Over Fifty Years Ago


| January/February 1993



1267 Springville Road East Earl, Pennsylvania 17519

We always had a threshing outfit and steam engine. I was born and raised around this equipment. As my boys got out of school at 14 years of age, I started them firing the steam engine. First I had a 65 Case, then in later years I got an 8 x 10 Frick and put the boys on the boiler to steam tobacco beds. They had to learn the hard way as I stayed out in the garden. I helped them move steam pans. These were 6x8 ft., pretty heavy for them.

I could hear when they could not keep steam up to 130 lbs. So they called me and I gave them more instructions on how to keep steam up. We used to steam tobacco beds 24 hours a day. I always told them to let the farmer pick up his side first. That way they could keep going for 12 hours without getting too tired. The farmer did not know better.

We left the pans down for 20 minutes. I had two injectors on, inch and 3/8 inch. We left the 3/8 inch on all the time. That way we had steady pressure.

We used to have a salt shaker in the boiler. The farmer got some eggs, put them under the pans, and in 20 minutes they were hard boiled. Some farmers did not think that you should eat in the right time. Some took you in the house and offered you a lot of food, while some did not give you anything to eat. Sometimes they had coffee to drink and some apple jack. A lot of farmers made apple jack, some of which might be four or five years old. Made your toe nails curl!

We would steam for five weeks. I used to fire for Noah Martin ('Nut'), and there was very little electricity at that time and no pressure pump. Then we had to use the lift to get water out of creeks, wells and cisterns. You could lift about 20 feet one place. I sent the kid back of the barn to throw a hose into the big cistern. About two hours later I could not get water at all, the engine just got hot. A boiler will not take hot water. So I went back and looked with a light and here it was, full of dead rats!. The hair went through the screen and got in my injectors. We had a lot of moss in the stream as well as mud. In later years when my boys ran the machine everybody had electric. It pumps it right into the boiler tank. Some nights it got cold and windy, then I would fix my fire, throw old logs on the pans and I laid on the pans to keep warm. One night it got so cold till morning I had two flues leaking. I had made an extension on my flue roller so I could go in over the hot fire without disturbing the fire. I took a small string, tied the rollers together, then rolled them out side the hot boiler.