17HP Minneapolis Compound Engine

17hp.Minneapolis compound engine and a 36x58 Minneapolis Separator. Mr. Blank on the engine and the picturewasmadein1904. Courtesy of R. H. Blank, Walcott, Iowa.

R. H. Blank

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Salina, Kansas

In 1898, I unloaded and operated a new 20 hp. double Reeves, a wasteful engine, at Danville, Kansas, and as I drove it into the yard I saw, near a shed, a rear mounted double Ritchie & Dyer with a broken crank shaft and the engine whipped to pieces. Reeves & Co., built independent stackers in the late 80's and early 90's. That Company bought Ritchie and Dyer and developed Reeves double and cross compound engines. Nearly all plow engines sold by Reeves & Co., were cross compounds because of the economy of the cross compound over the double. Reeves cross compounds earned enviable reputations as plow engines and wherever prairie grass sod was plowed, Reeves cross compounds plowed it. Reeves & Co., if there was any cream in the steam plow business, got it. Trouble was reported with crankshafts in Reeves engines. Neither Ritchie & Dyer nor Reeves engines were built with center bearings on crankshafts. The sight of the Ritchie & Dyer, whipped to pieces, remained with me and my reason for suggesting center bearings on crankshafts of cross compound engines.

Advance Thresher Co., built more than 13,000 engines, thousands of separators and much other equipment from 1884 until 1912 and so successfully managed its business, the newly organized Rumely Co., paid 282 for Advance Thresher Company stock. It is not probable, with such a record of achievements, that company was influenced by suggestions and the new engine would have been what it was, without the suggestions.

Advance Thresher Co., built a cross compound rear mounted engine, with live axle, center bearing on crankshaft, intermediate gear keyed to a shaft with babbitted bearings, improved Woolf reverse gear and without a clutch.

I sold 40 hp. cross compound engine No. 11,140--the sample at the Kansas City Branch. It was a coal burner boiler with jacket, cab and full water and coal equipment,-- a proud appearing engine. The boiler contained seventy 2x100' flues. Drive wheels were built up, with flat spokes, 30' rims and 78' high,-- a high wheel but a foot too low. The crankshaft was 4?' in diameter, counter shaft 53/8 and rear axle 5?. The high pressure cylinder was 9x13' and the low 13x13'.

In the 1890's I operated 10 hp. Nichols & Shepard engine No. 3,381 in Lyon County, Iowa. The main bearings were brass with quarter box adjustment, sensitive to adjustment and if too tight would heat, expand and kill the engine almost instantly. We were threshing south of Rock Rapids. The night was clear and moonlight. The next morning was clear and frosty. We had threshed but a few minutes, before I went to the crank wheel side of the engine. The edge of the crank wheel was covered with brass cuttings and oil. The main bearing had been doped with powdered emery. The bearings did not expand and kill the engine, as when too tight. We removed the crankshaft and cleaned it and the bearings but it was necessary to take it down the second time. Crops were large and rigs numerous. A highly rated engine man was operating an engine that day across the field. In 62 years I have not convinced myself he did not dope that engine. The little engine soon again was faithfully doing its duty and did for many years.

The 40 hp. cross compound was shipped, settlement made, fixtures attached, boiler steamed and engine driven down an incline to the ground. The warehouse and shop foreman from the Kansas City Branch, a highly rated man, was there to see the engine tested on the plow, as it was the first 40 and probably the only one sold at the Kansas City Branch. As usual in small towns, every man and boy, who could get on that engine were riding it. The shop foreman and I were walking together by the side of the engine. The engine had barely cleared the railroad switch, when it stopped so suddenly the riders were nearly thrown from the engine. The impact of the gears was terrific. It has been 45 years but I have not forgotten the expression of horror that spread over the face of the shop foreman, with the crashing sound of that engine.

The eccentric on the low pressure cylinder had slipped and reversed that engine. The low pressure chest cover was removed and as I looked into the chest, I saw at least a tea-spoonful of powdered emery on the bottom of the chest. Emery was discovered in bearings. Pistons and valves were removed and pistons, rings and valves cleaned. Bearings were removed and bearings and shafts cleaned but after exercising the utmost care it seemed all of the emery had not been removed as I replaced both cylinders, pistons, valves and rings with new ones. Furrows two inches wide had been plowed in the bottom of the cylinders. It seemed neither the owner nor the shop foreman fully realized the gravity of the situation. My experience with the Nichols & Shepard engine taught me a lesson and I thought the engine ought to be returned to the Branch, torn down and thoroughly cleaned. The shop foreman was sent there because of the Company's confidence in him. No other employee of that Branch, more fully enjoyed the confidence of the Branch Manager and he was worthy of it.

The engine did good work regardless of all that had happened, was powerful, economical and the gears were quiet. It easily pulled 12 breaker bottoms in buffalo grass sod. The owner's only complaint on the engine was the Woolf reverse gears. The double ported valves, although partly balanced, required power to move them and the reverse gears were overworked by them. Either piston valves or another kind of reverse gears, would have been an improvement and both would have been better.

The throw of those eccentrics was short and the eccentric arms were hitched to the short ends of the rockers and the valve stems to the long ends and was the same as hitching two horses to a three horse evener. The horse on the short end did the work and the eccentric was the horse on the short end. Too many joints, because of lost motion, reduced the efficiency of a reverse gear.

However, it made little difference to but a few, who had bought engines. The short reign of the steam engine as a plowing power was near the end, when Advance Thresher Co., built the cross compound engine. The large Oil and Gas tractors were here. Advance Thresher Company, before it sold, had built and tested a 40-80 gas tractor. The motor was a 7x10' four cylinder vertical engine and stood parallel with the frame. The power was transmitted through bevel gears.

When emery was discovered in the engine, I had no idea where or by whom, the engine had been doped. Later it was reported done in the Kansas City Branch by disgruntled employees of the shop, who disliked the shop foreman and sought to injure his standing with the company. They did their work well, when they doped the engine but failed miserably when they attempted to discredit the shop foreman with the company. In 1912, when H. G. Schnelle was appointed Branch Manager for Avery Company's Dallas Branch, Geo. L. Roberts went with him.

Readers of THE ALBUM have read about the plain white Dunkard Church southwest of Aurelia, Iowa. Others and I, when I was a boy, sat in those white pine seats, with straight backs and listened to much about Hell.

H. G. Schnelle and Geo. L. Roberts have been peacefully sleeping many years but to the WEAK men, who did the wrong, because of fancied wrong, may the same merciful God, to whom John Early so pleadingly prayed for our souls, have been merciful.