FROM ELDON WHITE

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Fay A. White as Engineer of a 16-50 simple single Nichols and Shepard, threshing in Van Buren Co., Michigan. I believe the threshing rig was owned by Clyde Burgett. Picture taken in the early 1920's and was given to me by my father - one of the few Ni

1738 108th Ave., R.R.1, Ostego, Michigan

The photo of the free lance model shows my two grandsons as
engineers. Gordon Gilmore is in the foreground at the throttle,
ably assisted by his cousin, Michael Johnson. The other photo is my
father engineering a 16-50 simple single, Nichols and Shepard
threshing in the early 1920’s. Both engine and engineer have
long been gone, though their influence still survive, having
prompted the building of the aforementioned model and affecting the
leisure hours, not only of myself, but my son and grandson’s as
well.

I experienced the transformation from boy to man (in growth at
least) in the decade of the 20’s; so I have no stories of my
own experiences of threshing, or sawmilling as business
venture.

It required my spare time (some not so spare) over a period of
three years to build this engine. Boiler constructed of 7/16′
and 1/2′ boiler steel tested to 500 lb. cold water pressure.
Can safely carry up to 200 lb. steam pressure but use from 130 to
150 lbs. – cylinder, piston, cross-head guide and connecting rod
were cast and machined by Tom Donaldson of Otsego. We reworked the
steam ports and valve and made the link reverse gear. A ‘
Judson Governor was furnished by John Spaman. The bore
2’x3’ stroke gives plenty of belt and traction power.
Presently we are building a separator, which we hope to finish
soon. My grandson, Gordon Gilmore, in foreground and Michael
Johnson, another grandson, is the Engineer.

From a rather limited experience with steam engines, I became
convinced, and still hold these convictions, that nothing else can
equal their simplicity, power or economy; the many steam engines
still in use like Mr. Blaker’s fine Port Huron, present ample
proof of their durability. I believe that much of the so called
progress, in this field at least, was motivated by greed rather
than need. I enjoyed reading the results of the 1960 Montpelier
test runs; though it’s my belief that hp ratings and loads
being equal no one should expect a simple engine to out perform a
compound regardless of type of valve gear. I have run engines
equipped with Marsh, Stephens on link and Wolff Gears and in their
proper conditions they performed equally well.

I like to think a little 12 hp Advance could out pull them all –
at least it talked as if it could. A 16-50 double Nichols &
Shepard, was ‘hooked up’ a notch occasionally when
threshing, but never on the big blizzard silo filler. I recall now
a Silo filling for which the farmer furnished us dry wood fuel,
though the stack was equipped with cinder catcher and spark screen,
nevertheless before we had run ten minutes, the barn roof had a
dozen small fires. My father threw the belt and moving the engine
around the barn, quickly put out the fires with water from a hose
attached to the blow-off valve.

The farmer, at once sent one of the hands with the team and
wagon some three miles for coal and demanded that we proceed no
further with the filling until the coal arrived. A rather humorous
incident of this event involved the three men working inside the
silo, which was one half inside the barn, and covered by the
extension of the barn roof. Upon their entering the silo all doors
had been placed and secured, since the job was to be finished
before the noon hour. When the filler stopped, they in the silo
loudly demanded to know the cause. No one paid them any heed until
the danger was past, whereupon they were told the barn was afire
and smoke so thick no one could reach the silo doors to free them.
One old boy, whose religion was hard work, hard cider and harder
language, promptly confessed his sins, begged forgiveness, and
beseeched the Almighty to deliver him from that silo. The others
alternately pleaded with their tormentors and condemned the farmer
to the company of the devil for not furnishing coal. When they were
released and discovered they had been put upon, feelings ran pretty
high. They would not reenter the silo. Those who had prompted the
prank were called upon to replace them. The task was finished, as
were all tasks back then, with a lot of hard work, lightened
somehow with a little fun, hardly comparable to the frantic rush in
which we find ourselves today. Perhaps that’s one reason so
many of us enjoy those steam engine days and threshermen
reunions.

May the Steam Engine and Old Threshermen survive forever, for
these whom I was privileged to know represented to me a principle
sadly lacking in too many of our present-day institutions. – They
threshed clean and with honest measure.

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