The years of World War I with their lessons on fuel economies
turned Abner D. Baker’s thoughts to improving the fuel and
water consumption of his traction engines. In searching the field
of stationary steam engines, where economy had always been the
watchword, he was impressed by the savings in fuel and water made
with a new type of cylinder construction known as the uni-flow. He
then set about to introduce this type of cylinder construction in
the traction engine field.
By 1916 he was able to offer his customers their choice of
either the new ‘Uni-flow’ or the old ‘Counter-flow’
types. These new ‘Uni-flow’ engines carried a higher steam
pressure (190 pounds) and were painted blue to distinguish them
from the ‘Counter-flow’ type (140 pounds) which were
painted green on the engine and machinery portions while the
gearing and wheels were red.
Shortly after, another fuel and water saving device was placed
on the market by the company to be used exclusively with their
traction engines. This was a super-heating device which was placed
on the smoke box end of the boiler. It made use of the heat still
left in the combustion gases (as they passed up through the smoke
stack) to increase the temperature and dryness of the steam passing
from the boiler to the cylinder. These ‘Super-heaters’ were
placed in a number of Baker engines. The natural tendency of most
machine men to prefer more simple things, caused it to be used less
than the savings it could affect would have warranted.
For some time the company had been working on a small size
threshing machine for use by small rings and individual farmers.
They now introduced their ‘Baker Jr.,’ threshing machine.
It was a 24×40 size. It followed the pattern of the larger machines
in many details varying almost only in size.
Louis R. Baker, son of Abner D., who since a boy had played and
worked at the shop was now taking an active part in the design of
new machines and the factory management.
In the year 1920 the company suffered severe property damage to
their plant as the result of a tornado. The loss estimated to be
over sixty thousand dollars. Repairs were soon made and work went
on as usual.
After the war, with its high cost of labor, the use of internal
combustion tractors became popular, resulting in a sharp falling
off in the demand for steam traction engines. To offset this trend
the Bakers began to experiment with a new type of steam traction
engine, now termed ‘Steam Tractors’ to distinguish
These new steam tractors were mechanically stoke red as far as
firing was concerned. They were equipped with automatic water and
pressure controls, as well as enclosed condensing unit to preserve
the water supply. All these features making for a one-man operated
unit, very economical on fuel and water.
Experimental models using various types of engines; such as
double simple, tandem compound and cross compound in combination
with various types of stokers, boilers and condensing units were
tried. Quite a number of these steam tractors were built and
Disaster struck again in late December of 1924 when the office
building was destroyed by fire with all the company records.
Through the loyal support of all their customers and the records at
their branches, they managed to carry on in spite of this
After the failure of the steam tractor to revive their failing
traction engine sales the company decided that they too must build
a gas tractor and a steel thresher to continue in the business.
A gas tractor was designed and built in two sizes: 22-40 and
25-50. Most of the component parts, including the engine and
transmission were purchased. The tractor was of the standard type
of conventional design. They were painted a pleasing dark green
color with a touch of ornamental striping.
A line of steel threshers was also designed, incorporating most
of the features used in the old wooden threshers. Not only did they
continue sizes required by custom thresher-men but also made them
in sizes suitable for the individual user.
In 1930, when the Banting Manufacturing Company of Toledo went
into the hands of receivers, the Company purchased the rights to
their ‘Greyhound’ bean thresher. This machine, now called
the ‘Baker Greyhound’ beaner was continued as long as there
was a demand for it.
The Baker Company continued to advertise their steam traction
engines as available. They were again offered in both the Uni-flow
and Counter-flow types. The company built some six thousand steam
traction engines during the years 1898 to 1928.
Steel threshers and tractors were made in diminishing numbers
down through the years as the small combines replaced the
stationary threshers and the small tractors edged out the larger
and heavier ones.
By the late 1940’s the business had been reduced from a
working force of formerly one hundred and twenty-five men working
the year around to only four men working part time to make the
required service parts for the veteran machines in the field. The
A. D. Baker Company was dissolved early in 1953.
Abner D. Baker had witnessed the rise, zenith and the fall of
his beloved steam power in agriculture. There is no doubt that he
had happy memories in the fact that his ‘Baker’ engines had
found a warm spot in the hearts of many collectors and now stand a
chance of being saved from oblivion.
Mr. Baker answered the call of the Golden Whistle on June 11th,
1953 at the age of 92 years. Indeed a full and interesting