Route 3, Sterling, Illinois
As a small boy we lived on a farm on the Jefferson-Franklin county line in southern Illinois. I cannot remember anything more exciting to a small farm lad than a steam traction engine.
In the early spring of about 1912 or 1913, a salesman from the Russell and Company, Massillon, Ohio came to our house, and my dad placed an order for a factory rebuilt threshing outfit. As the time for delivery drew near I could hardly stand the suspense of waiting for the Railroad Co. to notify us of its arrival, but would walk the 2 miles to town about every other day to see if it had arrived. Finally one day there she was, a wonderful sight in all her splendor high upon the flat car, on the rail siding. A big Port Huron, 22 hp, double tandem compound, with long fellow boiler. The large head tank mounted in front of the stack. The shiny brass bands around the jacket, the bright red wheels, and mirror finish on the face of the fly wheel. Also, the big red 36 by 56 Russell 'Massillon Cyclone' separator impressing upon a small lad a vivid memory that would last a lifetime.
I regretted to leave but I had to go and tell Dad the good news, so I tried to absorb enough of the view to last until I got home and away I went.
The next day Dad and I, also one of the neighbors, went to town. We had a switch engine spot the car and soon we had a collection of onlookers and volunteer help to carry ties with which to build a ramp for unloading. It fell my lot to unpack the brasses and install them on the engine, which of course made me very happy. After the ramp had been built and the water tank had been taken off so we could get water to fill the boiler, the old sun was swiftly heading for the horizon, so we headed for home with everything in readiness to start unloading early the next morning.
For some reason, I can't remember why now, I could not go the next day to help unload and believe you me it was bitter disappointment.
However, each Saturday morning my buddy and I (his dad was separator man) would take off to find the rig. We knew the general direction of the run so would keep our eyes peeled for smoke in the distance, or watch the roads for Port Huron tracks.
I will never forget one time when we were crossing a field, I stepped in-to a nest of yellow jackets. I soon had a swollen ankle. My buddy tried to carry me on his back but I was about as big as he was, so I had to hobble along until we got to the machine. Afterwards, the swelling soon went down.
I can remember an incident of one really hot day in July the pitchers made it up to try to slug the separator. I suppose it was to get a rest while the machine was being unchoked. Now this engine was equipped with another throttle whereby all 4 cylinders would be simple (similar to the intercepting valve on the cross compound Reeves) and as long as the boiler could furnish the steam something was going to move. It wasn't but a short while until the pitchers began reaching for their bandanas and wiping sweat and made for the nearest shade tree.
One year a fellow with a little star engine took the contract to grade the road from the town of Sesser to the Keller Mines, but he could not pull the grader so he made a deal with Dad to use the Port Huron to grade and he would pull the Russell separator. It was during this grading, the countershaft broke and we had a new one made at the Mt. Vernon Car Mfg. Co.
The story is that the people who bought this rig from my dad did not know much about engines. So one morning they started a fire, but most of the smoke came out the fire box door. Finally they decided that the wind was in the wrong direction. So they got a rope and turned it around by winding a rope around the fly wheel, but to no avail. Finally someone who had run engines happened along. He asked them if they had cleaned the flues. They said no, and they didn't know they were supposed to. He looked at the flues and they were nearly clogged up with soot.
I do not know what ever became of this engine, probably junked.
I wonder of anyone knows if there is still a Port Huron Double in existence in Ill. as I would like to have a good picture of one.