Minot, North Dakota 58701.
I have been reading your magazine for sometime, and I have
enjoyed it a lot. It has brought back many memories of the
so-called good old days. It makes me think of the day I asked a man
if I could have the job to fire his old Advance next year. This was
in October, and he said yes. Was I happy! The first thing I did, I
sent to Sears & Roebuck for a book on how to run a steam
engine, and it was a good one, except it did not tell you how to
adjust the Advance valve gear. But outside of that, it was a very
good book and I had almost a whole year to read it and I did.
But everybody told me I should not take the job because the old
Advance was no good. I would have only trouble with the old thing,
but that was what I wanted. I knew I could learn from an old
engine. You can’t learn anything with an engine that runs
steady all day and no trouble, and I got just what I wanted. Most
everything was wrong, and the separator was even worse, it sure was
But the great day seemed a long way off, but it came when we
could start, and I was out there and started the fire at 3
o’clock in the morning. What a wonderful thing it was to see
the smoke stack, but it took a long time to get steam. After awhile
the hand on the clock started to move, and when it got to 75 lbs.,
I started the old engine and I would let it run for awhile. Then I
would stop it and then start it all over again. When I thought I
knew everything about a steam engine, I pushed the clutch in, and I
would run it ahead about 100 feet, then I would back up. I kept it
up for a long time until I could point the flywheel at any point
without any trouble. After breakfast, we started to thresh, but the
separator man did not come, so the boss had to run the separator,
and I was left alone with the engine. I did not feel bad about
The first time the boss started the engine, and at long last we
were going. I had never fired before with straw, but I watched
others do so by the hour, and I knew too much straw would cause the
smoke to be too black. I really did not have any trouble. When the
steam went down, they would have trouble with separator and they
had plenty. The key in the shaker pulley would fall out because the
hub was cracked and would take some time to find the key. By the
time they did, I would have a full head of steam. Then the return
elevator belt would fall off, the elevator had sagged down, and the
pulley was out of line. The blower belt was not tight enough and
the blower would plug up, so I had no trouble to keep the steam
About seven o’clock it started to rain and the boss said we
would not do anything the next day. I almost cried, but it turned
out to be a good thing for me. I had the time of my life the next
day. I was tired that night and I went to bed early. The excitement
had been too much for me, and I went to sleep right away.
When I awoke in the morning, I got up right away. I did not care
what time it was, but when I got down to the rig, it was three
o’clock. I went to work on the separator first. I wanted
daylight to work on the engine. The first thing I did was to take
the shaker pulley off and turned it inside out. The hub was not
cracked on the other side and the pulley never came loose again.
Then I went after the return elevator, which had sagged so much,
the pulley was out of line. But all I had to do was to loosen the
bracket bolts that held the elevator and drive a wedge inside the
bracket and the pulley was in line. The belt never fell off
Next I went after the blower belt. It was too long so I took it
out and cut off about two inches. I had never repaired a belt, but
I had seen others do it so many times that I had no trouble doing
it. The blower never plugged up again.
By this time the sun was up, so I went to work on the old
engine. I was scared when I started; was afraid that I was going to
get into trouble, but I just could not keep my hands off that steam
chest cover so I took it off.
There were instructions in my Sears & Roebuck book as to how
to adjust all valve gears, except the Advance gear. I found out
afterwards that he did not know how, and he could not find anyone
that did. Later I learned how to do it, but I made out all right
this time too, only it took me too long.
Plowing demonstration by a fine big 28 HP Minneapolis-Moline
pulling 12-14 inch bottom plow gang. These pictures sent in by J.
F. Mermoud are a pictorial report of the Thirteenth Annual
Thresherman Steam Power Show for 1972 held August 17-20 at the
Perry County Fairgrounds at Pinckneyville, Illinois. Edward Jansen
is President. It was again a huge success with over a score of
beautifully restored steam engines performing in various pulling,
balancing, pulley-belt and parading activities. Over a hundred gas
and kerosene engines and tractors and old farm equipment pieces
were on display.
I worked all day on the engine and the separator. When it got
dark, I went back to the separator. Once I had to go over to the
engine to get a hammer. By this time I was a little tired. When I
checked the time it was eleven o’clock. I sat down to rest and
went to sleep at once. A dog came and barked at me about three
o’clock and woke me. I went to work and started to steam up so
I could practice lining up the engine again. With practice, it was
not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be.
While all this had been going on, Hans, the water hauler, had
been watching me. When I stopped, he handed me the belt. I took it
but made no attempt to put it on the flywheel. Hans gave me one
hard look and asked me what the hell I was waiting for. ‘Put
this on the wheel.’ I did as he told me and then he stepped in
front of the wheel and took the belt. ‘Now tighten the
belt,’ he said. I did and that too was not nearly as hard as I
thought it was going to be.
Now Hans said when we finish this job to have the engine ready
to move right away when I throw the belt. ‘You take the engine,
don’t wait for Sam. Turn it around and back up and hook up to
the separator. I know you can do it,’ he told me, and I thought
So when we had cleaned up under the separator, Hans threw the
belt and I turned the engine around and backed up to the separator.
Hans was there, but he did not have to help. He did take the fire
fork and fired on the way to the next job.
The next job was a nice place to set the rig, level and plenty
of room in a good farm yard, and we were ready to go in a few
minutes. Hans was really good to me. If it had not been for Hans,
Sam would never have let me take over the way he did.
From now on things ran smoothly for about a week, but then both
Sam and I could have lost our lives. We had a choice of going
around some lakes and swampsa long but a good road, or we could go
over a bluff, a long steep hill to the top of the bluff, but much
steeper going down the other side. It did not bother me. Sam was a
good man on the engine and we got to the top of the bluff without
any trouble. But we had not gone very far down hill before I knew
something was wrong. Sam had taken over, and was in charge. I could
not understand why he was going so fast in the dark. We did not
even have a lantern.
But I did not have to wait long. Sam told me he had lost control
and asked me to take the wheel. I did but what chance did I have. I
could not see the road going as fast as we were. I could see a
little light between the tree tops, and I was able to stay in the
road for about 300 feet. At this point one front wheel hit a small
tree. This jerked the wheel out of my hand, spun around, and the
handle hit the back of my hand. The steering chain broke, the
wheels jack-knifed, and we plowed ahead about 15 feet, but no one
was hurt. We repaired the chain with wire and we had no more
trouble that night. Sam let me take full charge of the old engine
the rest of the year.