No third generation, steam fan digs for the old steam tractors-.engines to the earlier generation than does Lloyd Burr during his spare hours over the weekends when he is not at the big Worthington pump on the U.S. Reclamation, Service station near Tracy, Cal. I am liable to get a telephone call at any time from the big ex-navy engineer that he !has found something on Best or Holt and is on his way over to show proof while checking up to see what I have accumulated from both sides of the Atlantic.
These shots of a Holt steamer in the pre-Caterpillar days take you back to the artesian well days when you could get water in abundance by drilling most anywhere in the valleys of California and get a gusher of water from an underground stream. Since Burr is a native of the San Joaquin West Side, he goes back from time to time to hunt up old relatives and friends of the family who owned, operated or knew the early steam traction engines that came in to begin unhitching the mule trains before the turn of the century. The water drilling rig has a 60 foot tower and the big 3 wheel Holt is drilling an artesian well by steam power as the rig is set on the site of the well being drilled. When drilled, the tractor moves the tower on to the next job. Best information Burr could get from the owner of the pictures is that this set of pictures was taken about 1908 or '09. Les Hammond is the man on the rig at left in the close up front view; H. B. Siocum on right, and Clarence Stark above him standing on the tank. Hammond is still living at Hanford, a few miles north of the famed Tulare Lake which has come and gone over the past 25 years, depending on the snow depth in the mountains.
Note the chain drive, wide tread wheels with overhead supports. Wide, wheels kept the heavy steam tractors on top of the peat soils of the San Joaquin delta west of Stockton. The widest wheel faces got up to 18 feet six inches, or a total of 36 feet. Yet, engineers who were there state that so much power was required to move the wheels there was little left for useful work . Hence, the turn to tracks and development of the idea of British and U.S. inventors from Edge worth in the old country through Miller of California, Minnis of Pennsylvania, Mann of New York, Edwards of Illinois and Lombard of Maine. Holt was the first to make the track practical and get it past the military and experimental stage that called for government backing to keep them going for farming. Half of California's farm drawbar work is done by crawler tractors today with Oregon, Washington, Arizona and the mountain states also using them in high proportion for clearing, leveling, breaking and shaping farm lands.