Harrison Machine Works 20 HP Jumbo

Single-cylinder Steam Engine Remains Part of a Collector’s Stash

| Spring 2007

Leroy McClure comes from a long line of people who love steam traction engines. “I’ve lived with them all my life,” the 58-year-old Colchester, Ill., farmer says. “My father bought a 20 HP Minneapolis and threshing machine new in 1923. Before purchasing the new machine he had used steam engines to operate sawmills and various threshing rings. He started collecting steam engines in the 1950s. He had a lot of different kinds, Huber, Rumely, Case, Gaar-Scott, Aultman & Taylor, Reeves, Advance-Rumely, Peerless, Wood Bros., Kitten, Russell, Baker and Keck-Gonnerman, having bought and sold several during his collecting years. He had 23 at one time.”

Today, Leroy has 16 of the engines left. (Some of them are now owned by Marshall and Michelle, his children.  “I am merely the caretaker for the next generation,” Leroy says.) One of his steam traction engines is this 1914 20 HP Harrison Jumbo.

Hobby from the Past

For Leroy, steam traction engines were a part of his life growing up. “My dad and two other guys got together and started a threshing show here on the farm, starting in 1953. That was basically where I started getting involved, because I was too young to have worked on threshing crews and the like,” he says.

The show was incorporated as the Illinois Threshers’ Jubilee, but was disbanded after three years, although the private show on the McClure farm continued.

Leroy’s earliest steam memories involve operating a Buffalo Springfield steam roller. “There was an older guy who was retired from the railroad, being the owner of the engine, and would come out here every Sunday as weather permitted to play with the toys. I was probably 7 or 8 years old, and he taught me how to run a steam engine. I was pretty excited,” he says.

Besides the Jumbo, Leroy likes all 16 of his steam traction engines for different reasons. “The 1937 25 HP Kitten, the 1915 12 HP Russell and 1901 18 HP Birdsall I bought myself, and the rest Dad bought, but we still have. The other seven have been parceled out to other family members. I just kind of like the Kitten and Birdsall because they’re different. They’re good engines. As long as you don’t have to work on them,” he chuckles.