Helston, Manitoba, Canada
I have read with pleasure the Iron-Man Album for eleven years, from cover to cover and surely enjoy seeing photos of steamers.
A large number of makes that I have seen in your ALBUM were not sold in Canada. The most popular makes sold and used in our part of the country were Case, Robert Bell, Nichols & Shepherd, George White, Waterloo, American Abell, Aultman Taylor, sawyer Massey and a few others. It seemed to me in this area,
where I was born, and still live that the Case machinery was the most prominent.
My father and his partner got their first outfit in 1902. It was a Stevens Turner and Burns portable 19 HP. and a Goodison separator less feeder and blower. After a few years they added a Hawk-eye feeder to the separator and traded in the portable for a 20 Hp. traction.
I can remember a few odd things about the old portable, such as three fire holes, one on each side, to fire with straw and a large door at the rear for the use of wood. I was told the large door at the rear was to allow roots and trash to be easily thrown in. There also was no throttle lever on the portable and the engineer had to climb up and open the main valve on the steam line to operate it. A few years later, a Neepawa wind-stacker was used to replace the straw carrier. These windstackers were manufactured in Neepawa, Manitoba, a small town about twenty miles from where we live. They were highly recommended by everyone that used them and hundreds of them were sold in the 1900's. Around 1912 new separators came out with windstackers on them, so this company went out of business.
In 1914 the old Goodison separator which was manufactured in Sarnia, Ontario was traded for a new Waterloo 33 X 52, manufactured in Waterloo, Ontario. This company had a distributing point at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba from where they did a tremendous business until the end of the steam days.
In 1918, the old 20 Case was traded off for a used 25 X 75 George White, so now we had plenty of power for the first time to drive our 33 X 52 Waterloo separator. My brother, Grover, ran and took care of this engine until 1924, when he left to buy grain in one of the home elevators, so that left us without an engineer. This outfit was owned by my father and myself and even if I had been around threshing machinery and was desperately interested in steam, I did not feel capable of taking over the engine. My father's advice, 'You can run the engine, if you only think you can', placed me in 1925 as engineer and before very long, a two minute set was just part of a days work.
In 1936, I got a chance to buy a 25 X-75 Waterloo single engine for $150.00 which was in first class shape, being the last steam engine sold by the Waterloo people at Portage. We had to drive this engine 50 miles from Edwin to get it home, which took 3 days with plenty of free help from the neighbors. On the first day we went down and filled the boiler and tanks with water. Next day at 5 A.M. we left with a car, with plenty of food packed and a trailer full of wood. It took till 12 noon before we got on the road. My brother and his fireman took the first four miles and then my fireman and I took over for the next four miles. Thus we kept moving steady until dark and we used this system until we got it home.
That year I had made arrangements with Hec Sturton of Pratt, Manitoba to bring his saw mill up and I put my engine on for power and we had a very successful three summers sawing 60,000 feet the first year, 120,000 the second year and around 60,000 the last year. This was mostly all white poplar which makes very good lumber for inside work.
I used this engine every fall for threshing until 1942 and believe I was the last man to operate a steam outfit in this area. Large numbers of people came to see this machinery operate the last few years. Young people couldn't fathom how it did its work with so little exertion and so very quietly.
This engine was the favorite of all the engines we had, being a smooth operator, but I did not like the cast drive wheels in the sandy soil. I sold it to a man at Birnie, Man. for $100. (My, what a fool I was!) as it was in perfect condition with 165 pounds steam pressure. This man didn't move it away but in 1945 he sold to a scrap dealer and it was broken up right in our own yard.
In 1943 I bought a Massey Harris separator and put the Model K John Deere on it and used a Stewart sheaf loader pulled by a John Deere A.R. and had four stook teams which made a nice outfit reducing the necessity for so many men but it didn't seem the same as the good old steamer days.
In 1956, I bought my first combine, a self-propelled Cockshutt. What a difference! We were lucky if we got started in the morning at 9 or 9:30 on account of dew and plenty of times it would be noon before we could start. This was quite a change from the 6 A.M. start with the threshing outfit and what a disgrace if your outfit had to stop for repairs during the day.
I have lived on the farm all my life and enjoyed harvesting and threshing all these years. I cannot forget the many happy days I spent around our threshing machines and I still have to talk about it.