Old Steam Thresher Engine Warms Seat of Government

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16-60 Nichols & Shepard double, rear mounted, owned by Charles H. Lenz, of Oregon, Missouri. See article Old Steam Thresher Engine Warms Seat of Government

Oregon, Missouri. Editor

Here is a well written article found in the Holt County
(Missouri) Sentinel and sent to us by the owner! of the engine.

Furnaces with steam boilers rarely go to the bad except in cold
weather, depending upon which time of year they are in operation.
So the court house furnace, after a quarter of a century, finally
gave way at the seams and was shut down.

The seat of government had no heat Saturday, Sunday or Monday.
The building cooled off to something like 6 degrees which is ideal
for an air-conditioned theatre during August. Such temperature is
not comfortable for office work. Judge Harve Hall and Judge Merrill
Bailey, of the county court and Lloyd A. Dankers, county clerk,
hurried up plans for bringing in the new oil burning furnace from
Detroit. Transportation takes time; setting up and reconnecting
with the arterial pipes will take more time. Winter is making
passes and court house business is accentuated at this time of year
because of the revenue harvest.

The building was warm and comfortable Tuesday-steam sizzling in
the radiators, no furnace of any kind in the basement. The court
negotiated with Charles Lenz to bring in his threshing machine
engine take up a position outside the basement doorway, and fire up
to a normal head of steam. W. C. Brown and R. M. Kurtz, local
plumbers, made the necessary connections from the old engine boiler
to the furnace room where reduction valves were installed to keep
the steam pressure operating normally. Charley pulled the engine
off a sawmill assignment. The locomotive at tracts the attention of
the public-standing there with smoke pouring from its stack and
generating calories for a three-story brick building. The emergency
hook-up might have to be continued for a week or ten days until
some modern gadgets are fitted into place and set going to heat
water beyond the boiling point. The engine has to be hand-fired day
and night, at 30-minute intervals.

We developed a deep, personal crush on that steam engine when
Charley drove it in the Fall Festival parade and quartered the
thing in the courtyard. Sometimes, after the 45th milestone has
been reached, it is difficult for one properly to act one’s
age, and we controlled an impulse during the festival to go forward
and lay our hands on one of the huge tractor wheels of the
locomotive. Children pulled the whistle cord, letting off a genuine
old railroad tone, and in, our blind envy we could have
un-regretfully mashed those kids into the ground.

Tuesday afternoon we invoked a prerogative of reporting and
deliberately moved up close to the engine. Charley didn’t seem
to mind that we leaned our note pad against the tool box (or
something flat near the rear wheel) and we both possibly traveled
mentally backward over some years until we reached 1926, the year
the Nicholson-Shepard machine was manufactured. It still looks
brand new and is meticulously kept that way having its own shed for
protection against the weather. Charley has owned nine engines
since 1920 and uses the present locomotive on a sawmill. Parts for
the old machine are not too hard to get, but the proud owner
insists that there is nothing to wear out. As a prolonged excuse
for keeping within feeling distance of the engine, we asked
pertinent questions. Not once did Charley act uppity or
supercilious as the enginemen did in the teens and twenties. They
impressed observers then with an inability to speak English and
were highly sufficient unto themselves. On rare occasions we used
to trade a bit of conversation with separator men-but the engineers
apparently talked to nobody except to bawl out vague orders to the
threshing crew that flitted and flashed like ants laboring against

Charley’s engine has a horsepower rating of 16.60 which we
hasten to explain as meaning 16 on the drawbar and 60 on the belt.
The Nicholson can pull ten 14-inch plows. From fire box door to
nose of the boiler she measures 14 feet, has a double cylinder,
travels with top speed of 2 miles per hour. No rust spots are
visible anywhere and the green trim apparently was put on at the
factory. It was bought at a ranch near Lawrence, Kas., where it was
used for the belittling task of disinfecting cattle barns. Of
course, flies have died under the attack of modern DDT, but somehow
the succeeding generations have developed a resistance and no
longer are so allergic to that brand of poison. When they got
killed with live steam they stayed killed and their progeny never
learned to eat steam and like it.

There are two associations thriving in the U. S., keeping alive
the traditions of the mighty steam tractors. The Old Settlers have
conventions at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa; the Antique Association holds
reunions at Pontiac, Mich. Charley belongs to both fraternities. At
a steam engine show held at Mt. Pleasant last fall, more than
25,000 people came to look, to admire, to indulge in the perpetual
dream of being an engineer.

The Lenz outfit is definitely not for sale, although offers are
frequent. A man offered to make out a check for $2,000 (the engine
sold new for $2,100) but Charley couldn’t be influenced. Ho
drove some 2,000 miles looking for the Nicholson-Shepard and
intends to make a child happy, joyously happy, some day by giving
him as a present a genuine steam engine! What a break for that boy
who incidentally is Roger Stephenson, Charley’s 2-year -old

‘Well,’ we said with that got-to-go inflection,
‘have we asked about everything?’

There was no deliberate modesty about Charley as he pointed
forward to the steam whistle which even to us looked a trifle
oversize for the diameter of the boiler.

‘That,’ said Charley, ‘came off a Santa Fe
locomotive in Oklahoma.’

We exchanged smiles full of pride and tenderness. The Sante Fe
had mighty good whistles, probably the best in the railroad

It’s a mighty, mighty pretty engine. We were reluctant to
fold up our notes and leave the massive boiler cooking up steam and
seeming to relish every cubic centimeter of water converted to
energy. We had somehow come into an exuberant realization that
something nice will be in store for us some day, although Charley
did not so intimate consent, we know that we shall have a long
moment connecting our declining years with an unfinished chapter of
the past. We shall mount the cabin with a sheaf of make believe
orders in our hand, look carefully at a heavy silver watch,
hesitate a second for reasons known only to us, and blow a long
steady C sharp on that Santa Fe whistle.

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