611 D Ave., National City, California
Here are a few of my experiences from my younger days. I am now
78 years old. I started with my uncle on a 12 HP Frick when I was
17 years old and weighed 107 lbs. The winter of 1903 I fired a 15
HP Frick in a sawmill for 50 cents a day and my board.
In 1906 I ran a new Reeves 13 HP on the Mississippi River bottom
land and it was a beauty of an engine.
In 1907 I took this same 15 HP Frick to the River Bottom to
thresh. I had to cross a large drainage ditch called the Sny. There
was a large covered bridge to cross on and it was built like a
barn. It was an arched bridge and had 2′ x 3′ planking on
it. The boss wanted to chain out, so we did. I wanted him to steer
for me, but he said ‘no use two good men getting killed.’
You know I could not hold that separator on those 2′ x 3′
planks and the beauty of it was that when I got the separator up to
the center, I had to cut loose with the chain and then back the
engine up on the bridge again. Was I ever glad when I got across.
If I had gone through the bridge I would have fallen about 20 ft.
down into about 10 ft. of water. This bridge was built before the
Civil War and I crossed it in 1907. That same year, with this
engine, I started to go down a steep hill about 11 o’clock at
night and decided to plank the bridge at the foot of the hill. But
when I reversed to hold her I heard the gear pin fall out. I let
loose of the reverse lever and grabbed the steering wheel. Away we
went in the bright moonlight. Boy, how I hit that bridge, a bump or
two and we were across. That old 32 x 54 Pitts separator was sure
My brother and I went into business about 1908. We had a 12 HP
Advance, 32 x 52 Advance Separator hand feed and a No. 1 Birdsell
Huller. One night, pretty late, we were moving the huller and the
farmer said there was a small hill in the brush on this byroad. I
didn’t pay any attention to the steam off and I couldn’t
get him back to thank him for saving my life. They had to cut me
I sold out and went to work in a shop tearing down and
rebuilding. I kept track of the flues I put in until the number was
over 10,000. Also, I was a trouble shooter. I worked for the John
M. Brant Co. in Bushnell, Illinois. One day I went to see what was
wrong with a 20 HP Advance Rumely. The man said the Illinois River
running into the boiler would not keep it full. Well, I pulled the
valve cover and set valve, which was off some, but not bad. Started
up to threshing and I never heard an Advance sound like it. Keen on
one end, blow on the other. I checked the valve once more. The
boiler would not steam. I looked up under the steam chest and said
to shut her down. He asked what I was going to do now and I told
him I was going to fix his engine. He had piped the steam chest
drain into the cylinder cock pipe on the live end. As you know, on
these engines that made her get live steam all the way on that end
and then get live steam on the back stroke to work against which
made her blow on that end. She sure sounded queer. He said it was
funny the company would pipe it that way. I said I don’t want
to call you a liar, but I had seen lots of Advance engines and
never one piped like that. He finally admitted that he had done it
to drain the steam chest. You should have heard it when I started
it up then. After that he said the pump would not work so I took it
apart and it was full of pebbles. I told him that I wouldn’t
have a pump that wouldn’t pump rocks either and that he should
put a screen on the hose.
Another time I started a man from the shop with a 20 HP Rumely
and a separator in the winter time. It was zero or below. He got
about 5 miles that day with it and called up the next morning to
tell me the engine would not run. I drove out there and took a
helper with me. We opened the throttle, one or two rev. bounce
back. It had me for a while and then I put my hand on the exhaust
pipe. It was cold. I told my helper to give me that steam hose. I
put it in overflow from injector and it gave me some steam. I
warmed it a while and said to my helper, ‘open her up.’ You
ought to have seen the ice and hot water go out the top of the
stack. That big long heater was full of ice. She had stood all
night with the side of the engine to the wind and, of course, the
barrel of the boiler being jacketed made it worse. You should have
seen the look on his face when she broke loose.
I went to see a new Advance Rumely. The owner said it was off
but one of our boys unloaded it and he said it ran all right.
However, the owner said he went to use it in a day or two and it
was no good. He had an old man work on it all day and he gave up.
He had changed everything that could be moved. It took me about 2
hours to get it adjusted so I could set the valve. Well, I got it
all O.K. and I often wondered if somebody had tinkered with it.
I unloaded an 18 HP Colean in Missouri. I started them out all
O.K. but in a day or two they called and said the engine would not
run. I went back and asked what she did when they opened the
throttle. He said ‘nothing.’ I told him that I knew what
was wrong. The governor valve was off the stem and they could have
fixed it in a few minutes while it took two nights and one day for
me to get there and back.
I came very near to getting killed with a new 22 HP Minneapolis.
We had steamed it up for a customer and the foreman started it up
and then it stuck on center and he told one of the boys to stick a
pipe through the flywheel and pry it off center. I was going to get
out of the way but did not have time. The pipe hit the drive wheel
and me a glancing lick across the jaw. It knocked me about 15 ft.
dead to the world.
I rebuilt a 16 HP D.C. Nichols-Sheppard engine the company
traded for it. The owner said it never did run good. When I took it
down all the bolts holding the engines to the bed plates had been
hollow ground and when I went to line it up it was about inch out
of line. The man that built it must have been a good mechanic. I
don’t know how it got by.
About 1906 in Springfield, Illinois I saw a glass engine in a
glass blowers booth that actually was running. It was a walking
beam type of engine, flywheels about 12′ in diameter. You could
see the piston going up and down in the cylinder.
I worked for the John M. Brant Company from 1914 to 1926 and
then I drifted to California. There were no steam engines so I went
to work on a lemon ranch, 20 acres, about 1800 trees. That was in
1940. I grew 10,700 boxes of lemons and was there for 25 years,
from 1930 until 1955. It was sold and now is built up in
Courtesy of Charles W. Anthes, 6204 Magnolia Ave., Riverside,
I am a member of the Western Steam Fiends Association, and was
among the first to sign up. I have attended most of the meetings at
Colton, Washington; also had the pleasure of being the oldest
member on two different occasions. I have been to most of the Chris
Busch’s thresher shows, missed one in the ’50’s. Always
a good time had by all.
You can meet many nice and interesting people at a gathering of
this kind. Lots of them are from faraway states.
Have been to the Tri State at Bird City, Kansas. My two brothers
and I attended from ’61 to ’63. My kid brother Floyd,
became acquainted with Mr. Newberry, who had a Nichols ‘V’
shaped 40 horse double cylinder rear mount. Floyd took a liking to
the engine and the owner who allowed him to play with the
This association has a three day show each year in September or
October. Each day they thresh some wheat and do some steam plowing.
When I was there they had nineteen engines on the ground all in
working order. At noon they were all in a parade. Some were scale
Case models which were a nice piece of work. Some ladies served hot
dinners in the building on the grounds. You could sit at tables in
the building or go to the tent tables.
In ’63 and ’64 my brother Sid and I attended Mr. Bill
Mayberry’s thresher show at Niabrara, Nebraska. He had a two
day show in ’64. There were five Aultman and Taylor engines on
the grounds plus some gas tractors. Mr. Mayberry threshed oats by
steam and by horse power. There were twelve head of chestnut sorrel
horses in from Dakota and Nebraska. They weighed around 1400 or
The ’64 show was a big one. The gate man said more than 8000
people had come in by afternoon on Sunday. At that time, I met two
men from Idaho who were members of Western Steam Fiends
Association. I do not recall their names.
I am enclosing a picture of my brother Floyd on a Nichols and
Shepherd engine. Floyd was ill for more than a year. He was laid to
rest on the 12th of November at the age of 65.
Marion, Ohio December 15, 1964
Mr. Fred Harter, Box 241 Galion, Ohio Dear Fred:
This is in answer to your inquiry regarding the Reverse as shown
on Page 45 of the January-February 1965 issue of The Iron Men Album
Our records indicate that this Reverse was first used on an
Engine sold and shipped from our factory on May 23, 1890.
Trusting we have given you the desired information, we are Very
HUBER CORPORATION R. E. LANTZ, SR.
P. O. Box 241 Galion, Ohio 44833 January 8, 1965 Editor Iron Men
Album Enola, Pa. Dear Elmer:
Kindly refer to the attached letter wherein answer is given your
question pertaining to the Huber Sliding Sleeve Reverse illustrated
on page 45 of the ‘Album’ for January and February. This
letter represents a favor from a friend who in point of service is
among the oldest active veterans of the Huber Corporation and well
qualified by experience to dig out information of the sort desired.
Please note then that he has fixed the development of that type of
Reverse for the year 1890.
At the time I first called on Mr. Lantz to request his aid he
said that it might take some doing unless he were given a clue to
start with. Fortunately in this case there happened to be a clue.
It can be readily seen by anyone who will turn the page upside down
and observe the parts number on the Sliding Sleeve Casting. This
number, A 270, suggested the old Parts Manual as the proper area of
reference and the rest, as Mr. Lantz advised me, was a routine
Following the Holiday Season, I again called on Mr. Lantz when
he related his finding a notation describing the first Huber engine
having been equipped with the Sliding Sleeve Reverse. It was a 12
h.p., No. 1785, and sold May 23, 1890 to James Alley of Oxford,
Kansas. Also, as far as can be determined, this Reverse was used on
all Huber engines built during 1890 and until the adoption of the
Wolfe gear in 1892 and, perhaps, on order at odd times
It is to be hoped that there may be folks around Oxford, Kansas
who still remember James Alley.
With kindest wishes I remain Yours sincerely, Fred
Letter from L. C. Mazilly, Starks, La.
In the fall of 1929 I had a rather dangerous experience caused
by my own oversight or carelessness that I well remember in detail.
A man bought a 20 hp M. Rumely engine and got me to run it a
distance of some 20 odd miles. It was in good shape except the
clutch was out of order so I used the gear pin to drive.
I was within 3 or 4 miles of my destination when I saw a nice
pile of pine knots alongside the road and stopped to pick them up.
This is a fuel that will howl any boiler on earth and I wanted all
of it I could get. Nothing else is so good to mix with green slabs
in saw milling.
This engine had a rather high platform from outside to outside
of drive wheels and as I remember an oil drum on each end of this
platform for water tanks. I piled the pine knots as high as my head
leaving just room enough to stand at the steering wheel and open
the fire door. With some difficulty I climbed aboard. I had 125
lbs. steam and plenty of water, but when I attempted to start, I
let the engine stop on center. I could not reach the fly wheel, so
got down on the ground to turn it off; but did not notice that I
had left the throttle wide open and the reverse in backward road
motion. Now in cranking an engine off center I always knew, as we
all do, to turn it the direction it is to run. The Rumely, being a
4 shaft engine, the flywheel of course turns backward for forward
on the road. Perhaps the gear pin being in caused me to rock it
forward. Anyway, that Rumely started backing faster, it seemed to
me, than I ever saw a traction engine roll. It was slightly down
hill and a wide hard road. I ran behind and looked for a place to
grab on. I knew the wood would slip and roll and in that desperate
moment I knew, as I know now, that my chances of boarding the
engine or going under the drivers were no more than 50-50 at best,
but board it I did and I believe for quick action in shutting off
and reversing an engine that I set a record that stands to this
day. This was a good engine and a free steamer. I ran it a distance
of 10 miles to another mill set later. It cut a great deal of
lumber in this vicinity. I ran it some in sawing at both mills and
did some repair work on it but for the most part in those years I
ran a Peerless Ul at another mill.
I note in the engine magazines that some think if there should
ever be a boiler accident at any reunion it would be the end of all
engine shows. By just what authority is this to be brought about?
Since there are more people killed on the highways ever thirty days
than were killed by thresher engines in more than 50 years, can we
expect the operation of automobiles to be prohibited? Perhaps the
attitude is that no one minds going out in the blaze of glory of
all this modern up to date killing but no one could tolerate an
outmoded obsolete death caused by a boiler failure. The rigid and
constant inspection of any boiler to be fired should never be
relaxed but the facts are that many things are more dangerous than
a boiler under steam at the pressure it was built to carry. An old
or defective boiler is much more apt to blow out a weak place than
it is to tear loose at the seams and explode. We fellows who run
boilers should be the first to see that they are safe.
I expect to thresh my rice this fall with 20 hp Minneapolis and
32 inch Case separator.
I threshed some corn last year with good results. It shelled and
cleaned the grain fine and shredded the fodder in fine shape.
I would like for some one to write their experience in binding
and threshing soy beans with common grain thresher.
Courtesy of Mr. O. W. Bowen, Woodman, Wisconsin
I read Mr. Robinson B. Brown’s letter in the July-August
issue and note carefully what he says about the Advance Engine
being light in front. I have had 3, 2-16’s and one 21 Compound.
The 16’s were simple.
At one time I lived in quite a hilly county and I pulled a 36 x
58 Separator with feeder, weigher and a Satley stacker. We all know
that was a big load for a 16 HP.
I am an old engineer, started in 1901 on a Peerless on a sawmill
and have been at it more or less ever since. I am 82 years old and
have run engines in 5 different states, burnt wood, coal and straw
and run a good many different engines. I have run engines they said
you couldn’t keep the front wheels on the ground but I
can’t remember ever pulling the front wheels off the ground and
I have been in some very tight places.
The Advance Engines are my choice. I go to the engine shows and
run engines. I help to start a show at West Concord, Minnesota on
the Budenski Brothers farm. The show there has turned out to be a
grand success. I like to read the letters from the different
threshermen. I never broke through a bridge or a culvert and if I
do say so myself, I don’t take a back seat in firing or
handling an engine and I will do it on a third less of fuel or
water than the average man.
Courtesy of Toivo Anderson, P. O. Box 335 Trochu Alberta, Can.
I receive your excellent magazine and enjoy it very much. The
experiences written by Old Thresher men are interesting. This is my
first letter to your magazine and I hope you will find room to
publish it as I would like some information. Perhaps some thresher
man will have it for me.
A friend and neighbor has an old threshing machine. It is a
wooden machine, about a 22 inch and is so weather beaten the name
is washed off. It has a self feeder and a wind stacker with a
cast-iron body. The part number cast in it is 3647G. Also, it is
driven from opposite side by a through shaft. The shoe fan has cast
iron ends. The wind can be controlled by turning the door left or
right, something like the check on a space heater fire door. It
seems the straw deck has one inch hardwood lumber on edge with
spikes in it to work the straw back.
To satisfy my curiosity I would appreciate anyone knowing the
make of this machine to write me.
I attend Pion-Era in Saskatoon every summer to run and fire a
Steam Traction Engine and enjoy it thoroughly. Wishing your
magazine every success.
Courtesy of Irving C. Keyes, Glamis, Ontario, Canada
Enclosed picture of barn raising and gang. We still get some of
these barn raisings. I have helped with many. This raising with
this gang would be a three or four hour task. I always considered
it much safer working up high than near the bottom on account of
falling pins, mauls and pike poles. There were always some
casualties and also sometimes, fatal.
The largest timber frame barn I know of in this vicinity was 90
feet wide, 108 feet long with 18 feet side posts and built on an 8
foot stone wall. It was destroyed by fire about 25 years ago and
was owned by the late Senator J. J. Donnelly of Pinkerton, Ont. I
threshed red clover in this bam in January of 1933 for eight days
steady threshing. This barn was replaced by two smaller barns and
about July 1955 these two bams along with about thirty others in
this area were either totally destroyed or badly damaged by a
tornado twister. They were nearly all replaced with plank truss
steel covered barns of equal size or larger and were built on the
same masonry stone walls for housing cattle under the bam for the
On July 9, 1965, another tornado twister hit this area again and
either totally destroyed or badly damaged a-bout ten barns and
destroyed many trees. Living elm trees as large as two feet in
diameter at the stump were twisted clear of the stumps without
loosening the stumps out of the ground. A large model car was
lifted from the ground and set down about three hundred feet away
and it was a total wreck. In all this destruction, no one was
injured. This is the end of my bam story.
Courtesy of Mr. Albert Hansens, R. 4, Champaign, Illinois
In September, 1924 I bought a 2A Western Corn Sheller that was
made by the Union Iron Works of Decatur, Illinois. This sheller was
sold new in 1923 and it had shelled about 20,000 bushels of corn
when I bought it in 1924. I was 19 years old at that time, now I am
going on 60 years old.
I used a 16-30 All work Tractor on this sheller which was a
little short on power in tough corn. In the summer of 1927 I talked
to a man by the name of Wesley J. Curtiss, who lived just west of
Champaign, Illinois. He told me he had a 22-40 Allwork tractor that
he bought new in 1925 from the Electric Wheel Company of Quincy,
Illinois. He used this tractor for 2 years threshing about 1,000
acres each year. Then he lost his run and he did not have any
further use for this tractor so I bought it from him in the summer
of 1927 and I used it that fall on the sheller.
In the spring of 1928 my brother, Louis Hansens, boilgnt a new
28-50 Keck-Gonnerman all steel Indiana special separator. I used my
22-40 Allwork tractor on this separator and we threshed about 600
acres of grain a year. In 1939 the combines started to push the
threshing machines out of the picture so my brother traded his
separator for a combine, but I kept on shelling corn with my 22-40
All work tractor up to about 1945. Then I got a rubber tire tractor
and I put the All-
work in sort of retirement. Last winter I put it in my shop and
gave it a good cleaning and a new paint job. Then this summer I put
it back on the same sheller that I used it on in the years gone by,
just for old time sake, and I must say it brought back a lot of old
Courtesy of Glen McNamar, Route 1, Granger, Missouri
I read the letter in ALBUM that Lyle Hoff master wrote and it
sure was interesting. He and I have been buddies at Mt. Pleasant,
Iowa for several years; in fact, we both slept in the caboose over
at the roundhouse this last fall at the reunion.
What interested me was about the Northwest Co. I have operated a
New Giant engine for Milo Mathews, Mt. Union, Iowa for many years
at Mt. Pleasant. I have heard this question many times, that it was
made in the Minnesota State Prison. Well, I can correct this
statement. It was definitely not made in the prison. It was made by
Northwest Thresher Co., Stillwater, Minnesota, an independent
company of its own. Now, I was told by a man that said he used to
work in the factory that there where three parts of the engine made
in the prison casting department for the Northwest Co. but
don’t know which parts they are. Lyle also mentioned the
Robinson engine. There were two of them in this locality at one
time owned by Ed and Jim Smith of Granger, Mo. They were good
engines. The Robinson had a feature I never saw on any other
engine. It was invented by F. W. Robinson himself. It was a wooden
band inside the flywheel, so the clutch shoes operated on wood
instead of the iron rim of the flywheel. It never slipped.
He also mentioned the McNamar engine. I wonder if it is still in
existence. I would sure like to get it. I am a distant relative of
the man that made it.
The reunion at Mt. Pleasant is going to run 5 days this year. I
understand it runs through Sunday and I think Sunday morning we
should have special prayer services and thank God for the wonderful
success he has given us for our show at Mt. Pleasant.