No. 179


Tags: steam tractors, ,

The Bryan steam tractor owned by Justin Click of Lake Station, Indiana. (Photo by Sam Moore)

Talk about rare tractors – at the Wauseon, Ohio show some years ago, I saw a Bryan tractor, a large, conventional looking (at least from a short distance away) tractor of that era, although the engine block appeared to be huge. The tractor was owned by Justin Click of Lake Station, Indiana, and there's something very unusual about the Bryan, besides its rarity. 

George Alfred Bryan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, worked for the Santa Fe railroad during the early part of the twentieth century. His career with the SF encompassed every job one could perform on a locomotive, from wiping to firing and then operating the big steamers and finally, chief inspector. Based upon this experience, he became an expert on steam locomotives and seems to have become consumed with the idea of building lightweight steam vehicles using a liquid fuel, such as kerosene.

Bryan has a string of inventions relating to steam vehicles to his credit. He designed a burner that atomized and efficiently burned the fuel. He also developed a firebox that kept the flame separate from the boiler tubes, aiding in complete combustion and eliminating carbon buildup on the tubes, while allowing for quick steam buildup.

The flexible tubes themselves were bent into a zig-zag configuration and were connected at each end by a tapered plug and clamp arrangement that not only made the individual tubes easy to replace, but made the connection unlikely to develop leaks. Other patents related to how the engine should be mounted and the layout of a tractor chassis were issued to Bryan during the early 1920s.

According to The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805 – 1942, Bryan built a steam car as early as 1913, which he tested in the mountains and heat of New Mexico. Apparently, it worked well and Bryan founded the Bryan Harvester Company in 1916 along with his father. However, New Mexico was a long way from supplies of steel and other raw materials and a pool of skilled labor, not to mention the large agricultural market they would need in order to sell their tractors, so, in 1918 the Bryan Harvester Company was moved to Peru, Indiana. 


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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