Common Sense & Safety


| September/October 1987



R 3, Hermann, Missouri 65041

I have noticed some issues in the Iron-Men Album of comments and compliments this winter on which is the best engines, and I think some of it has run in the ground. I have been a steam engineer for forty-three years. I have operated about every make one time or the other, and I have liked them all. Any of them will do the job they were designed for. It's most certainly true that a side mount is very handy on a saw mill. I have a double Rumely 20 HP. I'm not going to say it's the best, but I'm happy with it, and I would be happy with any other make. When it comes to sound, they all make heavenly music when the valves are set correctly. I was raised up with a 19 HP Keck-Gonnerman doing the threshing. It was engine #1847 owned by Mr. Bill Timmerberg, Sr., now deceased. This engine threshed for my father when I was a child. I remember the first time Mr. Timmerberg threshed for my father. They got done and rolled up the belt, and my dad said, 'Well Mr. Bill, figure up what I owe you and I'll pay you.' Mr. Timmerberg was surprised, and said, 'I wish I had more customers like you. Sometimes I have to wait four to six months.' When Father paid him, Mr. Timmerberg reached in the tool box and brought out a quart of fine whiskey and told my father to take a good snort. It certainly was a happy threshing day, and now we'll get to the saw mill part.

My neighbor Mr. Bill Rohning had a 1919 model Frick, and it was called an 18 HP. Mr. Rohning would saw for his friends and neighbors in the fall and spring. I was going to an old country school about a half-mile from the mill, and the teacher would have to threaten me with the famous hickory sprout for paying more attention to the heavenly music of the old Frick than on my lessons. I am sad to say the old Frick fell victim to the junk man's torch in 1947, which was so stupid since the war was already over. So my thought is, whatever kind of an engine you have be proud of it. There was many a good engine melted down for hardware to throw at Adolph Hitler and the Japs during World War II. If it had been left up to the junk dealers and other disinterested people, the steam traction engine would be as extinct as a live dinosaur today. There may have been only a few pictures of them left.

Those of you who own rare engines, such as the Illinois North West New Giant, should be real proud. We should be glad there were collectors like Mr. Neal McClure of Colchester, Illinois and the others who played a big part in preserving an important part of American history. Remember the steam engine, horses, mules, oxen, and their owners and wives and children and all their hard work made this country great long before nuclear and other modern technology started poisoning us. If the exhaust from a steam engine, horse, mule or ox ever did any damage to our atmosphere it was so brief it wasn't put on record that I know of.

As some have said, firing a Case engine was hard on the knees and overalls. I well remember that the Peerless and Huber give the shirt and coat factories business. But there there again, Case, Peerless and Huber were very good engines. I once owned a Peerless engine, #14164, and understand a gentleman in Bloomfield, Connecticut now owns this engine. If he would wish to write to me, I can give him some history on it and where it began its life.

So much for all the other. Now I would like to get to the moral of this story on safety to all engine owners, you and me alike. When we steam up for the shows in 1987 and the years after that, whether we have been complimented or insulted on the brand of engine we have, let's remember these engines are like me and lots of other owners they have age on them. As we get another year older they do too. Let's get more careful as the years go by. They have boiler inspectors at a lot of the shows. Along with what they say, let's use our best of common sense. I'm not going to try to tell you what to do, but what I do is keep plenty of water in the boiler and not over pressure or over strain on such things as trying to compete with modern day high powered diesel and gas powered tractors. These old engines were not designed for abnormal strain. I'll not go into details on what a boiler explosion would do at a show, but we must never let this happen. What we want to do is keep these happy shows safe for the men, women and children that come from far and near to watch us demonstrate these relics of the earth's past. And I decided about 30 years ago that a steam engine, a woman, a fiddle, or a shotgun all have the same thing in common. If you find one that suits you, that's the best one you can have.