Just a Steam Fan

| July/August 1959

  • 12 hp. Nichols & Shepard
    12 hp. Nichols & Shepard No. 4632 and built in 1893. This is one of the four engines at Millers Ranch, each a different size and make.

  • 12 hp. Nichols & Shepard

I HAVE BEEN TAKING the ALBUM since 1952 and, like all the other ALBUM readers, I enjoy it very much. For sometime, I have wanted to write a letter to be printed in the ALBUM. I have enjoyed every letter printed, so maybe some folks will read this one all the way through.

I was in Grinnel, Iowa in March, decorating a new church, was staying with my son-in-law James Lang. He told me there was a steam engine about a mile out of town. We drove out there and it was a 16 hp. Gaar-Scott, cleaned up and painted. I didn't get to talk to the owner.

I came home and the May-June ALBUM was here with a picture of a 20 hp. Reeves, exactly like the one I owned and run for seven years, so I decided to send along some pictures with this letter. I was born in 1898 so you can count my age on each one of these engines and know that I was not an old-timer; just a steam fan. I was always happy to just be near a steam engine, but other than hauling bundles to one, I never got a chance to really be near one.

I went to Harper, Kansas, in 1918 and got a job hauling water to a 30hp. Reeves double. This machine 'also 36 in. Case separator' had been shipped up from Oklahoma. I think from near Enid, by a man named George McDowell. He also brought the engineer and separator man. They were brothers and I think their names were Peedam. Dick was the Engineer. This engine had in addition to the two side tanks, a big one. I think eight barrels that laid down cross-wise behind with a coal burner on top of that, so all the coal had to be cracked and shoveled up there and it fed down to the platform through a chute. I imagine most of you know all about this. You had to go up onto the engine from the left side. I pulled the water tank up on the right side which is a bit unusual as all of the others we run on the left side. We had 36 days threshing, 18 of shocks and 18 of headed. I'm still not sure I was 'around' that engine much while it was running as it took six tanks one day and seven the next and this was a Port Huron boiler steel tank that held 14 barrels as compared to these galvanized tanks that probably hold 10 barrels.

The next year I went to Red Field, South Dakota, and got a job hauling bundles to a Buffalo-Pitts, 32 in. separator and a 15 hp. Case engine. I do not think this one took as much water. This machine run seven bundle racks. Three of us didn't like to change sides every time we came in, so we made a deal with the other four that we would keep one side going if we could have the belt side, that being the side they took the grain from. Guess I have always been a glutton for punishment. That ended the wheat threshing. Oh yeah!- the owner of that machine was named Arch Miller.

In 1922, I hauled water to a 20 hp. Return Flue Minneapolis, that was pulling a 36 separator of the same make. This engine was run by one of my brothers, Lester, and was owned, by Howard Byam-Walt Phipps and Bert Johnson. In 1927, I ran a 20 hp. Straight Flue Minneapolis engine on a 36 in. Minneapolis. This machine was owned by Chas. Jacobsen. In 1028 I ran a 20 hp. Case engine for the three already mentioned above. Byam is my father-in-law but he wasn't in 1922. In 1929, I ran a 20 hp. Gaar Scott engine on a 36 in. separator same name, for Edward Ingram. All of these starting in 1922 were in the Sioux Rapids-Marathon, Iowa communities. Then I bought a 36-60 Avery Yellow Fellow separator and an 18 hp. Return Flue Avery engine, got a run in the same community a little closer to Marathon and threshed until 1936, however, I only ran the engine one season, then I bought the 20 hp. Reeves. In 1937 I threshed a run near Webb, Iowa which was as close to Byams where I stored my machine, as the other run was.