Operating Costs of a Traction Engine

Salina, Kansas

The 18hp was the most powerful coal burner furnished the Kansas
City Branch House, until a 22Hp was shipped there late in December,
1902, and was on the sample floor during the Implement Dealer’s
Convention in January, 1903.

J. B. Duryea was about an average operator of threshing
machinery. He threshed many bushels of wheat, moved buildings,
graded roads, and cultivated wheat land with the old 18 compound.
Mr. Duryea operated his own engine and when he traded it in 1908,
for a 26 compound with semi-steel gearing, the fire-box was in good
condition. That engine was sold with a new 32′ Advance
separator and was the first Advance engine operated by Henry

Mr. Duryea complained the old engine was a heavy coal burner and
I had expected him to complain about the new 26 compound, but when
he complained about an Advance weigher, one of the best values ever
sold, I went to Rooks County.

Mr. Duryea was not threshing that day but told me, ‘The
farmers had accused him of short-weighting them from 4 to 6 bushels
of wheat on a wagon-box load.’ They were hauling and selling
the grain from the machine.

Quote in part from the 1911 – 12 Advance Machinery catalog,
‘Advance weighers are of the well-known Forscy the patent,
which is without doubt, the simplest, most accurate and reliable
weigher made. The weigher consists of a drum, divided into 2
compartments, suspended from the weighing beam, each having a
capacity of one-half bushel. It is entirely automatic in its
operation of filling, dumping, and registering.’ Few devices or
machines ever pleased their users more than Advance weighers.

An Advance weigher is quiet, without sprocket, cog wheels, or
chain; to wear, cause trouble, or injure someone. The elevator is
belt-and-bucket with nearly an unlimited capacity. The grain
remains in the elevator cups, with a sudden stop, when threshing
fast and does not choke the elevator, when starting again. Many
Advance weighers were sold to replace other makes of weighers on
other makes of separators than Advance.

An Advance salesman, on a separator sale, had the weigher
advantage over his competitors and was not a good salesman if he
did not use it.

Weighers, as operated and tested by many, were measuring
machines. A heaped up half-bushel measure, regardless of the test
of the grain, was threshed for a half bushel. A weigher should be
tested and set by weight. A weigher should dump 30 lbs. of wheat
into a measure, regardless whether or not it fills a half-bushel
measure. A weigher is not responsible for loss of grain from leaky
wagon boxes, at granaries or elevators. The price cutter attempted
to cover his cut by adjusting his weigher to weigh heavy.

A belt-and-bucket loader was a serviceable machine and
economical to operate but costly to the operator when threshing
wagon-box measure. Loads were not counted, grain was tramped in
wagon boxes, and side boards spread to heap on additional bushels,
for which the operator was not paid a cent. Threshing those bushels
wore the machinery, increased expense, paid no notes, and bought no
food for hungry children.

Mr. Duryea’s credit was good enough to buy a new engine and
I did not think he short-weighted anyone but inquired of him if he
had, and Mr. Duryea replied emphatically, ‘He had not.’

We went to check the new 26 compound. Mr. Duryea bought a load
of coal and when driving to the machine Mr. Duryea drove his load
on another scale. His ton of coal weighed 1600 pounds. Many grain
buyers sold coal and I told Mr. Duryea, ‘A man who
short-weighted him on coal, would steal his wheat.’ There was
no argument. Profits were small selling $5 coal and buying 60cents

The new 26 compound was not steamed but we checked the reverse
gear, which was in good adjustment. The engine appeared to be in
good operating condition but when I opened the smoke-box door to
check the exhaust nozzle, I noticed a heavy accumulation of wet
soot, which encircled the nozzle. The nozzle and exhaust pipe of an
Advance engine are turned to a snug fit, the nozzle slips over the
pipe and held in position with a set screw. Mr. Duryea, evidently,
had applied too much power on his wrench and crushed the thin
exhaust pipe when he tightened the set screw. Crushing the pipe
formed an opening between the nozzle and the pipe. Exhaust steam
shot through the opening into the smoke box, which caused the
engine to steam badly.

Builders of compound engines claimed a saving over simples.
Advance Thresher Company claimed 15 to 20% saving on Advance
compounds over Advance simples.

Builders of engines with expansion reverse gears claimed from 15
to 20% saving over engines with positive cut-off.

Had either a compound or an engine with an expansion reverse
gear made good the claim, the 20% loss in coal suffered by Mr.
Duryea would have off-set the saving of either the compound or the
engine, with the ‘Hook-Up’ reverse gear. Mr. Duryea lost
the saving of his compound when he paid for a ton of coal and the
engine burned 1600 pounds. The 400 pounds of coal changed Mr.
Duryea’s engine into what apparently was a heavy coal burner as
it would have done with any other engine. Mr. Duryea lost $1.20
when he lost 400 pounds of coal at $6.00 a ton, about the price
then, but did not lose the greatest benefit from the economy of his
compound engine, when the engine burned 1600 pounds of coal in the
same time it burned a ton. The heat was less intense and damaging
to the firebox, with fewer chances of leaky flues, cracked sheets,
and cracked fire-door rings.

The benefit of the economy, in water was not lost in the 26
compound, with the loss of the coal. Advance 26 compounds and 26
simples were built upon identical boilers and under the same
conditions, as nearly as possible. A 26 compound, on a heavy
day’s work, required about l? fewer tanks of water. Coal would
have been required to evaporate the additional 18 barrels of water
and the heat would have been more intense and damaging to the
firebox during that time. All boilers should be kept clean. The
simple required cleaning more often, because of the additional
water evaporated by that engine. The wind did not always blow and
creeks and rivers, in Kansas, dried up. The additional water was
not always available.

Losing the 400 lbs. of coal did not affect the economy of the 26
compound but increased the cost of operation. The condition of the
engine, operator and reverse gear did not transform the the energy
in the 400 lbs. of coal the 26 compound did not burn but where the
act was committed, increased the cost of operation. Thousands of
steam engines may have been affected and branded ‘wasteful’
because they burned coal which never had been loosened by a
miner’s pick.

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