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
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.
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
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