The Leader Engine

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Jelloway, Village, Danville, Ohio 43014

(To the best of my recollection, I have never seen an article in the IMA about the Leader engine. I thought a little review on the subject might be of interest to some folks.)

Considering all the bad faults the old 16 hp. Leader engine had, which were plenty, it was just about the handiest old threshing engine ever built for hill country; where I lived and threshed all my useful life, and I wish to explain without, a doubt it was the best single cylinder belt engine that was ever built. They were more economical than the average engine.

The 16 hp. Leader was fast on the road. It didn't take forever and a day to get from one job to the next. In the fast gear, it took 14 revolutions of the band wheel to make one of the drive wheel. In the slow gear, it took 18 revolutions of band wheel to make one of drive wheel. The average engine took about 22 revolutions of band wheel to make one of drive wheel, give or take a little. The Rissell took 27, it always seemed to me. They could come as near traveling all day in the shade of the old apple tree as any engine I ever saw.

16 hp. Leader Engine used 10 to 20 per cent more 2' flues in the boiler than any other make of the same hp., except one or two. They used an extremely large smoke box and an extra large smoke stack and straight all the way up. A smoke stack that is chocked is no good. It doesn't amke any difference, what make of engine it's on or what it's on there for. For the very reasons already mentioned, it's possible to fire up a 16 hp. Leader, move down the road a mile set up and start threshing by the time you can get steam enough in some engines to turn on the blower.

All Leader engines used a relief valve in the exhaust. When you reduce the number of flues, reduce the size of the smoke stack, you are compelled to reduce the size of the exhaust nozzle to make it steam, that will make it throw sparks all over the countryside. When you are pulling sparks, you are also pulling heat out of it. It's just like giving it a dose of salts and there goes your economy right up the smoke stack. A 16 hp. Leader used a 12' stroke. They had good power and they had it at 125 lbs. of steam. I believe everyone that has used a 16 hp. Leader as well as other makes will affirm that fact. They used a 41' band wheel with a 12' face and the rim 1' thick, which made an extremely heavy band wheel and it produced steadier power than any other single cylinder engine. They used a flame sheet that directed the sparks to the bottom of the smoke box, once on bottom they had a tendency to stary there. When threshing after sundown, using old rails for fuel when you could see every spark that came out, the Old Leader seldom threw out a spark that didn't go out before it hit the ground. Of course, we always told the farmer an engine didn't throw sparks when the sun was shining. What a hell of a line that was. If there had been enough flues in the boiler, the smoke box and stack large enough, it would not have thrown any fire at all. The old Leader, when you got too much water in the boiler, it would spit drops of water. You could work right on. It wouldn't hold you up. All other makes, once they begin to pull water over into the lead pipe they hogged it. The longer the worse, and hold you up.

The reason, a 16 hp. Leader used a built-in separator in the top of the dome; that thing served two purposes. I have always been at a loss to know if they were doing or was it an accident, and for that very reason it seemed you could fill the old 16 hp. Leader boiler with water up to the dome and work right one. Al Leader Engines were side mounted. The drive wheels on the 16 hp. extended out from the boiler the same distance on both sides. Some engines, one drive wheel extends out about a foot farther on one side that it does on the other. That throws your line of draft off center. Under unfavorable conditions, that will make it run sideways like a dog, and all hell can't keep it from it. Anyone that doesn't think so, all they need to do is take an engine of that kind, hook the separator on in front and try to push it up a steep barn bank when the ground is a little wet and slippery.

Side mounted engines have so much more traction than rear mounted engines. When the bull pinion is in front of the bull wheel it presses down on the front side of the drive wheel and sets up atractive force that rear mounted engines just don't have. I never could understand why there is so much difference. The rear axle on a Leader Engine is all in one piece, and the boiler is mounted on coil spring. Most other side mounted engines used the fire box on the boiler for a part of the rear axle. Why they didn't tear more wheels off them old cheese boxes than they did, I swear I will never know! The skeins on the axle of a 16 hp. Leader was 6' in diameter, the skein and hub caps were all held in place with one simple lynch pin. The wheel base on a 16 hp. Leader was short. They would turn shorter than any other make of the same hp. in hill country where often times a few inches was the limit. That was a big help. Of course, in flat country where the horizon was the limit, it didn't mean much.

In hill country where I lived in steam engine days, 90% of the threshing was done out of the barn. The barn floor was always level while the barn yard in front of the barn where the engine had to set was never level. Therefore, it took a lot more work to level the engine to get ready to thresh than it did the separator, and it was much easier to level a short wheel base than a long one. Leader was the only outfit that I ever knew of that knew how to make a set of grates for the fire box of a traction engine. They were the only outfit in the whole kit and kabodle that knew where to put the feed water into the boiler. When I was a very young man still in my teens, I stole the two latter ideas from an old Leader Engine and applied them to Dad's engine as best I could with what I had to do with and the improvement was simply amazing, it was unbelievable. What a pity it is. Them damn drunks on the board of directors at the factory couldn't have stayed sober long enough to get a little something done.

Years ago Mr. Logan Snyder was a custom thresherman. He owned a 16 hp. Leader Engine, No. 2463. He lived at North Liberty. He bought a new separator and ordered it shipped to Butler, the closest railroad siding. It's a little over 4 miles from North Liberty to Butler over the hill road. When the new machnei came in, he took his engine and unloaded it. When he was ready to start home, he put the blocks in the fire box that was used to block the machine on the car, went past the coal pile at the grain elevator and threw in three shovels of coal, (and by the way that filled it) closed the fire door and never opened it all the way home, and he was not out of steam when he got home (he could have gone farther). Anyone that thinks they have a good 16 hp. engine just try that one for economy. Engines that require 175 lbs. of steam are impractical so far as economy is concerned. It takes too much water extra and fuel to put it up there and keep it there. It defeats its purpose before it ever turns a wheel.

The 16 hp. Leader being lightweight per hp. relieved the old bridges some, that with good traction and speed it was possible to skip over a soft spot and never make a slip, where other engines of the same hp. would be completely bogged down.

I will jot down a partial list of the Leader engines that I knew about William Blakely, 16 hp. Leader built 1903 - No. 2109; Frank Pore, 16 hp. built 1906 - No. 2203; Allen Cunningham, 16 hp. built 1909 - No. 2377; Clinton Howard, 18 hp. built 1914 -No. 2456; Herd Fletcher, 16 hp. built 1914 - No. 2458; Harley Stoke, 16 hp. built 1914 - No. 2465; Tarlton Ridenhour, 16 hp. built 1915 - No. 2471.

Anyone that will give me information on a Leader Engine that can be bought, I will appreciate it very much.