107 Years of Family Farm Steam Power

Box 271, Hamiota, Manitoba, Canada ROM 0T0.

As fourth generation of family farm steam power, I would like to
make a few comments. My grandfather, great grandfather and great
uncles were all steam men as well as carpenters by trade. My dad
and uncle were die-hard steam men as well as operated a large
sawmill operation between 1920 and 1931.

They ran the basic general run of the mill portables and early
traction engines between 1880 and 1900. When they migrated from
Ireland to Ontario in the early 1800’s they worked in carpentry
as a trade. They all had some steam experience when they left
Ontario for Western Canada in the late 1860’s. When leaving
Ontario they travelled to Fargo, North Dakota where they took a
barge up to Winnipeg on the Red River. Being carpenters by trade,
they lived in Winnipeg for a few short years and helped build one
of the first wooden bridges over the Red River in Winnipeg. In the
late 1870’s they came out to Hamiota to lay claim to several
quarters of homestead land. In the 1880’s and early 1900’s
they built some pretty impressive buildings, some of which stand
today.

As I already mentioned, they farmed with the general run of the
mill portables, hand fed threshers, early traction and feeder style
threshers from 1880 to 1900. In 1901 my grandfather bought a new 25
HP Case steam engine to use with a Cock O’ The North wooden
thresher they had been using previously. As my grandfather was a
large custom thresherman they wore out this outfit and bought a
slightly used 75 HP double simple Reeves and brand new 40 x 60 wood
Nichols and Shepard thresher in 1910. In 1917 my grandfather bought
a brand new 1914, 80 HP Case steam engine; the last new steam
engine to be railed into Hamiota. The old Reeves got relegated to
buzzing wood, occasionally grading roads for the R. M., but mainly
sat for some time to come.

In 1927 my grandfather bought a new 36 x 60 steel Nichols and
Shepard thresher. A first cousin of my grandfather bought the old
Reeves and 40 inch wood Nichols and Shepard thresher to handle some
of the custom threshing. A few years went by and my
grandfather’s cousin never paid for the old Reeves and 40 inch
wood thresher now worn out. One Sunday afternoon in the summer of
1940 my dad and uncle steamed up the 80 HP Case, drove twelve miles
near Decker and towed the old outfit home. The old Reeves was sold
to a neighbor who used it for two years to break sod and was then
junked in favor of a 60 Cat which I own today.

My dad and uncle operated the threshing outfit from as early as
1912, as that particular year my grandfather got his arm caught in
the cylinder pulley of the 40 inch N and S thresher and had it
taken off. In 1912, after two years of building, my grandfather
just completed a large Ontario bank barn 45 x 90 feet all fitted
together with wooden pegs which stands well today. My dad often
told the story of my grandfather’s never getting any enjoyment
out of the huge barn he built for horses because of his arm loss.
My dad and uncle ran the 80 HP Case engine on the 36′ N and S
thresher until 1942 and then of course ran a gas tractor on the
36′ until 1947 when the 21 Massey combine took over and custom
threshing was finished.

The 36′ Nichols and Shepard threshed oats on my dad’s
and uncle’s farm until 1952. My cousins still house the 36′
which we still use occasionally; it is in mint condition in the
original steamer shed built around 1900.

It amazes me how someone from Montana wrote an article in IMA
grabbing at straws and all of a sudden re-wrote my family’s
history to the way he thought it should be!

My dad and uncle never really liked the Reeves so they cut the
tank off so they could see to back up and of course to watch the
24′ breaking plow and road grader. Dad said over and over you
had two motors to grease and tighten up every morning. Dad also
said you couldn’t see around the left side or over it so it
wasn’t very handy for road grading especially when you came
back on the same side. Also the double was hard on water as
compared to the 80 Case. If the Reeves had been the only engine my
dad and uncle had operated with no other engine to compare to they
probably would have been satisfied with the Reeves. Why did my
grandfather buy a new 80 Case to do the bulk of the work and the
Reeves filled in a few corners for a short period of time?

Reeves engines plowed a lot of land in Western Canada and the
Canadian Special was very heavy built. They had a lot of iron to
get over the ground and everyone knows the single cylinders were
more efficient than double simples and cross compounds. A lot of
farmers were not concerned with the amount of coal their engines
burned or how much more water their engines used so it didn’t
matter.

The Reeves engine is a very nice show piece engine and has a
pleasing soft tone exhaust and can never be made to sound like a
sharp Advanc e Rumely Universal no matter how hard it is worked.
Let’s face it, I basically like all steam engines like most
everyone else and have had to respond to articles constantly
nitpicking Case engines. Case engines have proven themselves very
well and are here to stay. Case used the terminology
‘Simplicity’ with the use of all steel brackets, steel
wing-sheets and steel links etc., they got away from the huge bulky
castings many engines pegged onto their boilers.

Many models of engines gave a lot of trouble with boiler stud
leakage under heavy castings with any heavy draw bar work at all.
As Case engines used a large amount of steel it kept their weight
and cost down and anyone without a degree in engineering could run
and fix them.

Yes, there were better valve gears, but let’s use ,for
example, the link reverse. It had a quick cut off but once these
valve gears started to wear out and the average operator tried to
adjust them he was lost. The large slides wore oval so shims would
cause the drawblocks to bind. You had two eccentrics to become worn
and they had a habit of turning when they become dry. You soon
ended up with a lot of lost motion and not very pretty stock talk.
Good machine shops were far and wide that could do that kind of
repair work and not many operators had the knowledge to set the
more complicated valve! Case sold themselves just like farmers ask
around today to see which tractors give good basic service, are
accessible to work on and operate (Simplicity) and, of course, the
bottom line is the cost factor.

The Advance Rumely Universal is a very good engine; one of my
favorite but took most of its blueprints off a 65 HP Case. There
were many other good engines, don’t get me wrong, but I was
talking ‘Simplicity’, durability and cost. If I were a
young farmer going out to make a living the three middle class
single cylinder engines I would pick are the 75 HP Case, 25 HP
Aultman Taylor and the 25 HP Rumely Universal. These engines
including valve gears, castings, gearing, wheels and boiler size
were reasonably light weight, simple to work on, were easy to
handle from an operator’s point of view and were medium priced
as compared to similar HP engines, but ran with three or four more
tons of cast iron pegged onto the boiler.

I just read another cheap shot attack on the 110 HP Case steamer
that someone said it had a laminated piston rod. That 110 Case at
Mt. Pleasant had 77 years for someone to cobble the piston rod and
any knowledgable steam man would know that Case and other companies
as well didn’t use laminated piston rods from the factories.
Let’s face it the 110 HP Case broke more land than any other
engine of its size built so has proven itself in the Engines Hall
of Fame! Cheap shots from jealous steam men can never take away
what these old engines have already proven!

We could pick on all steam engines on our show grounds and find
faults either designed by the company or some part someone cobbled
up.

The following information is a back up to previous articles I
have written. I am going to state documented facts printed by the
Winnipeg officials and anyone wishing photo copies for their
records or, if they are offended, I will be glad to send them
copies.

The Information comes from an Avery parts catalog and 1911
recording of the plowing contests at Winnipeg.

Don’t get me wrong on Avery, they had their problems here in
Western Canada of frames breaking and wearing out in the dust but
they make a very nice show piece engine. Their motors run nice with
the Gould balanced valves and their basic steam tractors handle
very easily. Like the Reeves, the undermount Avery has an
impressive class of distinction no one is going to take away and
they didn’t copy anyone else. You also have to admit that the
110 HP Case stands up proud with the distinctive locomotive
cab.

Now getting down to basic facts the 22, 30, and 40 Avery had 7 x
10 cylinders. As printed in the Avery parts catalog and remembered
by some of the Avery experts, Avery built two special engines
numbers 4240 and 4420. These two special engines had 8 x 10
cylinders and one of these two engines was sent to the Winnipeg
trials in 1911. Avery also experimented with one compound number
4220. Now as it states in the data, the 8 x 10 Avery is rated 30 x
90, ran 240-250 normal RPM and the total weight given loaded with
water was 22 tons. The standard 30 Special Avery (or 40) was
weighed in at 20 tons loaded on a previous year.

Now, in the two hour economy test the Avery was running 267.5
RPM’s and developed 111.355 brake HP. In the half hour brake
test the Avery ran at 281 RPM’s and developed 159 HP. Was this
a fair test with the special built oversize cylinders and excessive
above normal RPM’s? How long could you keep steam up in the
boiler and how long would the crankshaft stand 281 RPM’s? The
old Avery experts will tell you they experienced crankshaft
breakage under normal loads and RPM’s.

Now back to the 1911 Winnipeg Exhibition test sheets. The 6.5 x
10 x 11 Steam Tiger Pull ran 257 normal RPM’s and was rated 33
x 90 HP not far off my previous article on calculated HP. Also the
given weight of the Steam Tiger Pull was 18 tons with boiler and
all three water tanks loaded. On the two hour economy test they ran
the Tiger Pull 293.8 RPM (nearly 37 RPM over normal) and it
developed 101.52 brake HP. They ran the normal steam pressure of
150 pounds so what would the Tiger Pull develop at its normal RPM
of 257? Now in the one half hour brake test they ran the Tiger Pull
at 285.9 RPM’s and they were able to push out 150 HP for a
short time. Gaar Scott doubles were notorious for breaking
crankshafts under normal loading so how long would the crankshafts
last at the RPM’s mentioned? Was this an honest contest to what
the engine would do in the field under normal RPM’s?

Anyone wanting photocopies of the printed data from Avery and
Winnipeg trials please write me! This is a follow up article to a
previous one Bob Anderson sent in comparing the 1911 Winnipeg
contests (which Case were not entered) to a previous year when Case
had entered. Bob had taken facts from one year and placed them
appropriately comparing another year but left out most of the
details I have just mentioned. My facts are from printed data, not
from assumption or the way I wish they had been to suit a
particular engine I like. I realize someone disgruntled will now
write in and say men and companies were paid off to sell Case,
Sawyer or some other make. I guess you can’t and never will
please everyone. Avery and Gaar Scott were not scared to print the
data I just gave.

I have a basic love for all steam engines, so let’s show a
little respect for our seventy and eighty year old engines whether
they be a 6 HP Russell or an 80 HP Waterloo. Our old engines have
served one person or another very well no matter what make they
were, so why try and rewrite all the record books. If a particular
engine has earned its honours and served its owner well, let’s
quit being sour grapes, enjoy our engines and be men.

‘…the 110 HP Case broke more land than any other
engine of its size built…’

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