Remembering the A.D. Baker Company

| May/June 1979

  • Baker engine no. 1
    Abner Baker and brother-in-law, Chauncey Berkebile, and old Baker engine no. 1 at the Baker farm, June 1948 at National Threshers Reunion. 

  • Baker engine no. 1

The A.D. Baker Company was located about 20 miles west by southwest of Toledo at Swanton, Ohio. They built steam traction engines, grain threshers, and large gas tractors. Their last steam engines were built in 1929, but their large gas tractor business was booming. They shipped a 25-50 Baker gas tractor to Lincoln, Nebraska for testing at the University. That tractor developed 75.88 HP in the belt, and 55.72 drawbar HP or the highest of any wheel tractor up to that time.

Personal memories of Baker
My first dealings with the Baker Company were in the summer of 1917 when I took a set of 2' boiler tubes to them to be retipped, or a new piece to be welded on one end. These tubes were from a 10 HP Nichols and Shepard steam traction engine, no. 3447 built in 1893, left hand steering and no friction clutch. I bought this engine in the previous March about 6 miles north of Fayette, Ohio, and the tubes had been rolled so many times they were so thin at the firebox end they leaked.

I cut the tubes out and put them in the back of my Model T Ford car with the back window curtain up. The Baker Company put them in their slow revolving tube rattler to remove the scale, and brighten them. They trimmed the best end and aceteleyne welded a new piece on about 4' long. This had stood idle about 4 years, and perhaps they were the second set. When I went to get them several days later, I saw Abner Baker giving each tube a water test to see there were no leaks at the weld.

In the spring of 1919, Cramer Brothers who lived in the south part of Hudson, Michigan, my old home town, 16 miles northeast of my present home, bought a new 23-90 Baker uniflow no. 1610, and I watched them unload it from the flatcar at the Lake Shore Railroad depot dock. Previous to this, Cramer Bros. had a new 30-60 Hart-Parr tractor about 1910. Something went wrong on the flywheel side, and they drove it to Bill Abbott's machine shop yard in Hudson. Mr. Abbott could not pull the key to get that heavy (1500 lbs.) flywheel off so had to chisel a slot in that big hub that ruined it. It had to be replaced with a new one.

About 1913 Cramer Bros. traded that Hart-Parr in on a new 30-60 type E Oil Pull. They told me that oil pull used about 5 gallons of motor oil a day. After a couple of years they installed new piston rings, but no better on oil consumption. They took the pistons out, in fact I saw them dragging the pistons on a cement floor in Abbott's machine shop with a crow bar in the connecting rod crank pin bearing hole. They took the rings over to Advance Rumely at Battle Creek for a refund. The A-R Company said the rings showed they had been used, and no refund. That made Cramer mad so they traded the model E in on the new Baker steamer in the spring of 1919.

The Baker steamers were made with large exhaust nozzles2' pipe size which was a good idea, but sometimes in light work the engineer had to use the steam blower to keep up steam. The exhaust was so light some smoke came out around the edge of the fire door. I told them to bush it down a little to create more draft.


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