Farm Collector


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.

  • Published on Mar 1, 1953
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