North By Northwest Part II

A Twisted Road Leads to Northwest Thresher Mfg. Co.


| November 2005



Northweststeamtractionengine.jpg

Opposite page: This 1913 photo shows a 30 HP Northwest steam traction engine. This is part of August Berg’s threshing rig working near Fort Ransom, N.D. (Photo from the Richard Birklid Collection.)

Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part series on the Northwest Thresher Co.

Northwest Thresher Co. became the successor to Minnesota Threshing Machine Co. in July 1901. In 1902, the size of the plant was increased, as was the capitalization, from $500,000 to $700,000.

A 1903 advertisement in The Thresher World and Farmers' Magazine touts "The New Giant Engine," the successor to the Giant steam traction engine. The advertisement says there was excessive rain in most localities in 1902, which tested the engine as never before. The result: "It was hard steaming, hard threshing, hard pulling, hard on the flues, hard on the engine and hard on the engineers. The New Giant came through the ordeal without a single failure - without a single defeat. No waiting for steam, no lack of power, no stuck in the mud; nothing but complete satisfaction of all demands made upon it."

The New Giant was claimed to be the most durable boiler on the market. According to Jack Norbeck in Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines, the steel boiler was of 60,000-pound tensile strength per square inch.

The 18 HP and smaller boilers had shells 1/4-inch thick, main flues 5/16-inch, flue sheets and dome sheets 3/8-inch thick. The 20 HP and larger had vital statistics of shells 5/16-inch, main flues 3/8-inch and flue sheets 7/16 inches thick. The 25 HP simple and 30 HP compound boilers were made in three sections, the center 13/32-inch thick and the end sections 3/8 inches thick.

According to Norbeck, "The company made no extra charge for jacketing. The jacket of the New Giant had an extra covering of Russia iron, which made it indestructible, and gave it a fine finish. This prevented the condensation of steam in cold weather and added to the durability of the boiler."