Benny West writes......


| September/October 1963



Threshing scene

Here is a picture of a threshing scene near Lancaster, Wisconsin in 1914. The outfit is a 16 HP Advance Steam Engine and an Aultman Taylor 36X58 Thresher Feeder Weigher and Sattley Swinging Stacker. I am the owner and operator.

I have worked with steam until the last 14 years in which I have worked as a sewing machine mechanic. Quite a difference but I enjoy my work. I have a nice bunch of girls to work with. What more can a man ask for at 58 years.

I go to the steam shows once a year, never have the fun of running any of the engines but still enjoy them. The last traction engine I worked on was a 90 HP Baker with 190 lbs. steam in 1946 and it was a beautiful engine. I had it clean as a whistle. It was in a saw mill and we never lacked for power. My brother was saw man. We had a 5 X 6 engine for slab saw which made me busy sawing slabs and keeping up steam. We were on green poplar for 7 weeks; boy, was I happy when we went back on hardwood. We used to average 8 thousand feet a day but I never had my steam get away from me but sometimes I did a lot of thinking. My brother could never keep it hot enough so he tried to take it away from me. A good combination to get work done. He would never let up and one day he said to me, 'I have to hand it to you, you know how to fire.'

I have handled the big Frick on saw mills, which I prefer. The Frick was a nice engine. I would enjoy seeing sizes of the Frick engines in the Album as you did on the Case. I always pulled toward the Frick.

Getting back to the Baker, I wish I would have bought it as the engine was junked in 1949. It had never been used on the road, only moving from one stand of timber to the other. The wheels and gears were as good as new and the engine didn't have a knock in it. Sure was a fine engine. A quarry company bought it for the boiler to heat water for the gangs in a stone saw mill at Sidney, New York. The boiler was sent from Portageville, New York. I put new flues in it the year before it was junked and it was New York State inspected for 190 lbs. steam.

I was born in Pennsylvania and had the pleasure of working in some fair sized saw mills, but I liked the portables the best. Not so long in one place.

Well, enough for the lumber mills, so will go to the stone mills. Here is a picture of a Sullivan Channelling Machine that is being used at a stone quarry about a mile out of Portageville, New York. The boiler gave out so it couldn't pass inspection. It was filled with sand to give it weight and is fed steam from a stationary boiler, but with the little boiler on the rig, a man wanted to know what he was doing to keep steam. I have seen a lot of big boiler firemen bite the dust on this little teapot, as they would say, until they had fired it for about 1 or 2 hours. Then it began to look bigger than any boiler they had ever fired. It was made for a 6 inch head, which is a 6 X 6 engine, and it had an 8 X 8 head on it with a 1 inch steam line and a 4 X 5 traveling and feed engine with a inch line, 2 double B Penberthy inch injectors, which you could leave open all the time and use the other to catch up the slack when needed. The boiler was of the submergable type with short 2 inch flues. I don't remember how many and 15 inch in the center and a firebox about 32 inches. If I remember right, it took about 2 to 3 tons of coal to keep its hunger satisfied. As it used a lot of water, the bottom of the water glass was about a foot from where the steam line came out of the boiler. The main engine had two sets of valves, one for a cushion valve so it wouldn't knock the heads out. I fired this rig for about 5 summers and ran it 3 or 4. It ran on rails. We channeled a cut about 24 ft. long, 12 to 13 ft. deep. Every 10 hours the fits started. 3 inch gauge to inch smaller for each set longer. Sometimes there would be hard heads in the stone and break the end off the fits and cause a lot of trouble. If you were lucky enough to hit about the center of one of them, fine, but if you hit about the edge of hard head on one side, soft stone on the other, you had your work cut out for you as you had to keep the cut from running to one side or the other if you expected to get 13 ft. down with your channel.