New Rockford, North Dakota
New Rockford Flying Service
Since I do not often see letters from up this way, I am writing
a few lines.
I am not a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ as a steam
‘nut’. My first memory of steamers dates back to about 1907
or 1908 when I was four or five years old. A rig pulled into our
pasture to do some threshing and I can still see the bright red
wheels of the engine and the separator, bright red with yellow
wheels and trim. It was a Gaar Scott outfit, nearly new. A little
later I was allowed to get real close to the rig while they were
threshing, and that was really a thrill. The engine puffing up the
stack and rocking a little with the motion, the gurgling hiss when
the fireman started the injector (of course I did not know what it
was then), the smell of hot oil and smoke already fascinated me. Of
course the engineer was the most important man there to me.
I am not sure if my ambition to be come an engineer started
right then, but at least that soon became my ambition. My dad knew
everything and could do anything, almost, but even he did not run
an engine. Somehow several thresher catalogs came into my
possession (I still have them) and I really studied them, when I
was older I often took them along on horseback while herding cattle
and sometimes would be absorbed in one of them while the cattle got
into something I was supposed to be keeping them out of.
Well, I first operated an engine in about 1920 (steam was
already on its way out). The engine was a 36 hp. M. Rumely double
built in about 1909. We fired straw, my fireman was even younger
than I was. We managed to do a fairly creditable job of keeping the
engine running. I must have put in about twelve seasons on this
engine sometimes running others when our run was finished. In 1924
I put in 25 days on an old Case in Saskatchewan. I still have my
provisional engineer certificate. Altogether I run engines eighteen
seasons till in 1939 flying became my business instead of the
sideline it had been up till that time.
Now, in the hopes of starting some interesting discussions I
bring this up. I have heard engineers say it is not advisable to
‘hook up’ the reverse lever when the load permits because
of the possibility of wearing shoulders on the valve seat while on
short valve travel. I had always assumed that these men were
misinformed and I still think so in most cases, but recently I have
been informed by an engine man who I am sure knows engines, that he
had run into this condition. Any valves and seats that I have seen
or seen pictured were made so that as soon as the valve starts to
admit steam at one port, the other edge of the valve passes over
the edge of the seat, thus preventing the forming of a shoulder.
This principle is used in the cylinder, where the piston ring is
allowed to enter part way into the counter bore, and in the guides
the crosshead shoe goes part way over the ends of the raised parts
of the guides. I think most of those old engines were well
designed, and it seems I mean that anyone that could design a good
engine otherwise would see the need of making the valve and seat
that way. Even with a fixed cut-off if the valve did not pass over
the edge of the seat shoulders could be formed and any adjustment
or taking up of lost motion might cause the valve to strike one or
both of these shoulders.
I think possibly that some engineers who think they are having
this trouble might possibly have a valve leaking because of being
scored from lack of lubrication some time, and a link adjusted too
tightly might pinch the block when the lever is in the corner
notch, which might give the impression that the valve was striking
I would like comments by experienced men on their opinion of the
Advance straw burner with the water-leg in firebox. Also their
experience with leaky staybolts in any kind of firebox, burning
coal as compared with straw burning. How much oil should a 25hp.
single or double engine have in a ten-hour day, for the cylinder 1
mean? And of course there is always the subject of which is the
best valve gear, and is compounding worth while?
A few issues back a man writing an article gave his choice of an
engine and separator. I must disagree with him on his choice of a
feeder he liked the Ruth feeder. I think the Garden City or any of
the later feeders were much better. Our 41×62 Buffalo Pitts Niagara
Second Steel Frame had a Ruth we replaced it with a Garden City and
I am sure it took several horsepower less to pull the separator and
the straw came out of the blower in a steady stream instead of in
bunches like it had before. The Ruth was run by a six-inch belt and
it had to be very tight. The Garden City used either a four or five
inch belt and did not have to run too tight.
I attended the Mt. Pleasant Reunion part of two days in 1953.
Did not get there in 1954. But I took in a one-day reunion at
Rollag, Minnesota last October. By the way, I do not think I have
seen a writeup on that in the ALBUM. I thought they had a very nice
show and they had a good crowd. Also while vacationing near Little
Falls, Minnesota, with the family, I met Mr. H. M. Jones. He has
ten or twelve engines. One day we steamed up two of them and put in
several hours threshing. I really enjoyed that and meeting Mr.
I have a 26hp. Advance. Last Labor Day I steamed it up the first
time in fifteen years and run it to the airport from the farm
eleven miles out.
I saw Rev. Ritzman at Mt. Pleasan and I meant to talk to him but
wa : there only a short time and when I could take my eyes off the
engines for a few minutes I could not see him. To tell the truth I
was more enterest-ed in the engines than in ministers anyway,
meaning no disrespect.