| July/August 1955

  • Birdsall engine
    John B. Parrett

  • Birdsall engine


I began my threshing career in 1899 as a pitcher for a rig owned by Bowen-Koepke & Mielke. I am enclosing a picture of the Bird sell engine No. 2345 owned by them. I am on top of the separator with bundle on my fork. I pitched bundles in 1899 and 1900, and in 1901 worked as water boy or sometimes called Water Monkey. I was more interested in the Water Monkey job as that put me nearer the steam end of the outfit as I always wanted to see what made it tick. In 1902 this outfit was bought by Albert Koepke so I bid for the job as engineer and fortunately got it. I thought, BOY am I in the money, getting 2.00, as pitching bundles only paid $1.00 a day. This was my first trial at running an engine and the first attempt to set a slide valve as it had not worked right for the past two years.

I was a little in doubt, perhaps scared a little, but I made my own tram rod, center punch and I had a ball pin hammer and a couple of wrenches. You realize in those days a farm boy was not blessed with very many tools. I tackled the job on Sunday, so as not to be troubled by any company asking questions. Took me some time to find dead center on both head and crank ends, but finally got it and took it off the steam chest cover and proceeded to put the valve where it would or as I thought should work. When I had it finished I wondered, Will it or won't it. Every time I woke up that night I had my mind on that valve and wondering if the engine would run backwards when it should run forwards. On Monday morning I was on the job early so I could try it to see if I had accomplished anything. You can just imagine how happy I was when the old kettle rolled either way as I used the reverse. Guess I had a BIG HEAD, anyhow I felt proud of a job well done.

Looking back now on that job I see how simple it looks to me. After many years with steam engines, both traction and stationary, I have an idea many other old engineers can look and think back to some such time as experienced by a new engineer. I still love the memories of the old days with the steam thresher. Many in the picture have gone out on that river of no return.

JOHN B. PARRETT, Portland, Oregon


This is a description of a rubber tired under mounted steam tractor built by L. A. Hansen, Rolph, Iowa. Mrs. T. H. Smith took pictures of this engine at Mount Pleasant, Iowa reunion for the ALBUM. It has a Hershel Spill man double engine 4 x5. I built a roller bearing reverse gear on this engine, also counterbalanced the crank shaft which works very nice.

The flywheel s 30x6. It has a four speed transmission with top speed about 15 miles per hour. Rear tires are 12x38, front tires 7:50x20. The steam generator is patented and, built by Mr. Carl E. Bishop of Carlisle, Towa. This is made to fit in the fire door. It has 1000 lb. cold water test and we have the safety valve set at 200 pounds. I like this size engine and we have lots of fun with it. It took close to a year and a half, mostly spare time, to build it. This engine s not modeled after any particular engine, just some of my own ideas put together. I am a road contractor and have three D-8's and one D-7 Caterpillar diesel tractors. I think these are as fine pieces of machinery as ever was made. I was raised around steam traction engines and somehow it got into my blood. I guess one never gets rid of it. I also have a 20 hp. Reeves and a 1918 Stanley Steamer which are in A-l condition.


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