Soot in the flues

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It's hard to believe we're into the September-October issue already and headed for another year with Volume 33. Right now the shows are in session and material is being turned out which will make up the future issues. Keep the letters and articles coming in so we can keep the Iron-Men Family happy.

Now we'll get into the letters and the first one is rather long but interesting. It comes from ELIZABETH H. GILMORE, R. D. 1, Frankfort, Ohio 45628 as she writes: 'Enclosed find copies of a letter and newspaper items sent to me in reference to the steam boiler explosion in the article that came out in the May-June I.M.A. This is the only response to the article that I have received. I'm thankful Mr. Dickey was interested enough to write. It has satisfied our curiosity as to what happened.

(Here is Mr. Dickey's letter) I saw your article in the May-June 1978 Iron-Men Album. I don't know whether you already have this information or not, that I am sending you. One is a copy of an article that was reprinted in the Chariton Paper in 1968 and the other was done in the Des Moines Register October 7, 1977. At one time I thought of doing an article on this for the Iron-Men Album but will never get around to it. A friend of mine has a picture of the grove. (Art's address is: Art Dickey, 306 West Anthony, Corydon, Iowa 50060.)

The following is reprinted from The Des Moines Register, Friday, October 7, 1977:

OAKLEY, LA.Henry McKinnis, born September 10, 1880, died April 1, 1893, 12 years, 6 months and 20 days.

This boy went to the boilers top Obeying his father's command But when he poured his bucket of cold water in The flues did not expand.

That inscription is on the face of a multiple tombstone for a woodcutter father and his three sons killed by the massive blast of a steam engine when cold water from a nearby creek was poured into the engine's dry boiler.

The explosion killed Henry McKinnis, 51, and sons, Billie Ted, 10, and John O, 19, in addition to little Henry.

Pieces of Body Found

For a while, folks in this Lucas County town thought Henry had escaped the blast until they found pieces of his body.

John O. lived long enough to utter the words that became his epitaph as recalled by his mother, Elizabeth E. McKinnis.

'Said he, 'Ma, your time to die will come.

' 'Then it matters not when we leave here; yet soon we will all be gathered home.' '

Stories on the blast in two Chariton newspapers typify the colorful, competitive journalism of the day.

The Chariton Patriot which had a one-day jump on the story, carried a rather straight account, conceding that no one knew the cause of the blast, but describing the event:

'McKinnis lived at Lacona with his wife and family. He was a well known character and has for years been engaged in operating a portable sawmill in various parts of Warren County and several days ago he moved his plant to the woods three and one-half miles southeast of Lacona and near Oakley and began work for the farmers in the vicinity.

'Everything was apparently all right and the saws were going. The father was at work on the carriage and one of the sons, which one is not known, went back to see to the boiler.

'He was seen to hurriedly start the pump and then just as he began to walk rapidly away the explosion occurred.

'The boiler and all the machinery was shattered and thrown about the big lot in which they stood. The branches of the trees overhead were severed by the flying pieces of metal and wood.

'The noise of the explosion was heard for several miles and the excited farmers who at once rushed to the scene found nothing but the dead and mangled bodies....

'The cause of the explosion is unknown, but it is supposed that the water was allowed to run low in the boiler and that cold water was pumped into it, with the usual result.'

Same Story

Beaten by a day and trying to make up ground, the writer at the Chariton Herald turned loose every action word in his lexicon to tell the same story:

'On last Saturday afternoon about 2:00, the boiler of Henry McKinnis' sawmill, situated about two miles southwest of Newbern, in Liberty Township, this county, exploded with terrific force, killing the proprietor and three sons, who were working with him at the mill, aged respectively 52, 19, 12 and 10 years.

'Mrs. McKinnis and four small children, who are left in comparatively destitute circumstances by this terrible dispensation, were at the dwelling nearby at the time of the occurrence.

'She hastened to the mill where a heart-rending scene presented itself that was enough to appall the stoutest-hearted of the human race. The husband and father was found 75 yards from the mill gasping in the last throes of death, and wholly unconscious of her presence he uttered one solitary groan and life became extinct.

'The eldest son, John, was found some 10 yards farther away, conscious, but in a dying condition. He inquired of his mother what had happened and where he was.

'The distracted mother hurriedly explained to him the sad catastrophe and sought to relieve his sufferings, with the aid of neighbors, who, alarmed by the explosion had quickly gathered upon the ground but their efforts were of no avail, and death claimed his victim in less than one short hour.

Pile of Lumber

'The 10-year-old boy, Fred, was found dead near by a pile of lumber in the yard, against which he had been thrown headforemost, with his skull mashed in.

'The body of Henry, Jr., the 12-year-old son, who was acting as engineer and fireman, was literally blown to atoms, pieces of which were gathered up at a distance of 300 yards, one arm not being found till Sunday morning, and some portions of his body could not be found.

'The remains of the unfortunate victims were gathered up and prepared for burial as best it could be done by the kindly hands of sympathizing neighbors and were interred in one grave at the Baptist Cemetery near Oakley on Sunday afternoon.

'The grief stricken mother and four fatherless children have the sympathy of all human hearts who have learned of their sad bereavement.

'The particulars as to the cause of the accident is shrouded in mystery never to be revealed, as there was no one about the mill at the time save those whose lives were extinguished as by the besom of destruction.' (The dictionary defines besom as a broom, particularly one of brush or twigs.)

'The boiler was an old one, out of repair and in a leaking condition. A short time before the explosion, a neighbor was at the mill and observed that the water was low in the boiler, that the pump was not throwing as it should and the engineer was working at it and trying to get water into the boiler.

'It is supposed that the water kept running down in the boiler until it became dry and hot, and when the stream of cold water was finally started the inevitable explosion took place.

'Only Plausible Theory'

'This is about the only plausible theory, and under such circumstances no other result could reasonably have been expected.

'How any rational man could have been so reckless or thoughtless is one of the human mysteries that are almost daily brought to public attention.'

There are lines of poetry, too, on the stone of Billy Ted, but time and the weather have obscured all but one line in the sandstone: 'Jolly, laughing little Teddie.'

On Henry's too, only a couple of lines can be distinguished: 'Four loving ones from me are gone, four voices we loved are stilled. Co. B, Iowa Infantry.'

Of mother, Elizabeth, and the four younger children, there is no further word; no other stones. After 85 years, chances are that John's words have been fulfilled:

'Yet soon we will all be gathered home.'

A letter came from ROBERT RAUHAUSER, R. D. 2, Box 766, Thomasville, Pennsylvania 17364: 'I read the article in Iron-Men Album about monument to Shep so I decided to write and tell you about my new hobby, collecting dog licenses. It's the most interesting thing I ever collected. I starting collecting dog licenses after I had three operations to keep my mind occupied. Now, I'm hooked! I get to know and hear from people all over and get to do a lot of trading of dog licenses. I have my York County, Pennsylvania series completed now 1907 to 1978. Now, I'm working on the other Pennsylvania counties and other states. I still need the years for Lancaster County for quite a few years.' (That surely is a different hobby, don't you think, folks?)

Next letter comes from MELVIN R. GRENVIK, 115-1st Avenue, N.E., Kenmare, North Dakota 58746: 'Have received my first few issues since entering my subscription, and enjoy it from cover to cover even the ads are darned good reading!

I have a question about identification of the Case engine on the cover of the Mar/April issue. The inside caption says it is a 32-110. If this is so, it must be some year model made after 1909 with taller stack, longer smoke box, two smoke box cover latches instead of three and narrow drivers instead of the 36' width shown for the 110 in my 1909 Case catalog.

With my limited knowledge of this family of remarkable Case engines, I would guess it's a 28-80 rather than 110. Am I wrong?

Keep up the good work. Hope to have an article and pictures of my intended 1/3 scale Case project some day.

I intend never to let my subscription to our fine magazine lapse. The big steamers were much in use when I was a kid and I'm utterly fascinated by them.

P.S. In 1909 catalog the 110 was not offered with long canopy but locomotive type cab only.'

GILBERT KEYES, 446 N. Milwaukee Street, Plymouth, Wisconsin 53073 says: 'I enjoy reading Iron-Men Album very much and look forward to each issue. Could you put this note in your column I want to restore this engine and need information, 'Leroi' 2 cylinder open water jacket Model M H 3, built in the late 20s. This engine turns backwards. Thank you!' (Hope you get your answers Gil.)

This next letter is a cancellation for a show that's sad news but want to pass it on to you. It comes from ASEL A. GABEL, R.F.D. 1, Box 193, Sharon Road, Bridgeport, Ohio 43912:

'We are very sorry but we will not be able to have our Gabel's Threshing Bee this year. We had it for 10 years and had real good times meeting all you nice people and talking to you all.

For years now, we have been raising our oats, wheat, rye, and buckwheat on the farm behind our place. It was owned by the coal company. They are stripping that farm and we have no place to plant.

The farm that joins us on the south are core drilling getting ready to strip, so we can't get land there either. Our own place is not large enough to plant enough grain to thresh two days.

We have gotten several letters from you nice people wanting to know more about our Threshing Bee, others wanting to know how to get here and others wanting to bring in stands.

We are very sorry indeed to disappoint all of you. We are so disappointed ourselves, too.'

DANIEL H. STEINHOFF, Beach Hill Road, New Ashford, Massachusetts 01237 wants to comment: 'In reading my article on the Hydraulic Compressed Air Plant in the July-August I.M.A., pages 18 and 19, I find I made a couple of errors. First there are two B's on the schematic, one should be C, however, I believe the readers figured this one out. The other one on page 19 in parent thesisit has a period in the wrong place (20 inches air at 1.25 is a lot of air), it should be (20 inches air at 125 PSI is a lot of air). The steam men will get a laugh out of this as 1.25 or 1 lbs. of air per square inch would not begin to turn the wheel over, whereas 125 lbs. per square inch will produce power.

Sorry about this, I should have reread the article more closely before I submitted it.'

This letter comes from CHRIS DIEHM, 1238 W. 223 rd Street, Torrence, California 90502: 'I have written to Burt Dillon and tried to answer his question as to what make was the largest steam tractor built. While I may have 'missed the boat' as to what make was the largest steam tractor built in America, I think that many readers of Iron Men would be interested to read that Jack Norbeck's book, 'Encyclopedia of American Steam Engines' lists both Case and Russell as having built steam tractors as large as 150 horsepower. This is their stationary or belt horsepower rating. Their drawbar rating may have been approximately 50 horsepower.

Case built their 'monsters' between 1904 and 1907. Russell was listed as building them in 1907 and may have built their 'Goliaths' for a number of years after Case quit. The Case engines had a 14 x 14 inch bore and stroke and operated with 160 pounds steam pressure. Their two speed gear or power train was too weak to take power thrust of the huge steam cylinder. Only a few of these big Case steam tractors were built and most of them were returned to the factory in Racine, Wisconsin. The book does not mention that the big Russell engine had any problems. From the book's illustrations, the Russell appears to be heavier and more complex than the Case engine.

It is possible that larger steam tractors were built in England and maybe also here in America. Perhaps another reader or readers in Engine Land can supply more correct information than mine on Burt's question.'

G. VAUGHN SMITH, Powerhouse Museum, R. D. 2, Box 262A, St. Matthews, South Carolina 29135 would like to share his letter with you folks: 'We have had for several years a small Farquhar engine that evidentially once was the power unit of a portable engine with about a 22' boiler. The engine was rescued from a sawmill after a fire and is completely burned out but still carries the builders plate with serial number 8176.

Since there is no hope of finding another original portable boiler, I have had the idea of building a small traction engine that would be about 2/3 full size but I would like to make it as close to an actual Farquhar engine as possible.

I am writing to ask help from any Farquhar traction engine owners that would be willing to spare a few minutes time corresponding to help us build our engine as authentically as possible. I will be more than happy to pay the film cost for any pictures that would help show the construction details. .

Thanks for your time and I would appreciate hearing who has built an engine of this size from scratch since I am sure that there will be many pitfalls, that could be avoided through experience.'

PARLEY G. CARPENTER, Guys Mills, Pennsylvania comments 'You are doing a great job with the I.M.A. and the articles and pictures are very interesting. I like the columns and the Christian sentiments of our beloved brother and editor who founded the paper (Elmer Ritzman). May God rest his soul in peace and bless all you good people who are carrying on Rev. Ritzman's dream. As promoter and founder of Pioneer Steam and Gas Engine Society of N.W. Pa., Meadville, Crawford County, it is a great honor to be associated with the fine paper and all connected with it.'

BARBARA (CHANDLER) REAGAN, 1104 Harney Drive, Lebanon, Indiana 46052 writes: 'I'm sending for this I.M.A. subscription as a Father's Day gift to my dad. He has been ill with a heart problem since April and spent most of the month of May in the hospital. I'm sure he would appreciate hearing from his many friends he has made through the years. He is retiring and will have time to answer his letters.' (She did not mention his name though, but maybe some of you will know the name REAGAN hope so then you can write him.)

The correct address of WILLIAM HALL is 222 Porter Avenue, Seaside Heights, New Jersey 08751 as he tells us in the following note: 'I wish to thank you for the publication of the article I wrote some time ago about the tragedy which took the life of John Saddilac. However, since I wrote the article I have moved and my current address is as above. I'd appreciate a note in your column as I often get letters concerning my articles and any sent to my Maryland address will not reach me.

And that about finishes up the column letters for another deadline keep having fun while the weather holds out, for too soon we're heading for the cold area of the year isn't it something how time flies?