Farm Collector


R. D. 1, Box 181, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania 16117.

I’ve been planning to do a report on my English trip for a
long time and I guess I’ve just now gotten into a scribbling
mood. My ambition to see England started somewhere a long time back
at least in college, and last year I took a sabbatical leave from
my job of teaching high school math and did some traveling. The
first trip was to Iowa to that big beautiful show at Mt. Pleasant.
I tried repeatedly to find someone to go along, without success,
only to have 3 or 4 people say afterward, ‘Oh I should have
gone when you asked me’. Anyone who likes steam should make the
trip soon so they will have an opportunity to return later. I
guarantee they will want to, as I do.

After several trips to other points of interest here, I left for
England April 4, 1972. It was the most interesting experience I
have ever had. I was just a little bit nervous about going, but
will never hesitate to go back now that I have been there. I had no
problem whatever getting around in England. The buses and subways
in London are amazingly effective and the bus lines and regular
trains run all across the country and up to Scotland, which I did
not see, in just one day. There are lots of trains, about 30
stations in London, and you can set your watch when they pull out.
I had no language trouble in England of course, but did on the
continent. The other main thing I learned was to plan ahead. I
would advise anyone who has not had prior experience to take a
planned tour for any part of the continent, except maybe Amsterdam
where English is very much a second language. I am strictly a
country boy, but found after I was home that I had lived in London,
one of the worlds largest cities, for a month virtually alone and
enjoyed it all.

There is just so very much to see and so many nice green parks
to walk in. Museums galore of all sorts. The science museum in
South Kensington, London has both models and full size originals of
all sorts Steam Engines, lots of which are the very first of their
type. The first was of course the huge Newcomen type atmospheric
cylinder condensing engine used for pumping. Second, were Watt and
Boulton Watt Engines with External condensers. They were at least
as huge and cumbersome as the Newcomen type, especially since the
condenser was as big as the cylinder or bigger. The pressure used
on these never went above 15 pounds per sq. in. so that vacuum or
condensed exhaust could almost double the effective pressure and
was a real big help. Higher pressure was definitely considered very
dangerous and totally unsafe by James Watt and his outfit. Maybe he
had some sad experiences.

There is a model of the first Boulton-Watt installation in the
London area. It was a pumping unit, walking beam of course, at a
water power mill which had outgrown the supply of water to turn the
wheel. They helped out by pumping water from the tail race back up
to the headrace. How about that for a set-up? Anyone care to
calculate the mechanical or thermal efficiency of that? Of course
the main thing was, it worked.

There are only a few Horse Powered Threshing Outfits left in the
Country. Pictured here is a complete Case Wooden Agitator Thresher,
with a Case Woodbury-Dingee Gear Unit, a vintage of 1889. Six teams
of horses and mules power this outfit annually at the Kings Show,
King Farm, Kings, Illinois, sponsored by North Central Illinois
Steam Power Show. This nicely restored and painted outfit is owned
by George W. Hedtke of Davis Junction, III. Herman Hintzsche of
DeKalb, III., who can be seen standing on the platform of the gear
unit, supervises the Horse Power Threshing annually. George Hedtke
can be seen sitting on top of the Agitator Thresher, checking the
grain and straw separation. Harry Woodmansee of Dowling, Michigan,
and John Southard of Alligan, Michigan are hand-feeding the old
time thresher. In the background, 3 large steam powered threshing
outfits can be seen, waiting their turn to set-up in the field for
threshing, as well as 2 large gas tractor outfits. This show is
held annually on an 80 acre farm. Twelve various field
demonstrations are held daily during the 4 days, including
evolutions of plowing with horses, mules, steam engines, and gas
tractors. The 1973 show will be held August 2, 3, 4, and 5, at the
King farm. Kings, III. Courtesy of Jon M. Schwartz, Sec’y,
North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, Inc. Box 26, Davis
Junction, Illinois 61020.

Also in the Science museum rests the original effort of the
brave Cornishman, Richard Trevithick, who ignored Watt and raised
the boiler pressure to a horrifying 55 pounds per square inch.
Sounds like the first step in a horsepower race doesn’t it. The
boiler is supposed to be cast iron though it looked a bit more like
what should be called wrought iron. It is very heavy being over an
inch thick in the shell which is all one piece and shaped like a
cooking pot laid on the side with the lid bolted on. The lid or
head contains the single ‘U’ shaped flue with a 14 inch
diameter on the left where the fire door fastens on tapering to an
11 inch diameter where the base of the smoke stack connects. The
cylinder is set down into the back of the boiler to keep it hot as
was not uncommon in those days and the guide rods, piston rods etc.
look strange and spidery sticking up along with a gangly 16 ft.
flywheel with a rim about one inch wide and four inches thick. It
was an immediate success and the second attempt was tried on wheels
and rails with a little less success. At any rate Trevithick is a
big hero in Cornwall and is honored by a statue at Cambourne in
front of the library.

There is a nice display too of very early railroad engines and
farm machinery. Yes they still have Obed Hussey’s cutter bar on
Rev. Bells reaper. But only one or two traction engines. I guess
most are still on the road and I mean that literally. They
don’t work many, but one of the most interesting things I
learned was that when they have shows they don’t haul the
engines on ‘lorries’ or trucks but drive them right over
the roads. Most of them still carry a license plate similar to a
car. I read several accounts of trips of several days duration and
well over 100 miles. The planning needed is something too, mainly
for water supply. It was, and I think still is, illegal in England
for a traction engine driver to pick up water from a horse trough,
but I was told on the side that in a pinch you can usually get at
least half a tank before anyone comes along to catch you.

There is a real selection of shows to see. I counted 87 in the
spring issue of ‘Steaming’ The Journal of the National
Traction Engine Club. They also certify inspection and insurance
and approve shows at which all Engines are inspected and insured or
else approval and advertising rights are lifted. It seems a very
good and effective program. I have several back issues and a
subscription to ‘Steaming’ and it makes very good reading.
Two issues have report of some very special cable plowing in the
north of Germany in bog land. The equipment is all special,
including four huge engines and a single bottom back and forth plow
which takes a furrow eight feet (YES, FEET) deep in the peat. It is
a reclamation project paid for by the government. I just missed a
chance to see it as a British group went over May 29 to see it and
I came home May 17. They wrote the second article in the summer

There is a great deal of steam in England especially compared to
over here. The Hitler war saw many pressed into service which would
have been scraped earlier but had the ability to go right along
without rationed gasoline. Also, I suppose the extra five or six
years in regular use introduced lots of younger men to steam while
their counterparts over here were nursing thirties automobiles
through the shortages of war. You can imagine 87 shows in an area
about the size of Pennsylvania and New York states together, in
about 4 months. There are still rollers in use in some townships
and many which have been held as spares come up rather often for
sale in good condition, needing maybe a set of flues and some
trimming up and for quite reasonable prices. Isn’t it a shame
they are so heavy and freight is so high?

There were 23 rollers at the London show I visited. There are
usually six types of steam power at English shows and sometimes a
portable makes it seven. The largest and heaviest are the cable
plow engines, usually by McLaren or Fowler, and they are Huge.
About like a 110 Case or similar Reeves or Rumely. Also, they are
about the least decorated for what I saw. I didn’t compare it
to Avery because I didn’t see an Undermounted Engine or return
flue boiler anywhere and was told they just didn’t have them.
The other biggies are the Showman’s Engines. They are very
highly decorated as most readers probably know, with twisted brass
sleeves on the canopy supports and brass hub caps and trim. Also
brass banded boiler sheathing which is sort of standard and is
usually also nicely enameled. Many of the Engines are beautifully
enameled similar to restored antique cars over here.

They also have several other interesting features some of which
are common. (1) Flywheel brake (2) wheel rim brakes (3) Cable drum
inside left rear wheel. Wheel drive pins can be pulled leaving the
drum alone engaged to pull oneself out of mud or other trouble by
attaching the pulled out cable to a large tree or other suitable
anchor. The Showman often has additional guides and a boom which
allows it to be used as a crane to pull up heavy tents and poles
and the like at the fair grounds. (4) three or four different speed
gears which are engaged or disengaged for travel or belt work with
no friction clutches on most engines. (5) Mostly cross compound
engines, although singles and double simples are not uncommon at
all. (6) relief valves always double and just spring loaded valves
and not pop safety valves. The cylinder casting acts as a dome by
having a jacket around the cylinder and is bolted to the boiler.
The relief valves, whistle, and so on are always on top of the
cylinder casting and the appearance is unusual compared to American
practice. The connecting rods and valve rods work through a
‘spectacle’ plate (the holes make it look something like a
pair of eyeglass frames) and if the engine has a name, not the
maker but an individual name like ‘Daemon’ or
‘Midnight’ it is usually on the Motion Plates. These
‘Motion’ plates run along side the rods hiding the moving
parts and provide some safety, help prevent scaring horses, and
keep grease and oil from splashing on all that beautiful paint. By
the way the name Midnight was part of the caption under a picture
of an Aveling and Porter Engine said to be so named because of the
time she regularly arrived back at the yard of the company which
owned and operated her.

They do lots of boiler work which is getting harder all the time
to get done around here, and many compounds still carry 200 lbs. of
steam, even though they were made in the twenties. I heard of
several having new fireboxes fitted. Their boilers often have a
large inspection hole in the barrel just below water line called a
manhole. A small man can actually slide down in among the tubes to
look over the inside of the shell and of course do considerable
work when the tubes are out. High gear road speed for Showmen they
tell me is usually 16 mph or more. They are licensed like tractors
or trucks and have solid rubber tires. They are really huge and

The third type is rollers. All three wheel no tandem that I saw.
I believe they told me they had a few but not many. The others run
from about nominal ten ton down to nominal three or less tons and
being all three wheelers they all look a lot alike. They have all
three cylinder arrangements but the double simple is seen pretty
often here.

The most variable in style of power equipment are the fourth
group, the Steam lorries or trucks. They are not too numerous but
to say they are totally different from anything American is a gross
understatement. They are mostly double simple, cross compound, or
double cross compound with cylinders in any position. Boilers are
tee, Horizontal, Vertical or a mixture. Really some outfit. They
are also faster on the roads of course usually up to 25 mph or

The traction engines are about the same whether for hauling or
agriculture and lots of them were used for heavy hauling of all
sorts. They have volumes of records of manufacturing, licensing and
use and are great at keeping the history of their engines

The sixth type of steam power is the steam ‘tractor’.
Yes the steam tractor is a reality in England though it never was
in America except for such as the Bryan and the Baker experimental
unit. There it is just a small traction engine. Under 5 gross tons
if I recall correctly. The classification was mainly for licensing
with a smaller fee and less restrictions due to the lighter weight
to break down roads and bridges and smaller size to negotiate the
very narrow roads in some parts.

The only show I actually saw was the ‘Expo Steam’ at
London’s Battersea Park. It was too static as no engines were
paraded due to lack of space and the only ones doing their normal
work were the Showman’s engines which had band organs to run
with their generators. The aim was 100 engines and they got 97 so I
really didn’t mind the relative lack of activity since there
was so much there totally new to me. Can you imagine how a country
kid from western Pennsylvania ran up and down that line? I shot 50
or 60 pictures and our local club has enjoyed them very much.

  • Published on May 1, 1973
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