131 Robin Road Blackwell, Ok 74631.
The July-August 1986 Iron-Men Album was the best in years. There
are several articles I enjoyed. John Forney’s article Loved and
Fond Memories was very good, along with Melvin Kistler’s letter
to David Bennett. I would also like to say congratulations to Kathy
Seybert. I bet she is a fine engineer. In John and Melvin’s
articles they speak of several old timers. I knew most of these
men. It did really bring back ‘Loved and Fond
My start with steam was much like John Forney’s. My dad A.
E. Atteberry left Missouri where he grew up running steam engines
and moved to Turon, Kansas in 1910. Dad started his custom
threshing career on a large scale in 1910. He owned and ran several
makes of engines Case, Nichols and Shepard, Avery, Gaar-Scott and
Reeves. Of these engines the Case and Nichols and Shepard were his
favorite. I have heard him say many a time, you can not beat a Case
for traction work. The Nichols and Shepard was a 25 HP double side
mount. Dad liked this engine real well for belt work, threshing
headed grain. He also had high praise for Gaar-Scott and Reeves,
which were both double rear mounts. In 1913 Dad ordered a 30 HP
Undermount at the Wichita threshers convention. The big Undermount
was not well adapted to his work. I guess the big Undermount really
looked good to Dad at the Threshers convention. He told me they
really sold him on it. The Big Undermounts were show engines in the
old days and are great show engines today. Like John, the first
engine I rode on was a Russell. My first engine was a 20 HP Huber
plow engine, the second engine was a 65 Case No. 32724. Next year
the 65 and I will celebrate forty years together.
My interest in steam started out before the first shows. In our
area there were only five or six men that really loved the old
steamers. Times were rather hard, money was short. My dad’s
health was failing and I had to help support my family and attend
school. The early collectors really carried the cross. We caught
hell from neighbors and most anyone we came in contact with. People
would say, ‘What do you want with that old junk?’ In those
days we were trying to save the steam engines from the junk man. No
one thought they would ever be worth anything. We wanted these
engines because we loved them. With very limited finances we were
able to save only a very few.
My life time steam buddy Lyman Knapp saved a 6 and 25 HP
Russell, 10 HP Canton Aultman and several large tractors. I was
only able to save the 20 HP Huber plow engine and 65 Case. We had
one engine in our area that was in much distress. About ten miles
south of my home sat a 40 HP Undermounted Avery. This engine is now
owned and shown each year by Mid West Old Threshers, Mt. Pleasant,
Iowa. I will not write a history on this engine as that is a long
story. If it had not been for my dad, A.E. Atteberry, there would
be a lot less history on this engine. It would have been cut up by
the junk man. The first owners of this engine were the Lucas
Brothers, Tonkawa, Oklahoma, then a man named Brown. Emery Pettit
got this engine in the 30s. Emery was a large farmer. He tried
using the engine as a steam cleaner, which did not work out well.
My dad and Emery were in the implement business together at Ponca
City, Oklahoma. It was through my dad’s influence in 1939 that
Emery did not junk the engine, as he had no love for it at all. The
old 40 survived WWII and was not cut up and shot back at us. The
shows got started. We started reading the Iron-Men Album. Still no
one wanted the Big Avery. It was through the efforts of Harold
Ottaway, Prof. Stroud, Lyman Knapp and myself that we got our good
friend Roy Kite from Bird City, Kansas to come and buy the 40 HP
Undermounted engine. Roy was a Case dealer, a farmer and collected
steam engines. His first love was for Case engines. We knew now
that the Avery was safe and the cutting torches would never get
her. Even people who claim to be Avery fans did not turn one hand
to save this engine. I guess some people are like a rainbow, always
show up after the storm.
I am sure the Avery Company sold this engine as a 40 HP.
However, when I was a young fellow all the old timers called it a
30 Special. I can now see why they did, as the Avery Catalogue
shows this boiler as their 30 Special. Roy Kite sold the big Avery
to Mr. Willits from Iowa as a 30 Special. At first Mr. Willits
referred to the engine as a 30 Special but it wasn’t long and
it became a 40. I have become very good friends with John Lucus,
grandson of the original owner. From what John and his dad say,
they think the engine was sold by the Avery Company new as a 40 HP
and I think this is right myself.
I would just like to say one more thing in regards to this
engine. Odgen Dickerson was an old time engineer in this area.
Odgen and I worked together some and Odgen also helped Lyman Knapp
restore his 6 HP Russell in the late 40s and early 50s. Odgen told
me that he had run this engine and also that an accident had
occurred that killed a man. I asked a man who had known this engine
since it was new about this at the Tom Terning show a few years
ago. He told me this was not true. However John Lucus told me this
story was true and that a man was killed.
So the real heroes of this old Avery is my dad A.E. Atteberry
and the late Roy Kite. They are the ones that saved this engine
from the junk, when no one else cared about the Big 40.
I have heard some fellows criticize the larger old time
collectors. It was not always young fellows but men my age and even
older that never helped to save any of the old engines. Boys, if
these collectors had not gone out and took these engines away from
junk dealers, you would not have any to look at. These collectors
really bore the cross and were told to their faces a lot of times
that they were fools. Steam Engine Joe told Lyman Knapp to eat
sandwiches and buy steam engines. A lot of the old timers went
without a lot to save the steam engine. In my book, the early
collectors that took the criticism, when it was not popular to buy
steam engines are the heroes. Of course there were some who could
not buy an engine for different reasons but helped all they could
in the early collecting and shows to support this hobby
Even today people are going to great expense and time to save an
engine. Several engines have been built from parts and another
engine is here for us to enjoy. I salute these men also.
I have every issue of the Iron-Men Album and have read them all
several times. I do not recall reading about how you tell a 30 HP
Alberta and Saskatchewan Special Under-mount from a 40 HP. In my
article, ‘When Steam Was King,’ I said, ‘The two
engines were the same.’ Mr. Fey ‘Avery’ Sullivan said
in the May-June 1984 issue of Iron-Men Album that there was a big
difference. However, I have yet to read just what the big
difference is, or how you can tell the two engines apart.
I have a good friend who owns one of these big engines. He tells
me the ones shipped to Canada carried 175 lbs. of steam pressure
and were called 30 HP Alberta Saskatchewan Specials. This same
engine sold in the states carried 200 lbs, and were sold as 40 HP.
This is the best and most reasonable answer I have heard. Maybe
some of you fellows know the answer.
I am surprised the Avery Company did print the specifications in
their 1914 Catalogue. A copy of these specifications can be seen in
the July-August 1985 Iron Men Album. These specifications show
these two engines to be the same.
If you sat a 32 cross compound Reeves and a 40 HP cross compound
Reeves side by side, any school child could tell the difference.
The same would be true with 80 HP Case and 110 HP Case. These two
companies did not try to fool anyone. When you purchased their
larger engine you got a bigger engine. Not one with the pop screwed
down twenty five pounds. I wonder if anyone knows just how much
more the Avery Company charged for their 40 HP engine? Or did they
sell both engines at the same price?
Gene Drummond from Ohio wrote to Engineers and Engines two or
three years ago. Gene wanted to know why Justin Hingston called his
Big Undermount a 30 Special at first. Then it was later referred to
as a 40 HP. Gene, the reason for this change was that when Justin
got this boiler it was stamped 175 lbs. He ground off the 175 and
stamped it 200. Justin was told that someone would call his hand on
making this change. He said, ‘I don’t care. 40 HP sounds a
I first met Justin and Louis David in 1952 at the Wichita show.
I talked to Justin at Mt. Pleasant not long before he died. In my
thinking Justin put on the best steam show of all times. He was one
of the true pioneers of this hobby.
Case engines have always been very competitive. They were sales
leaders for years. When Case came out with the side crank, spring
mounted, double geared engine in 1898, sales made big increases
each year during the heyday of steam. If this style of engine had
been poor quality, like some would have you believe, Case could
maybe have sold the engines for two or three years, then people
would not have wanted them at any price.
Case engines were made of the very best steel. They were
powerful, economical, and lightweight. Their popularity grew each
year. Case engines cost less, they offered the best service and
financing. Case engines proved to be leaders in performance,
whether it was at a state fair, threshers convention or in the
field. Case engines were unbeatable at Winnipeg. Not for just one
year, but every year, they were winners. It’s really very hard
for people who hate Case engines to accept this fact.
Case engines could not be defeated in contest or in the field,
so they were attacked by many people.
In his article, John Forney said that the steam dome is too
small, the boiler too small, and that the reason for big sales of
Case engines was that they sold for less and compared them with the
Model T Ford. This is not the first time I have heard these
stories. People also liked to attack the Case steel separator. They
ran it down every way they could. I can remember people saying they
did not want a steel engine and burn their rear off. They said that
the sun would shine on one side causing all the shafting to get out
of line. I think all of you know the history. Most companies had to
come around and build a steel machine. Case stayed ahead of the
times. Case separators threshed more bushels of wheat in Kansas
than all other makes combined.
I would like to talk about the Model T Ford. Like Case engines
they were leaders. Again people would like for you to believe these
cars were no good and sold only because of a cheap price. The Model
T car had better metal in them than most of the other cars. These
cars took the cream and eggs to town, they plowed the muddy roads,
went out to the threshing outfit and were used very hard. They did
not break axles, did not tear up transmissions and clutches. Ford
gave good service. There were only a few cars that could take the
punishment the Model T Ford was given.
In the 20s four Model T race cars entered the famous
Indianapolis 500 mile race. These cars were 80% stock Ford parts.
They entered against cars that had special racing engines and cost
thousands more to build. Yet all four cars not only qualified for
the race but all four finished the race.
Lyman Knapp has been interested in cars all his life. Lyman is
very knowledgeable about the early cars. He owns a fine collection
of antique and classic cars. Lyman is no city slicker. He was out
there where the cars were used. Lyman drove these cars and was
always considered a fine mechanic. He was honored by the National
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club just a few years ago as the individual
in the United States that had done the most for preservation of
these old cars and their history. Having lived around Lyman most of
my life, I knew that Lyman knew cars of all makes and had grown up
with these cars. So I asked Lyman if he thought that, had the
majority of high priced cars gone out in the field and been used
like the Model T Ford, they would have stood up. His answer was an
emphatic ‘No!’ Lyman said, ‘Back in them days they
would have broken axles, tore up transmissions, clutches and for
the most part wouldn’t have took the punishment. A lot of the
expensive cars were too heavy.’
So it is true Case engines were leaders for several of the same
reasons that made the Model T Ford so popular. Case used the very
best of steel. Case turned down loads of steel and would not accept
it. This same steel was later sold to another company. Case engines
were very strong and yet much lighter than other makes. Like Jack
Beamish said, ‘Case engines were made to go over the ground,
not through it.’ From 1911 all Case boilers have met the rigid
Canadian boiler laws. All sizes of Case engines had Canadian
boilers. A lot of companies did not go ahead and build boilers to
meet Canadian laws. Some companies only built one or two sizes and
the rest of their engines could not enter Canada. But Case was not
cheap. They built all their boilers to meet Canadian law from the
smallest to the largest.
It has also been said that the Case engines had too small a
boiler and like John Forney said, they were ‘made cheap.’
So let’s compare his favorite engine, the 25-75 Russell and the
65 HP Case which is one size smaller than his Russell. I will
compare boiler size, construction, shafting sizes, etc. Please
study the chart showing each engine’s specification. I could
compare the 80 HP Case with the Russell but it is rated at 5 HP
more so I will use the smaller 65 Case which has a 10 HP lower
Dia. Boiler Shell
Length Fire Box
Width Fire Box
Size of Stay Bolts
8.84 sq. ft.
8.81 sq. ft.
Four 1?’ steel
through stays with
up set ends
support front and
Two additional 1′
diagonal braces on
Dia. Rear Axle
specs. not given
Dia. Crank Shaft
Dia. Counter Shaft
Differential Gear Width
Bull Gear Width
Type Boiler Barrel Joint
Butt Strap Double
Butt Strap triple
Boiler Pipe Openings
Reinforced Double Thickness
Upper Portions Rear Head
Front Tube Sheet Above Tubes
I am very fond of Russell engines. I grew up with them. I have
run them and been around Russells all my life. But I would like to
show that Case did compare very well with other makes. I will also
agree that Russell is a quality engine, so again lets compare
I think there is no question that both engines used the best of
materials, so I won’t say anything more about that. I won’t
compare valve gears except to say that Case used a Wolf, which was
a quick acting radial gear and Russell used the shifting eccentric
with double ported balanced valve. There is no question Russell did
more without using a radial gear than any other manufacturer.
Russell engines truly run, perform and handle beautifully.
Now let’s compare the boilers of these two engines: 65 Case
and 25-75 HP Russell. You will see that there is no big difference
in the boiler size. Talking about quality the Russell did meet all
Ohio State boiler laws. But as you will notice the Case had all
double reinforced outlets. Double thickness reinforced rear boiler
head and front tube sheet above the flues. Through stays with
additional diagonal braces were used on the Case boilers. Case made
all their boilers to meet the laws of Canada. Not just the ones
sent to Canada. I would not call a company that did this cheap or
that the engine was built cheap like some would have you
You will also notice that the 65 Case did compare rather well
with the 25-75 Russell in gearing and shafting. Notice the 65 Case
has a larger crankshaft than even the Big 40 HP Undermounted Avery.
Some time when you are around a 65 notice the crankshaft bearing
size. Then measure that against any engine of equal size at your
show. Look over the specifications of Case engines like the 30, 40,
50, 65, 80, 110 and you will notice that each size larger has
larger shafting, wheels, cylinders, and boilers. Case did not try
and use the same parts in several sizes of engines.
I own a 20-75 Nichols and Shepard double rear mount. It also has
a boiler that meets all Canadian laws and has through stays,
reinforced outlets, rear boiler head and front tube sheet double
thickness, reinforced. My 20 HP double rear mounted Keck has a butt
strap A.S.M.E. and Ohio Standard boiler. But it’s like the
Russell, no through stays, reinforced outlets or rear boiler head
and front tube sheet above flues double thickness. The Keck and
Russell are both good boilers but it has always griped me that Keck
did not go to the extra expense and build a boiler like my Nichols
and Shepard and Case engines. Keck and Russell just stopped a
I am not going into a long discussion of steam dome size at this
time. I would like to say that the real tall domes were not only
unnecessary but detrimental. They were a big condenser! Possibly
there are times when a large high dome will help about preventing
priming but in ordinary circumstances they will only serve as a
condenser. A lot of the steam that has been condensed on the inside
of these big domes will be picked up by the outrushing steam and
carried to the engine.
One of the big reasons for Case’s great success at Winnipeg
was their boiler design. The economy and efficiency of Case boilers
at Winnipeg enabled them to make the phenomenal score of 2.65
pounds of coal per brake horsepower developed.
One of the biggest downfalls of the 40 HP Undermounted Avery was
that the boiler was terribly out of proportion. This boiler had way
too big a fire box and flues only two feet longer than the fire
box. This big boiler fed two seven by ten cylinders which has 12
percent less displacement than a 65 HP Case.
Dad passed away in 1953. With all his disappointments with the
big Avery, I remember in the 40s him telling me several times
‘If you ever get a chance pick up a 18 HP Under-mount. They are
a dandy little engine.’ After studying the specifications, I
can see what he was talking about. Look at the nice proportions of
the fire box size and flue length on this engine. Also notice it
has a 3 inch crankshaft, the same size Avery used on their 40 HP
engine. The 18 HP was a much better proportioned engine.
Kenneth and Minerva Kelley from Pawnee, Oklahoma put on a spring
steam up for several years before the Oklahoma Steam Threshers
changed their dates to the first week end in May. Collectors from
all over the United States and Canada attended this steam up.
Kenneth and Minerva always put on a big feed as they have a very
large steam powered barbeque pit and barbequed a beef and a
buffalo. This was always served with all the trimmings. I was
standing in the chow line one day visiting with Harold Ottaway and
Ivan Burns. I was rather amused at two fellows that live near
Sedgwick, Kansas standing behind us in the line. The first fellow
said, ‘Did you see that the Avery Yellow fellow here has the
cylinder drive belt pulley on the left side like our Yellow
fellow?’ The second fellow said, ‘You know why Avery put
the cylinder drive belt pulley on the left side?’ ‘No.’
said the first fellow. The second fellow said, ‘The reason
Avery did this was so the engineer could see the separator when a
Avery Undermounted engine was used for power.’
The late E. ‘Eagle’ C. ‘Case’ McMillan, better
known as ‘Big Mac’, standing by a nice 40 HP Case in Bird
City, Kansas in the mid-50s. I am sure this is Christy Gauger’s
40 Case. Christy was one of the real expert old time engineers. He
showed the boys from Colorado how to put a Case engine in the belt.
The stop watch started when the separator tongue hit the ground and
stopped when the feeder started to run. The time was 42 seconds.
Men like Christy and Mac ran the engine they did not let the engine
run them. photo courtesy Chady Atteberry.