Past and Present: Traction Engines and Threshers
Joe Mix, 2075 Coburn Road, Hastings, MI 49058, fills in for his dad, Larry Mix, this time around and sends us some photos. Joe writes:
My dad had these photos laid out to mail, but he has been busy working on our engines. Anyway, I thought I would send them for him.
The first photo (in the image gallery) was taken at Dave Kemler’s Threshing Day in October 2005, in Stanton, Mich. Our good friend James Russell of Oblong, Ill., is operating Dave’s 20 HP Advance. I’m standing next to the engine. The second photo in the gallery is a side view of the 20 HP Advance and the separator. The third photo shows my dad operating Dave’s 20 HP Advance on the separator. The fourth image is another from the same Threshing Days event. Here, Kevin Hayslett’s Keck-Gonnerman is taking its turn on the separator. Kevin just got this engine back together the night before; he did a real nice job.
In the fifth photo, I'm operating Dave’s 16 HP Gaar-Scott. This is a real nice-running engine.
We took the sixth photo last year when we were in Missouri. It's a nice-looking steam shovel; it looks like it wouldn’t take much to put it to work. You can see the engine of the steam shovel in the last photo.
Bob Andren, 11995 Awhai Ranch Road, Ojai, CA 93023; (805) 525-2583 (e-mail: bobkandren@ verizon.net), visited South America. He shared the eighth photo in the image gallery, showing him standing before a Marshall, Sons & Co. steam engine. Bob writes:
On a recent trip to South America, our group was crossing from Chile to Argentina by boats and buses via a series of lakes that traverse the border. We had just crossed Lake Lago Todos Los Santos, landing in the very small town of Peulla, still in Chile. On the grounds of the Hotel Peulla, I spotted a steam engine, resting as a display. The nameplate read Marshall, Sons & Co. Ltd., Gainsborough, England, no. 81277. It was in pretty good shape.
Colin Tyson (CTyson@Mortons. co.uk), editor of Old Glory magazine in England (www.oldglory.co.uk), sends us an interesting article published in the February 2006 issue, on a pair of Fowler engines lost at sea. Be sure to look at the photos from the seabed in our image gallery:
A pair of Fowler-built plowing engines has been found at the bottom of the North Sea off Whitby, North Yorkshire, on the east coast of England. The subsequent unfolding mystery as to how they came to be there was sparked when one of the divers involved made an approach at the 2005 Driffield Steam Rally to Old Glory magazine’s technical editor, Derek Rayner.
Carl Racey, a partner in Subseatv (www.subseatv.com) came along with photos that he’d taken the day before of the remains of the engines, and the vessel in which they were being transported. It has not yet been established what the vessel was, or exactly when it floundered, but it seemingly was equipped with one or more vertical engines and was believed to have been a paddle steamer.
He was interested to learn that Fowler had a branch factory in Magdeburg and it was therefore possible that the engines were on their way to Germany for onward sale to customers farther east. Charles Roads of the Steam Plough Club has indicated that he believes them to have been built during the very late Victorian or Edwardian era. They were probably complete with plow and water cart – this latter fact would account for additional large wheels being found which, at the time, Carl and his diving partner, Andy Jackson, couldn’t explain.
Having been submerged for probably a century or so, the thin tank would have rusted away, leaving only the main components to be found and puzzle today’s adventurers. At the time of the dive in August 2005, visibility was good and they videotaped what they found, although at first they were not quite sure what to make of the jumble of wheels and boilers in the rotted wreck of the steamship. Racey said the engines appeared to have been carried on deck and had rolled over as the ship sank to lie on the seabed with some of the wreckage strewn around them. However, when they spoke to steamship expert Charles Wayne, he said it was a very early steam ship with a very simple engine and could not have been going to Magdeburg, as it couldn’t have carried enough coal.
This is an exciting find, but the chances of the engines ever being rescued are remote since the huge cost of salvage in a depth of 65 meters (213.25 feet) and 20 miles offshore would be enormous. The Steam Plough Club’s Fowler registers have been consulted and no specific record has been found relating to Fowler engines being lost at sea, so any help from that direction has not yet been possible. However, the late Alf Pepper, who worked for Fowler for many years, in his diaries recalled a boat being sunk in the North Sea on the way to Hamburg around the approximate time it is thought the ship went down.
When the weather improves, Carl and Andy plan to return to the wreck site, and further exploration might reveal brassware with the appropriate works numbers – or the ship’s bell with its name, so that further identification might be possible.
Racey said, “It’s a fascinating story and we’d love to get to the bottom of it. This may just jog someone’s memory to get us on the right trail. Without a name or a date, getting more information is like finding a needle in a haystack.” (Photos by Andy Jackson.)
Ken Hough (e-mail: email@example.com) and some friends recently had an interesting challenge retrieving a 20 HP Advance-Rumely from an old barn. It was worth the effort, as Kevin writes:
On Saturday, March 4, 2006, friends from Illinois, Indiana and Michigan gathered near Michigan City, Ind., to help move a circa 1920 20 HP Advance-Rumely from the barn it had sat in for nearly 25 years. This sounds ordinary enough ... except for the downhill and then the hard pull up another hill.
In the image gallery, you can see we used a John Deere 830 diesel for the barn extraction and the first downhill jaunt, as well as a 2004 Ford FX4 and 2002 Dodge 1-ton front-wheel drive (both diesel). With the 830 pulling uphill elephant style, they managed to move the engine 25 or so feet from the bottom of the hill, when the angle was just too great. They then hooked up side-by-side and tried – no good!
It started to look like the engine was stuck. Dennis Christianson was there with his disconnect lowboy outfitted with a hydraulic winch that has 400 feet of cable. We pulled out the cable and ran it through a pulley mounted on the front ring of the engine.
After we hooked up the 830, we found there was not enough mechanical advantage. We found another pulley and got a 4-to-1 mechanical advantage. This time the 830 was going downhill while the pulley system pulled the engine uphill.
It still pulled hard enough to slide Denny’s tractor and trailer about 3 feet off the road towards the hill! We got it close to the top of the hill that the original elephant parade of tractor and trucks pulled it up on the road for loading.
The drive back to Lake Station, Ind., was uneventful. At Lake Station, 35 miles west of Rumely’s old headquarters in La Porte, what would you use to pull an Advance-Rumely off a lowboy? A 1924 Rumely Model R OilPull.
Helping that day were Danny Warren, Michigan; John Haley, Roy Sweitzer, Illinois; and K.R. Hough, Ken Hough, Justin Click, Matt Kolodziej, Indiana. Many thanks to the other people who helped whose names I do not know.
If you have a comment, question or reminiscence for Past and Present, please send it along to: Steam Traction, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265; firstname.lastname@example.org