The Baker Separator, left side
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 24x40 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 them.
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 sold.
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 handicap.
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 life.