via his Huber catalog. That kind of information is very interesting to this old farm kid. Those of us who have spent our lives on the prairie in the west have missed much, regarding the many sources of the manufacturing processes that our friends have been able to witness east of here. Thanks a lot, Larry.'

W. LIONEL SMITH, Box 512, Stn. Main, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada S6V 5R8 wrote a letter to Anna Mae and never mailed it, until now. He was shocked to learn of her death (in 1994) and this is the letter he was writing to her.

'Dear Anna Mae, I have been a subscriber to the magazine since about 1979 and read quite a few that a friend loaned me before that.' I always looked forward to it coming every other month.

'I have often thought of writing a letter to Soot in the Flues,' but I am the world's worst writer and speller. But, when I got the November/December issue, and what you had to say about not getting any letters, and you might have to fold up, I thought I had better get off my butt and do something.

'I have followed you and your family all these years just like one of the family.

102 year old 16 HP Nichols & Shepard at Belgrade, Montana, on the weight transfer sled. Mike Yaeger at throttle, Tony Blanton at steering wheel, 1999.

'In 1989 we went to the Case Expo in Asten, Manitoba, and met Helen Case Brigham and her husband, and I looked around and did some inquiring. I thought you just might be there and we would get to meet.'

'Well, enough of this chatter, I will write something you might publish.'

('That is a far as I got when I got the news that Anna Mae had passed away.')

In a new letter, he goes on to say: 'What a shock it was to hear there are people out there who did not know Anna Mae.' I suppose I forget that I have been around a bit longer than a lot of people. You see I was born on the 17th of June, 1909, so I have been around for a few days.

'The letter that I have enclosed is the one I was writing to Anna Mae when I got the magazine with her death in it. What a shock it was, like the loss of a family member.'

'I wonder if it would be a good idea to re-publish that letter that was found in Anna Mae's typewriter? Just a thought.'

'I just missed the steam threshing, but I do remember a steam outfit once or twice when I was a little boy. Then, there were gas outfits from then, and I had my outfit in the '40s.'

I was always interested in steam and in 1990 I took a steam course and have a steam ticket now. In 1980 my son and grandson and some friends cut some oats with the binder and threshed. It was fun, so we organized vintage power machines that have grown into quite a successful museum.

'I hope you can make sense of this. It was just something I had to get off my chest when I was so upset with people who did not know who Anna Mae was.'

We also heard from GORDON L. WEBB, 806 Sixth St., Nelson, British Columbia, Canada V1L 2Z2, 'Your magazine has been a treasured part of my life for many years.' I grew up in Ontario, north of Toronto. We had a George White engine which I teethed on. I've never gotten over the fascination of steam.

'I have journeyed back to Ontario each year for over thirty years to enjoy the steam shows each fall, especially at Milton.'

JOHN B. SHIRK, 13142 Hope-well Road, Versailles, Missouri 65084 sent us this photo and says, 'This is a picture of a Peerless steam engine. There is not much history known about it.' Edwin Brubaker bought it in Sedalia. The man died that owned it and then it was for sale. Edwin Brubaker happened to be there and heard that it was for sale, made an offer and bought it in 1998.

'The boiler needed some work done on it and the flues were bad, too.' I think he put all new flues in it. Then he did some wheat threshing for a farmer, but the pulleys were not the right size for the steam engine. Then last summer Edwin bought logs from a logger and rented a sawmill. He wanted to build a new barn and cut the logs himself. I went over and fired it sometimes for the sawmill. This was the first that I fired with wood; we always used coal. The Peerless is a double cylinder. The pop valve is set at 125 pounds.

'The other picture has the number on it. This number seems very rare.' So, if someone has the history of this engine who the owner was, and where it was used please send it to me as I try to answer all letters that I receive.

'Edwin was told that the steam engine was sold in 1941. A junk dealer bought it and let it sit in Sedalia. They thought it was sold at Blackwater, Missouri.'

'Dear Folks at the Helm,' says FRANK J. BURRIS of 1102 Box Canyon Road, Fallbrook, California 92028, 'This is just to compliment and so much congratulate you for the most splendid work on the March/April issue of the Album just received.'

'The history and illustrations of that real old equipment is most interesting. Please do not over-stress yourselves; but give us a little more now and then.'

'For some reason, I am reminded of having met dear Elmer (Rizman), our founder, on the steps of the local Methodist Church where he was conducting Sunday School. Oh, for those halcyon days again! That was back in the early fifties, as I recall.'

'I have copies of the Album complete, as well as several others of our hobby issue.' In fact, I compiled the 'Gossip from the Backshop' stories so many years ago; with the kind assistance of Anna Mae and her wonderful husband (who sketched an exact view of my shop without ever having seen nor heard of it!) But I am now 98 years of age and devoting all spare moments to fighting politicians and the power shortage out here in the Golden State. But I was raised on the Frontier in South Dakota.

Incidentally, have you thought of establishing an e-mail address nowadays, being that it is so convenient? Mine is

'Bless each and every one of you in your endeavors.'

(Frank, it's certainly good to hear from you again, and yes, we do have e-mail! We can be reached at And maybe we should remind people, that we do have a website at

ELDON HELD sends this interesting letter, 'I decided to send you a couple of pictures. I numbered the backs of them, so here goes.'

'Pic No. 1 is of my grandfather Louie Perich and crew with a 25 HP Garr Scott, North of Egeland, North Dakota. Louie is standing on the ground, sixth from the left. He was born in Austria and came to North Dakota in 1892. He was my mother's father. The last engine he owned was a real nice 20 HP Reeves. In the fall of 1938 he let it sit with two of his neighbor's engines along a road north of Egeland.'

'That winter his neighbor decided to scrap his engines and sold them to a junky. That spring a couple of young men came out and busted them up.' Well, they busted up Louie's Reeves as well. Granddad was madder than a wet hen, but there wasn't much he could do about it. No one had any money in those days. He often said he wished he had the Reeves back again.

'Picture #2 was taken northeast of Bisbee, North Dakota. It shows Albert Spellman standing with the shotgun; he was the owner. He did custom threshing and carpenter work for a living. My dad Ed Held, standing on the ground fourth from the left, told me Albert very seldom worked on the rig and spent most of his time hunting ducks and prairie chickens. Dad's brothers, Hank, Fred, and Bill are also pictured with the engine, a 25 HP Peerless Geiser, which had a broken gear at the time and was waiting for a replacement part.'