The Story of a Large Engine and an Iron-Man

Mr. B. C. Beall

Mr. B. C. Beall, second owner of Aultman-Taylortaken at sawmill. Courtesy of William E. Hall, 15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.

William E. Hall

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15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.

This is the story of an Aultman-Taylor traction engine built in 1912, serial No. 8306. It is a 20 hp. with a bore and stroke of 9' x 11', built to carry 130 lb. boiler pressure. This engine was built by the Aultman-Taylor Machinery Co. of Mansfield, Ohio, during the winter of 1911-1912. Mr. Joseph D. Miller went to the factory to inspect the erection of the outfit while it was being built, as there were some special items on it which was not standard. A special size thresher was also built to go with it, a 32 x 56, instead of the standard 32 x 50. It is impossible to tell when he was gone to Mansfield, from his home at White Oak (no plural, please), Silver Spring, Md., as the original papers have been lost.

Mr. Miller, who was a highly skilled operator and repairman of all types of equipment, is supposed to have paid cash at the factory for the engine and thresher. This was probably done by borrowing the money on a note drawn on a local bank, as this was the local custom here in this area. It probably was in the neighborhood of $2,500 to $3,000 dollars, which was a lot of money in those days.

Mr. Miller was a well-to-do person in the community, and was known to one and all as just 'Joe', even his own family friends, fellow-workers, bankers, neighbors, children and grandchildren. Joe made his living with one hand as he had lost his right hand in a corn shredder at the age of 20. He had an hammer made with a hollow wooden handle which was tied onto his wrist with leather thongs, and later a piece of belt with a buckle. He was truly an Iron-Man and it was a pleasure to have known him. He was born in 1877 and worked with machinery until his health failed in 1949, and passed away in 1957. It was necessary for his children to knit him special mittens with round ends so they would not pucker up on the ends, and put elastic bands in them to keep them on. On one occasion he worked most of the day on a well pump in. a well pit and you can guess the surprise of the pump owner when he discovered Joe had been working alone with only one hand.

It was traditional that as he left the yard to start his threshing runs, he would blow the whistle and people on farms 5 to 8 miles away would know that Joe was on the way, and they could start to get ready for him. Many times the trips meant detours of 5 or 6 miles to avoid weak bridges, so the engine was equipped with an extra water tank as some of his runs between jobs was also 5-8 miles between water stops. The close maneuvering in some locations would not allow the use of a four-wheel water tank or a tender. The thresher and baler were enough to have to handle in a tight barn yard, especially with one hand. I might add that most of our threshing was done out of the barn loft.

He invented and installed a special straw rack and connected the blower so it ran very slowly and blew out only the chaff, and only clean straw fell on the feeder table or the baler, as they threshed in one operation. He was assisted in this by Mr. Walter 'Stump' Miller, who also ran the engine on some of its threshing runs.

The thresher was popularly known in my area as the 'BIG RED BOX'. He threshed for many people for 25 years has never been paid for it by them. He would sometimes write the bill down on the side of the thresher and then that winter paint right over the records. He carried a bicycle on the top of the thresher and sometimes would ride the bike home, getting home at two or three in the morning. He rode the bike from 1912 to 1918, when he bought his first car, a 1918 Dodge Town Sedan. This car sat in the barn in good shape until about 1941. It was also traditional for Joe to blow the whistle when he got home after the threshing run to let everyone know he was thru for the year.

By the way, here is the story of the Aultman-Taylor starved rooster:

'This is the cock that crowed in the morn

Mr. Joe Miller, original owner of Aultman-Taylor No. 8306. (Obtained through kindness of Miller family).

With feathers deranged and look forlorn
For scratch where he might and look where he may
He found not a grain his labors to pay
Aultman -Taylors thresher had been this way'
(taken from a 1897 catalog)

This story may sound as if I am writing a story as much about Joe, the thresher, etc. as the engine and this is true as they all are inseparable.

Now we will get down to the engine itself. This engine was used for about everything a modern tractor was used for, such as road construction, saw-milling, threshing, stump pulling, and many more jobs. As far as I know no plowing was done here in this area as the fields were too small, but some freighting was done, but not with this engine, except pulling the thresher and baler from farm to farm.

This engine has many unique features that keep us young engineers on our toes, as we frequently find things that should not be there but are, and things that should be there but are not.

The wheels were specially built to Joe's order with riveted cleats instead of being cast into the rim as on the standard Aultman-Taylor Wheel. It is the only Aultman-Taylor I know of that has them this way. The second set was specially designed and installed by Joe himself, after being cut and bent by J. B. Kendell Iron Works, of Washington, D. C. This is only one of the many special items Joe had on this engine. We have not figured some of them out yet. If anyone does not think that this engine did not see too much workit has its second set of cleats and second set of gears and third set of bull pinions. The last set of gears that were installed were road, or freighting gears, and they really make a difference in the draw bar pull, as I have demonstrated to myself and several doubting Thomas types. They were installed just before Aultman-Taylor went out of business in 1926.

The engine made its last threshing run in 1932 or 1934, when it was placed in storage in favor of a Hart-Parr gas tractor. It was next used about 1939-1940 to clear land for Stump Miller's new house, and then was parked again.

Joe could not part with the engine, and no one had started to collect engines in this area at the time.

Side view of Aultman-Taylor No. 8306 after restoration. Photo by Ray Brubacher.

There are many stories to be told about the engine and I will repeat a couple of them.

One is the story of the day my grandfather, Mr. B. C. Beall, of nearby Burtonsville, Md. who had worked together with Joe all their lives, paid Joe a surprise visit. As he pulled up in the yard at Joe's house, he found much to his horror the engine completely dismantled and laying about in pieces. After my grandfather leaped out of the old Model 'A' we used for a tool wagon and found Joe he yelled 'My gosh, Joe what happened'. Joe calmly replied, 'Nothing Bun, I just wanted to look at it.' This is the way Joe took care of his machinery and is one reason my engine is in as good a shape today as it is.

Another is the story of the time one of the spring-loaded grease cups on one of the front wheels became plugged up, and before Joe realized it the front wheel locked up on the axle and wrung the axle off right in the middle of the road. It was necessary to drill the broken piece of axle out of the wheel hub and order a new axle for it.

Many people did not approve of putting motor oil in the boiler every winter, but this was almost a religious procedure with Joe. He would fill the boiler almost to the top and then add about five gallons of oil, and warm the boiler up and slowly drain it down. Between 1912 and 1963 only one new tube had to be put in the boiler. This tube had a pin hole in it right in line with the feed water inlet from the cross-head pump, which Joe used at all times, seldom using the injector. In fact the engine still has the original U. S. injector on it and it is in perfect working condition, but the seats in the pump are almost worn out.

Mr. B. C. Beall, who was my grandfather, and I were the only ones still using steam but Joe would not sell us the engine. One day my grandfather, who had been a life-long friend of Joe's kept asking Joe about it, and Joe finally said, 'Alright Bun I will sell you the engine for $500 dollars.' My grandfather said, 'No, Joe I won't give you but $300 dollars.' Joe said, 'NO' and that was the end of that for the day. My grandfather finally bought the engine from Joe's family after Joe's health became real critical. This was about 1955.

My grandfather had been with such machinery for over 50 years and I had been with him since I was 5, as I was raised by them from 5 weeks old due to the death of my mother. My grandfather and I replaced our 16 hp. Frick with the Aultman-Taylor on our sawmill in 1956 and sold the Frick, which was in bad condition. My grandfather suffered a heart attack in 1957, and I closed the mill soon after due to this and a shortage of timber.

After my grandfather's death in 1960, I took the engine home, as like JoeI could not part with it.

In 1963 I began the restoration of the engine to factory-new condition including all new tubes. With the help of a friend, Mr. William Waters, of Damascus, Md. the work was completed in 1964. It has been kept this way with help from him, Eddie Adams, currently in the U. S. Navy and several more, including Stump Miller. I must also remember the Burtonsville Fire Dept. for the occasional 'loan' of a load of water.

Aultman-Taylor No. 8306. Left to right:-Eddie Adams, U. S. N. engineer; 7-11 store manager; William Hall, owner; Jody Barger, shotgun guard. Photo by Ray Brubacher. C

I might mention that this is the same Aultman-Taylor that has been in the Iron-Men Album in two other stories, one of the rides Eddie and I took on New Year's Eve to the New Year's Eve party at twelve midnight, (Mar.-Apr. 1970 mag.) the other a five-mile trip down paved highways, including a stretch of 70 mph. expressway, back to the farm site where it was when it was new (Sept.-Oct. 1971 issue). Both trips were photographed by Mr. Ray Brubacher all of the way. The only one who knew we were coming was Joe's grandson, who tried to stay home from school, but went to school rather than give the secret away. Mrs. Miller, Joe's daughter was surprised while working in the yard, Stump, who ran the engine on threshing runs was called home from work, and Doug, Joe's grandson, who occasionally gets a chance to play with the engine, the third generation of the family to do so, was soon on the scene.

This engine has frequently been exhibited at the Maryland Steam Historical Society show at Arcadia, Md. and at the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Assoc. Show at Berryville, Va. It was also operated at the Knights of Pythias picnic at Laurel, Md. and The National Capitol Trolly Museum near Silver Spring, Md. It is frequently fired up at my place on Saturdays and Sundays as I have a one mile gravel road I can run it on for fun. I also pull pine trees on my place to clear more ground.

While doing so I encourage young people to care for it and learn to run it. I repeat again that only with the help of the young will we keep our engines running.