‘GREW UP’ WITH THE STEAM TRACTION ENGINE

Vice-President & Chief Engineer The Cooper-Bessemer Company
Mount Vernon, Ohio

As I am one of the many who ‘grew up’ on the steam
traction engine I have continued throughout the years to maintain
an intense interest in them. No one without that association could
ever appreciate the romance that goes with the association with
that type of machinery. My experience was largely with the Reeves
and the Baker. Because of that experience I have for some time been
a regular subscriber to the IRON-MEN ALBUM, and I look forward to
seeing it with just as much interest as I do the technical journals
in my present-day field.

As a matter of explanation, I am now and have for some time been
Chief Engineer of The Cooper-Bessemer Corporation, present-day
builders of large diesel and natural gas engines. This company is
very old, dating back to 1833 and was until 1929 known as the C
& G Cooper Co. Under the name of Cooper they built
approximately 2,000 steam traction engines, beginning in 1875 and
ending around 1895. As near as I can determine they may have been
the first American builder to produce such an engine, although the
records are none too clear.

As is the case so often with old companies, they did not realize
they were making history and there was no systematic set-up by
which records were very well kept. We have many old bulletins which
are priceless reading and which do show some of the progress in
development. We also have many old patents involving traction and
steering gear.

One of the interesting phases of this development is that up to
and including the bulletin of 1882 they still stoutly maintain that
the engine should be steered by horses. In the bulletin of 1883
both self-steering and horse-steering were illustrated.

It might be interesting to note that a former Chief Engineer of
this company, who became such in 1898 and who is now 90 years of
age, is still living and is able to recall the building of the
traction and the tests given them on a very steep hill here in
Mount Vernon. His father was Chief Engineer at the time of the
building of the engines. It is further interesting that one
so-called Test Engineer on these units is still living and is able
to recall many interesting incidents.

We have been interested in resurrecting some of the history of
the machinery built here including the traction engine. As
indicated above, the recorded information is relatively meager. We
thought it would be quite appropriate if we could find and purchase
an old Cooper, return it to the plant, recondition it and keep it
in our museum. In spite of all of our efforts, including
advertising, we have been able to locate just one which is being
reconditioned by an individual and as such is not for sale. Perhaps
some of the readers of the IRON-MEN ALBUM might be able to tell us
more of the history of these engines and perhaps even tell us of
the location of any existing engines.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment