Courtesy of Mr. E. E. Danielson, 221 S. Tenth
St., Burlington, Iowa
I started threshing when I was 18 years old. I ran the old
steamer or threshing engine. For 6 years I ran steam, then the
tractors came out. We had what was called the Rumely Oil Pull. They
were rated at twenty forty and they were one of the best tractors
at that time. We used them from 1926 to 1938. They were a two
cylinder tractor. But getting back to steam, it was during the
first world war that I go my initiation to steam. Help was hard to
get then owing to the war. The first year I hauled water and the
next year Dad asked me if I thought I could take the business end
of the engine. I said I was willing to try and I made it okay until
we ran into a bad batch of coal. It was about the third day out
when we pulled into a place where the farmer was kinda hard run and
he bought some cheap coal. You can guess what happened. The coal
melted and ran through the gates. Of course, that shut off the air.
I got my poker and got under the platform and went to work. All the
time we were still running and my steam was dropping fast. Anyone
who thinks I wasn’t busy should try it sometime. Dad was there
and he never said a word, just sat there and grinned. I knew if I
got into real trouble he would take over. There I was a sweating
and maybe saying something under my breath about that poor coal.
The water dropped down until I could just see it in the glass. The
steam gauge said 90 lbs. when it should have said 175 lbs., but I
kept sweating and trying. Finally the steam began to climb. You
see, the injector that puts water into the boiler would not work
under 75 lbs. Well, I fought it for an hour and a half so I begun
to take it a little easier. Dad said anytime you can come out of a
predicament like that you will make an engineer.
I threshed with Dad for 6 years before the tractors took over. I
sure missed the steam, it was harder work but I sure enjoyed it. At
that time we had a 22 HP Advance Rumely on a 36 inch cylinder by 60
inch Separator. In a good days run we would thresh 3000 to 4000
bushels of wheat a day of 12 hours. The combines began to take over
in 1938 so Dad sold out after 40 years of threshing.
We then went to saw milling. We got hold of another steamer and
put it on the mill. You can’t beat steam for power, I know, I
have tried all kinds; gas, electric, diesel, etc. The days of the
twenties were the best this country ever saw or ever will see. Your
dollar went some place then. Now it don’t buy nothing.
Until the stock market broke in 1929, everyone who wanted to
work could get a job.
They were even begging for help. Too many out of work now,
automation has taken care of that. At that time the farmer fed the
hands and what a feed it was. Every farm wife was a real cook. The
women had to plan a week ahead in order to have everything run
smooth. Everything went like clock work. We would run up to noon
and the machine men would get into the first table. They reserved
four places for them. We hardly were over thirty minutes at noon.
We had to get back and oil and grease up so as to be ready to go. I
remember when I would get up at three in the morning to hunt
kindling wood to start a fire. I bet many a farmer missed boards
off his fence, but I never heard nothing from it.
Our run consisted of from 12 to 14 farms. That took lots of
help. We ran 12 to 14 bundle racks, 8 or 9 pitchers and 6 to 10
grain wagons. We had 35 to 40 men all the time. The run, as we
called it, lasted 3 to 4 weeks. Sometimes we would have 2 runs in a
season. Dad was one of the best threshers in those parts. The
second run would wait for him no matter what. We have many a day
started up at six in the morning and never stopped until noon.
After a hard week of threshing the boys would all go to town and
have the time of their lives, but I always cautioned the machine
crew to be on the job early Monday morning. How I liked to sit
there and watch that black smoke go to the sky, but I guess those
days are gone forever.
Letter by G. C. Dixon, Germania, West Va.
On page 37 of the ‘Climax Book’ at the top is G. W.
Wilson No. 1. An engine which I never saw, but believe it or not
Wilson’s Mil’s West Va. was only four miles from home, and
that engine actually logged parts of our farm. Also maybe you can
figure this out, my favorite sister-in-law’s grandfather, who
came from the Bradford-Kane area of Pa. was the engineer, utterly
fantastic. That was Dunkirk rather than a Climax.
On pp. 23 of Nov.-Dec. 63 Album, there is a guess what picture,
since no one responded I will offer my two cents worth. The
separator and engine are Gieser of the early 1900 vintage, wood
wheels, engine about 6 HP from the looks of it and the separator a
No. 3. That is the first kind of a rig I ever worked around and it
looks very familiar.
On pp. 26 of the Jan.-Feb. issue of the Album, the engine at
Portland, Ore., isn’t necessarily too old. By the look of the
gearing on the front end, under the boiler, it is a cog locomotive
similar to the type used in the famous Pike’s Peak Cog Road.
Owing to the extreme grade, they used a cog geared rail in the
center of the rack to give it absolute traction. Wouldn’t have
any idea where it came from but that is the type locomotive it
Letter from Russell Sederberg, Route 2, Box 78, Port Orchard,
I would like to forward a few momentos about my father. My dad
passed away last August at the age of 86. He was born in Iowa and
farmed north of Kiron, Iowa for many years. In his early boyhood
days, he spent his leisure time building steam engines. We still
have in our possession a steam traction engine he built when he was
14 years old and it still runs. He told us he had used a stove
poker for a soldering iron. A burner was made that burned tallow.
He had made many model steam engines and had built a car he could
ride in before they had cars in Iowa. An electrical storm hit the
garage on his farm and burned his models, including his home-made
car. Only one model was saved. He finally moved to town, Kiron, and
built a new garage and had the Ford car agency. He told us how he
drove Model ‘T’s from the Omaha assembly plant to Kiron on
frozen mud roads, when he arrived home the side walls of the tires
were worn down to the canvas. One time he took out a prospective
buyer and ran out of gas, so he poured the kerosene out of the head
lamps in the gas tank. He started the Model T and it smoked so they
could hardly see the car, but they made it back to town. The
customer made the remark, if it would run on kerosene he would buy
He had four sons, two of them serving their country by joining
the Air Corps. One was in the European Theatre and the other in the
South Pacific. The other two, and my father came to the Pacific
Northwest to work in defense. My Dad worked in the Puget Sound
Naval Shipyard here in Brenerton, Wash., as a machinist. After the
war was over, he was given his reduction in force notice and again
he took up his hobby of steam engines. First, he had a small cheap
lathe and on his 75th birthday we gave him $75. in silver dollars.
To this, he added enough to buy himself the lathe he wanted. First
he built a stationary two cylinder oscillating engine that ran on
air pressure. Next, he made an all brass model traction steam
engine ,this one even has flues in the boiler. This one took about
four years to build. The last one is a traction engine, but was not
quite completed, however, it does run.
He always looked forward to the IRON MEN ALBUM and would always
tell us what an interesting edition it was – seems that he always
thought the last magazine was better than the previous one.
When a young man in Iowa, he spent time working around steam
engines, starting with hauling water. There was nothing Dad liked
better than visiting with a person that had worked around a steam
rig or showing his models to someone that could appreciate
I might inject here, that when I was released from the service
and returned home, he went out to visit the Reecy Brothers, west of
Kiron, that Dad used to work for during harvest season. They had a
12 hp. Huber in perfect condition. It had been stored for years in
a building and had new flues installed just before it was stored. A
few months later this perfect show piece was sold to the ‘junk
men’ for $25.
Here in Washington, out along the Hood Canal there is a 105 hp
Case steam engine that was used in the construction of the Hungry
Horse Dam in Eastern Washington. We used to take a Sunday drive and
take Dad out there. He would always climb up and stand there with
his hand on the throttle. Finally in Nov. of 1962, he became ill
and was hospitalized for the first time in his life. He had a
number of operations and the doctors marveled at his stamina. It
was learned he had cancer, but we never told him. He was getting
along pretty well and always talked about getting back to his work
on the models but in August 1963 he was called to his reward. We
took him back to Iowa to be buried beside his wife, and our Mother.
He was buried less than two miles from where he was born.
Am enclosing some photos, one of his 72 year old steamer and one
stationary and two traction engines, which I am sure some of your
readers will appreciate and I’m sure Dad would say, ‘A
Courtesy of Mr. F. L. Raisty, 409 E. Harvard, St., Glendale 5,
My first job working around a threshing machine was holding
sacks for the man that did the measuring with two half bushel
measures. This was about 1885, when I was 10 years old the grain
came out of a shaking spout just ahead of the rear wheel on either
side of the separator. A box about 2 feet by 2 feet was set on the
ground with a talley box on one side and when one half bushel was
full it was pulled past the talley box, tripping a lever, that
talleyed the bushels and the other half bushel measure was set in
In our’ neighborhood in those days three men were engaged to
carry the sacks of grain to the granary. Soon after that time the
separators came out with a very high elevator called the Dakota
elevator, and two sacks could be hung on the long pipe that hung
and reached to three feet off the ground, using a trip lever to
shift the grain to the empty sack. The sacks were still carried to
the granary by three men, but soon after, a wagon with a triple box
was used. I remember that 22 sacks standing in the wagon box was
what it would hold. Then shortly after, the grain was run loose in
the wagon box and each box was measured in depth counting two
bushels to an inch in depth, and the grain was all shoveled in the
bin, as elevators were unheard of at that time.
The machines were all powered with a horse power, using 12
horses on it to drive a 32′ cylinder and were all fed by hand
and the hum and ring of the bevel bear on the cylinder could be
heard for a mile or two on a windstill day. You could tell if a man
was a good feeder or nor by the evenness of the hum of the gear.
Much pride was taken in those days in being a good feeder.
A few years later a steam engine was bought on the east side of
the Shell Rock River. It came over on the west side in our
neighborhood and threshed a couple of jobs. It was an 8 horse Gaar
Scott engine and 31′ Gaar Scott separator. We all thought it
was a powerful machine to thresh and was so quickly put in the
belt, instead of setting and steaking down the horse power and
tumbling rods (as they were called) which ran from the power up to
the cylinder. I remember the engine was too small to pull the
separator up the hills and the tank man had to pull the separator
with his team. He was provoked and jawing about it.
A few years later several engines were bought and did the
threshing in our neighborhood. There were one or two 10 HP Case
engines and I remember of 2, 10 HP, O. S. Kelly engines too, but no
self-feeders were used yet.
In 1895 the man that had owned the Gaar Scott outfit bought a 12
HP Rumely and a 34 x 50 Rumely separator. The next year, 1896, I
hired out with him and hauled water 41 days, fed 40 days, finishing
December 4th. The , stacks were covered with snow. I was 21 years
old on the December 3rd. The day before we finished the owner of
the machine hired a man to cut the ice across the Shell Rock River
at the Burris ford where we crossed with the machine the night of
December 3rd. The next day we threshed the last job near where the
owner of the machine lived.
I fed the next two years and at that time the self-feeders were
being used more with better success. The week before we finished we
threshed 45 stacks on the R. Root farm. With 1896 being a wet
season, these stacks were poorly stacked, had taken water, some
quite badly, and were frozen in places so they had to be chopped
and bars used to pry much of it loose. We would push the heads of
the frozen bundles to the cylinder and thresh off the grain and
then throw the frozen chunks back on a pile.
I hired out to thresh six or seven seasons, then in 1903 I
bought a complete Port Huron outfit and threshed for 55 years in
all, finishing August 24, 1950. I had owned one Port Huron
separator, one Gaar Scott, two Red River Specials, three Port Huron
Compound engines and one Minneapolis engine. I have sold the
engines but have one 36 x 56 Red River separator with 4 ft. Garden
City feeder. The separator is in good running order, having good
belts complete and is for sale. I sold my last engine, a 19 HP Port
Huron Compound, and it has been resold and is owned now by Justin
Hingtgen, LaMotte, Iowa. I have attended the steam engine shows at
Mt. Pleasant, Iowa for 10 or 11 years and enjoy it very much. I
winter in Glendale, California and have driven from Clarksville,
Iowa to Glendale 32 round trips.