OLD STEAMERS ‘SHINE’ AGAIN

article image
Hehl's Traction Engine Blows Up

The Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, Daily News Correspondent, Union
City, Indiana

Here is an interesting account of the Miami Valley Steam
Threshermen’s Association, as it appeared in the Dayton, Ohio,
Daily News, and written by our good friend, Joe Fahnestock

A bout 5000 people of all walks of life swarmed in on the Elmer
Ebert farm northwest of Anna, O., Sunday, (July 26) to partake of
the good old American custom of by-gone days steam threshing.

As sooty hands reached up to open throttles and pull whistle
cords, and pitch forks swung into motion, pitching grain, hundreds
of cameras of all kinds, from pin-holes to Leicas, clicked away,
and the glorious steam engine first successful attempt by man to
channelize horizontal power into circular motion, by reciprocation,
and mighty herald of the great Industrial Age once again held sway
and called forth the tune of the day.

Some were content merely to stand with heads back and nostrils
elevated to catch, more easily, the pleasant aroma of hot cylinder
oil and coal smoke the most tantalizing of perfumes to a steam
fan.

Others, more devoted, had to have their feet planted, firmly, on
the engine platform. But the most fervently zealous of the lot, I
felt, were some of the guys who believe it or not stuck so close
around the engines that they wouldn’t even get away long enough
to eat an unforgivable sin in any thresherman’s bible (ask
grandpa).

While Elmer Egbert and son Jack, were busy, for the most part,
belting the various engines to the separators and the Prony Brake,
Art Heiland, their friend and neighbor, who helps them sponsor the
Miami Valley Steam Threshermen’s Association, each year, was
busy helping to place the engines and otherwise fulfilling his
official duties.

Each engine there got a try-out, both at threshing and pulling
on the brake tests. The Case, the Frick, the Baker, the
Advance-Rumely and the others. The only engine sitting idle was the
huge 28-year-old four cylinder Aultman-Taylor gas tractor the
largest engine there, having eight foot drive wheels, and a 55
gallon capacity radiator, the front of which resembles the
flue-sheet of a steam boiler.

Said Art Heiland to Charlie Hummel as they peered up at this
giant tractor, ‘Why in the name of sense would anyone have paid
out $5700 for thing like this when he could have gotten a steam
engine for only $100 a horse-power.

‘Besides’, articulated Art, ‘the farmer had to
produce the full cash to get one of these. If he didn’t have
the cabbage when he went to the freight yards to get it, they just
wouldn’t kick the blocks out from under the wheels until he did
produce it.

‘But steam’, concluded Art, ‘steam was much cheaper,
and the power she’d develop well this old gas tractor has a
limit and when she reaches that she’ll pull right down, but
that’s not the case with steam. You can just keep on screwing
down the valve on a steam engine, and feeding more steam, even
beyond the limit of rating.’

Later, when Heiland belted his beautiful Huber (return flue
type) engine up to the separator and started pulling, he came
puzzled and even anxious, when the boiler got low on water and the
injectors didn’t seem to jump effectively.

Investigating conditions at the side of the engine, I heard Art
say, ‘If I ever get my hands on the so-and-so who closed down
this globe cock. He did it as a joke, but it could be a dangerous
way of having fun.’ Then the New Huber began showing her stuff
again, as Heiland pulled back the throttle, and whistled the
‘go-ahead.’

One of the most pleasant sensations of the event, however, was
the exhaust sounds of Homer Holp’s wonderful little
Advance-Rumely. The crowd was fascinated as the load on the belt
made the governors ‘take right a-holt.’ Holp, who’ owns
several engines, will later hold his annual engine meeting at the
Brookville, Ohio, fairgrounds.

One of the many interesting demonstrations, however, was the
plowing done by Charlie Ditmer and son Sylvester’s Baker steam
engine. They had a crowd around them listening to the sharp,
distinct bark of the Baker exhaust clipped off by the Baker valve
gear, as the little engine did its stuff, pulling six bottoms.
‘What kind of power, other than steam, could do this on only
one cylinder,” said the Union City, cigar-smoking Charlie,
as he hastily made a check-valve adjustment at the side of his
engine.

Continuing to walk around in circles, meeting old friends while
the sun cooked my remaining brains, I noticed Gilbert Enders of
West Lodi, Ohio. Enders, stocky, firm-jawed steam engineer, who,
with his disheveled hair, seemed as he stood there in front of a
hot, smoking Advance-Rumely, to be the very personification of the
age of steam. Said Gilbert, laying a firm hand on the front wheel
to emphasize, ‘It was steam engines, not nearly as good as this
one, that broke open the west to agriculture.’

Attempting to cool myself in the shade of the giant
Aultman-Taylor tractor, aforementioned, I looked up momentarily to
admire its new paint job, when my roving eyes spied Ira Edger of
Union City, comfortably perched up in the drivers seat, like a bird
on a nest, watching everything and enjoying the cooling breezes
wafting through under the roof. Ira used to run this big engine in
threshing rigs.

‘I’ll bet you feel at home up there, don’t you,’
I yelled. Ira, puffing on a cigar, replied ‘Yup, coolest place
on the grounds.’

After packing my recording equipment back into the car I walked
over through the field past a couple grain separators, a steam
thresh engine and a model ‘T’ Ford (which seemed to be
perfectly at home in the atmosphere) to the straw pile. Digging my
friend Charlie Hummell out from under the straw, and brushing him
off, I led him back to the car.

As we drove out the gate, Elmer Egbert and son Jack, who had
slumped down, exhausted on a bench under a shade tree, waved
goodbye, yelling ‘Be see in you next year.’

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment