Farm Collector

‘Modern Navy Pilot Has Old Fashioned Steam As Hobby’

VX-6 FPO San Francisco, Calif. 96690

I have been a reader of the Iron-Men Album for a number of years
and it has provided many hours of enjoyable reading. The pictures
have been outstanding. Many thanks to you and your staff for a fine

The age of the steam engine was over when I was born but my
Grandfather and my father have both had extensive experience in the
field. My Grandfather went into the Dakotas as a young man where he
plowed and threshed with steam before returning to Corning. New
York, where he went on the railroad. He also drove a
Buffalo-Springfield roller to maintain the roads in our county.

While my Father was in high school, he ran a pump house for the
railroad and then ran the power house for the town of Dundee. When
he went to farming, he threshed with steam.

He often tells the story of going to work at the power house one
night and seeing Shorty, the man he was to relieve, sitting on a
chair, white as a sheet. When asked what the trouble was, Shorty
gestured towards one of the boilers. My Father could see nothing
wrong until he was told to bend down and look at the crown sheet.
There it was, a great big bulge. There is a lot of lime in our
water and evidently, it: had formed a crust on the crown sheet
causing it to get hot and bulge just as Shorty was heaving in a
scoop of coal. Being low slung, he saw it come right down. Later
speculation concluded that when she bulged, the scale was broken
allowing water in to cool the metal and stopping it from blowing
out completely.

My occupation is gallavanting around the world as a Navy pilot.
My folks are always amazed that I am interested in steam but I tell
them it runs in the blood. Right now I am spending six months on
the Antarctic continent flying tour engine turboprop transports,
the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. It is interesting duty because of the
conditions here.

Before we flew onto the ice, I spent a week in Christ Church,
New Zealand and met several members of the steam fraternity there.
The traction engines are all of English make with the Burrells and
Fowlers being among the most popular. Many of the engines still
work for a living.

The first steam fan I met was Mr. C. F. Long of Ashburton. He
has a sheep ranch about 20 miles south of Christ Church and has
been in steam for many years. I first heard of him while talking to
a member of the Christ Church Flying Club. It took a short phone
call to arrange a visit the next Sunday.

The telephones here are something else again. New Zealand is on
the English Pound system although they are switching to the Dollar
system in the next couple of years. The pennies are as big as our
silver dollars so phone change causes quite a bulge in your pants
pocket. The phone boxes have an A and a B button. You put your
money in, dial your number and when your party answers, push the A
button which deposits the toll in the box. If your party does not
answer, push the B button to return the toll. On his first call,
the average American novice usually forgets to push the A button
causing the party called to hear nothing but garble. At that, the
standard phrase used is ‘push the A button Yank.’ Back to
Mr. Long.

After getting thoroughly confused with the right hand steering
of my rented Vauxhall and the vagueness of the map, I stopped for
directions only to find that my goal was ‘that farm across the
paddocks with the red roof.’

Mr. Long and his son-in-law were waiting for me and I had a
wonderful time examining his stable of engines. He has a Burrell
and a Fowler traction engine and a McClaren road roller. The
traction engines are mostly hobby now although occasional use is
made of the winding drum built on the left axle of most English
engines. A practice that I think the American engines could have
made good use of. The roller still puts in an occasional good days
work flattening out the sheep paddocks. The paddocks in New Zealand
are very neat and precise with clipped hedges used for fence. Along
with the engines there is a large wooden wheeled wagon of the type
used to haul freight behind the traction engines. For those
interested gas engine men, Mr. Long has a Titan tractor in
excellent condition.

Because of the scarcity or high cost of materials, nothing is
wasted in New Zealand. Americans who are used to power tools and
specialized equipment might be a little surprised at the work Mr.
Long does with a gas engine driven grinder, a mounted H.P. hand
drill and a forge with a hand worked bellows for draft. The grinder
was made by turning an auto engine block upside down and using the
crankshaft bearings for the main bearings with the stone mounted on
one end and a pully on the other. Not a bad idea to copy.

Courtesy of Mr. Jack W. Beamish, Box 271, Hamiota, Manitoba,
Canada. I am 19 years of age and have been interested in steam
engines and everything that goes along with them ever since I can
remember. I have a collection of gas engines which I also enjoy
working with and restoring. This is a picture of my uncle’s 75
HP Case and a 36 inch Red River Special separator threshing wheat
into our neighbor’s barn last fall. My Uncle Doug is sitting on
the right hand side of the engine and my father is standing on the
separator. After we finished combining last fall we threshed two
days at the neighbors. The weather was nice and a lot of people
turned out to watch and even pitch a few sheaves. My uncle also has
a 65 HP Case that he acquired last fall. The Iron Men Album is the
most interesting magazine I find to read and it would be nice if it
could be published more often.

After looking the engines over and getting all the pictures I
could, we went inside where I was introduced to Mr. Long’s wife
and daughter. While looking at pictures, the ladies plied me with
tea, cookies and cake. To say they were good would be an
understatement and I’m afraid they thought the Navy must not
feed me the way I ate. Bachelor life does have its disadvantages. I
was invited for Tea (supper) but had to return to duty so left the
Longs with a promise to return.

Talking to the police sergeant who gave us a lecture on the
perils of driving in New Zealand, I learned of Mr. A. Greer, an
enthusiast, who directed me to Mr. Bob Hawkins of Belfast on the
north side of Christ Church. Mr. Hawkins and his Father before him
were saw mill men. Demands for lumber had outstripped what could be
produced by the belt of a steam tractor but Mr. Hawkins still has
the last Burrell imported to New Zealand which used to run the
mill. She earns her keep by hauling logs around the mill yard.

The mill was another lesson in New Zealand economy. Most of the
buildings had frames made from bent railroad rail with fillits at
the curve of the eave and welded at the peak. In fact, rail seems
to have been used in 100 different ways. A slab wood cut off saw
was run by air, automatic and home made as was the sawdust conveyer
belt. Logs were conveyed to the carriage by an endless chain made
up from the tracks of crawler tractors and running on a frame of
railroad rail. Everything was driven by surplus speed reducers and
liberal use was made of air cylinders to help kick the logs and
lumber around.

As I had to return to the base by noon for an inspection, I was
very impatient for that old Burrell to get up steam and, as you
know, a watched pot never boils. Finally, with 60 lbs on the gauge,
Mr. Hawkins hit the simpling valve allowing boiler pressure into
the L.P. cylinder and she walked her way out of the mud under the
shed. He said we’d go out on the road for a spin and after
getting through the gate, he turned her over to me.

In third gear that engine really could travel. Although she made
a lot more noise than our American engines due to the extra gearing
involved. I was told that the road engines could do 18 to 20 MPH in
high gear and that on engines with canopies, you could hardly hear
yourself think.

The exhaust of the compound engine was quite soft even under
hard pulls unless you opened the simpling valve. Then the engine
would really talk. Jacketed boilers, compounding and high pressure
made up for the high cost of fuel in England.

It was with regret that I turned back into the mill yard and
said goodbye. You may understand how I felt when I returned to the
base and found that the inspection had been cancelled. That’s
the breaks.

As we left for the ice on 1 Oct., I was unable to attend the big
rally at Ashburton on the 16th. The previous year there were almost
20 engines present.

  • Published on May 1, 1966
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