Farm Collector

My Memoirs

Swedish families, direct from Sweden, lived among us then, and
they loved the Swedish black rye bread. Father ground rye for them,
and a Swede wife taught mother to make it. The crust was hard; but
that soft center!! I could make a meal on it with butter alone.

The heavy cast bed plate on our engine, (bolted to a couple of
walnut logs bedded in the ground) extended only back to the front
end of the cylinder leaving the cylinder over hang, so that the
condensation from the cylinder cocks dropped on the ground, in
warming the engine and getting under load the water and steam dug
little holes in the earth beneath about six inches or so deep and a
couple of inches in diameter. They would sometimes stand almost
full of oily water from one grinding day to the next. Seemed the
oil made the holes sort of water proof.

The pastor of our small rural Methodist Church owned 3 or 4 nice
Jersey cows, and as father was one of his parishioners, he brought
us his grain to grind.

One day he arrived, just as we were ready to start. I noticed,
as he helped father mix his grain for grinding that he had on his
Sunday white shirt and collar and black tie, and over them a
cover-all suit open down the front, so that the shirt front was
mostly exposed. I already had the engine running slowly to warm it,
when the Reverend started back toward me and father signaled to
bring it up to speed.

When our preacher got just opposite me at the throttle the
cylinder cocks still open he reached out, touched the sawyers lever
with his fingers, saying, ‘And this is the little
governor.’ and right then it happened. In that same instant
father tightened down and started the mill to grinding. The
governor opened and as the engine took its load a sheet of that
dirty, muddy water shot up and covered that poor man’s white
shirt front. He left the building before I had time to say a word;
(though what could I have said) probably to give vent to thoughts
that he would hardly be using in his next Sunday sermon.

After we began grinding for table use we realized we were not
set up too good for that. It should be cleaner around the mill and
we had no bins to store the corn meal and flours. So father decided
to rearrange the whole plant. He built to the south a room to place
the engine and boiler, then floored the entire buggy shed and
mounted a brand new Nordyke and Marmon ‘Plantation’ stone
burr mill, (the old one had developed a crack in one of the stones)
on the floor. The bolting equipment fit the new mill also. We built
bins for the table meals. Put up a line shaft, driven from a pulley
on the other end of the engine crank shaft, to drive the corn
sheller, a fanning mill, and a huge grind stone, to sharpen the
picks we sharpened the stone burrs with; and an elevator to fill
bins up stairs. Dad had a mightily nice, clean, handy layout. He
could keep quantities of grain stored in the added space it gave
him, on a strong floor also.

But it did not work so good for me. I was a crank at keeping my
engine clean. I wanted it always to be clean and sparkling like the
big Corliss engine at the light plant. As it was now arranged the
engine was only about 10′ from the grinder and it and the line
shaft were driven thru holes in the wall. The dust from grinding
especially grinding buckwheat flour-carried back on the belts and
covered everything in the engine and boiler room, unless the wind
was right to take it the other way.

We had some pretty good lumber-not in use that would make a
tight room around the engine itself, and several good window sash.
I thought maybe if I built a room tight enough around the engine
alone it would form a sort of dead air space, and keep the dust all
out. So I got permission to build my room. I put a lot of window
sash on the east next to the boiler and on the south. But it was
worse than ever. Now the little engine got all the dust. And it
took lots of wiping to keep it clean. I finally boxed the wheels up
to the wall where the belts passed thru, and solved the

Since we could seldom finish our grinding in one day we took to
running at night on the days we were fired up, if we could finish,
rather than fire up a second day. This required lights. Father
solved it by putting up reflector kerosene lamps on the walls. I
hung one or two where needed in the boiler room. And for light in
the engine room I hung a big hanging lamp with large reflector
right over the engine. I thought it was beautiful running in there
the moving parts sparkling in the lamp light.

I subscribed for a magazine, ‘The Steam Engineer.’ It
proved to be a down to earth magazine, that was easily understood.
It had a ‘Letters from our readers’ department, a
‘question and answer’ department as well as articles by men
high in the profession and articles on technical subjects. In
casting around for some way to improve my steam plant, I hit on the
scheme of adding a pump and feed water heater. I had no idea how
much water the engine used per hour. I sent to the Chicago House
Wrecking Company and bought the smallest secondhand steam pump they
listed, a Marsh. They had feet water heaters also, but I decided
they were all too big for my use. Sow that to do for a feed water

Finally I selected a good strong 30 gallon wooden oil barrel. I
ran a length of 1′ pipe from the top up thru the roof. Then
piped the 1′ exhaust from the engine in at the side, set the
barrel about two feet above the pump to let the hot water flow to
the pump by gravity, and piped the cold feed water to the barrel
and I was ready to go. At the proper water level in the boiler, I
turned on my little pump. I soon had to increase its speed, and
finally was running it at full throttle and still had to help hold
the level with the inspirator I noticed soon, also, that the engine
was laboring and not running free and up to speed. I looked at my
barrel heater then stepped outside and looked at the exhaust pipe
above the roof. It was spouting steam away up in the air and
roaring loud. I ran back in and watching the barrel I imagined
those barrel staves were breathing with every exhaust. So I shut
the engine down. When all the commotion died down, I dumped out the
barrel and went back to my inspirator. I could not let the heater
idea alone. So I wrote to my ‘Steam Engineer’ magazine and
asked how much water a 6′ x 8′ engine, plain slide valve,
cut off at stroke, running on full load at 200 R.P.M. and 100 lbs
steam should use per hour. Also what size steam pump should I use
(single not duplex) to feed that much water to the boiler at a
speed a pump should run. Also could they tell me how to make a
cheap, good, closed feed water heater for a 12 horse boiler.

They answered every question in full. As for the heater, take a
length of larger pipe. Perhaps 10′ of 3′ or better and run
your exhaust pipe thru it. Introduce your boiler feed cold at one
end-and take it out at the other. This should make you a
serviceable heater.

The Chicago House Wrecking Co. allowed me to trade in the little
Marsh steam pump for one of the proper size-also a second hand
Marsh. I got our plumber to help me build a heater. But still I was
not thru. We forgot about unequal expansion. We fitted up our
heater with a heavy cast iron reducer at each end. When I turned
the cold water in after running a while, there was a loud report as
one of those reducers let go. We then made a slip joint with
packing gland on one end and I had a real water heater, and it and
my pump worked perfect. We used it as long as we kept the

But the time came when the neighbor threshers began to call on
me to run their traction engines. First the old 10H.P. leaky flue
Nichols Shepherd. Then the Port Huron 15 H.P. compound, which I
liked so well I bought the rig and a worn out Marsailles corn
sheller just to have the engine. By the way Mr. Leroy Blaker spoke,
a few issues back in the Iron Men Album, of the peculiar shape of
the crank disk on Port Huron engines, and the closeness of the
connecting rod at certain points in the revolution. I can testify
to that from painful experience. I got 3 badly mashed fingers while
idling it slowly, trying to locate a knock.

And finally, as so many of you know the Avery Undermounted
became my choice of traction engines. Father succeeded in keeping
me on the farm but I know it was a compromise he was not always
pleased with, since I owned and ran engines also.

He believed that the farm was business enough to keep one busy
if you applied yourself to it. And I expect he was right.

So ends my Memoirs.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1963
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