New York Engines
Steve Davis, 654 Route 20, West Winfield, NY
13491 (e-mail: email@example.com), writes in this issue with a
plea for anyone having information on companies that operated in
New York making agricultural steam engines. Steve writes:
For many years I have tried to see how many New York state-based
makers of farm-type steam engines I could identify. Many years ago
Iron-Men Album published my findings up to that time. I
have found a few more since, and would like to see an updated list
published. But before this occurs I would like to ask for
assistance from readers it is inevitable that others have pictures
or information of which I am unaware.
The bulk of production in New York was by a small number of
firms, such as Buffalo-Pitts, S.W. Wood and Westinghouse. But many
engines were produced by very small concerns. When I first began my
research I intended to include stationary engines, but I soon
realized that made it a much larger subject than I was prepared to
tackle. I would like to see someone tackle that and would be more
than happy to assist.
If anyone has any information (ads, pictures) or leads I would
welcome any type of assistance.
Don F. Gilbert, 21230 Shady Grove Road, Siloam
Springs, AR 72761, (479) 524-9883 (e-mail: 74617,
firstname.lastname@example.org), is looking for help locating a period steam
engine to run a printing press. Don writes:
We are developing a Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek,
Mich., and within this village we will locate a reconstruction of
the first steam-powered press in the state of Michigan. We have
secured a single-cylinder roller press that dates to that time. The
original press was an Adams Press, but we have not been able to
find an Adams of that vintage.
My request now is if anyone can put me in touch with someone who
might have a small steam engine of 3 HP to 10 HP that was
manufactured sometime between 1830 and 1860. The actual date of the
printing shop installation of the steam engine to operate the press
was 1855. We want a working steam engine, or at least one that can
be repaired and used.
John Spalding, 112 Carriage Place,
Hendersonville, TN 37035, is clearly in the mood for some fun,
sending in some great pictures and challenging readers for
identification. John writes:
I’m sending in a couple of different ones for you this
issue. I have absolutely no clue what the first one is. On the back
of Photo #1 it says ‘P.T. Slellmacher on engine, Wells,
Minn.’ It could be a misspelling of Stellmacher, as research
shows there are no Slellmachers in Minnesota or Wisconsin, but many
Stellmachers. Anyway, set your ole’ hound dogs loose on this
one I guarantee one of ’em will not only know what it is,
they’re probably keeping one of ’em in their barn. By the
way, I’m realizing I’m way out of my league in almost every
aspect of steam tractors, except for water chemistry and the
prevention of scale and corrosion (which is what I do for a
Photo #2 (this one I know) says ‘G.W. Chase, Photographer,
Newark’ on the back. I’ll let ’em try and guess this
I know the manufacturer of Photo #3 (only because I can actually
read it off of the engine – let’s see if the boys can figure it
out). It says ‘Bowen & Quick, Auburn, N.Y.’ on both the
engine and the separator.
Photo #4 is an easy one – I’m sending it more for the
picture itself than for its obscurity. It reads: ‘Uncle Will
Haire, Henry Haire, Elmer Haire and neighbor,’ with 74 and 3142
circled on the back and ‘Brunner, Photographer’ written on
the front. I had to put in an easy one – I don’t want these
guys against me, I may need them to show me how to run one of my
own giants one day.
Thanks again, and keep up the great job.
Montana Engines and a Further Response
Regular contributor Gary Yaeger, 1120 Leisha
Lane, Kalispell, MT 59901 (email@example.com), writes in again,
this time sending something different from Montana, along with a
reply to a letter in the November/December 2002 issue of
Iron-Men Album. Gary writes:
After all of the Reeves pictures a couple of issues ago, I
thought I should send something in, but maybe not Reeves pictures
Photo #1 is of my 15 HP 1909 Case, engine number 21743, on the
lowboy and my 1925 Model TT Ford, after their arrival at our
‘new’ home near Kalispell, Mont. I sent this for Chady
Atteberry, as he kind of likes Model Ts and Case engines. He says
they go together, and I thoroughly agree.
Photo #2 may not print well, but consider what is happening and
the timing of the picture. It shows Steve Anderson’s house
moving outfit on Main Street in Lewistown, Mont., in front of the
Fergus County Courthouse. The photo was taken in the dead of
winter, as can be seen by the heavy clothing on the man (Steve
Anderson?) in front of the engines. The front outfit is a 12-25 or
15-30 Avery gas tractor. The second engine is a 30 HP under-mounted
Avery, and the rear is Steve Anderson’s 40-120 Z-3
Geiser-Peerless, both steam engines. They made an impressive amount
of steam at this temperature.
Photo #3 shows an Advance compound pulling a separator and I am
giving notice to Lyle Hoffmaster that I am not going to attempt to
guess the horsepower of this Advance! This picture was copied from
the Carl Mehmke collection.
Photo #4 is of an early Best, or possibly even a Remington with
wide driver wheels, pulling a combine harvester. This picture is
also copied from the Carl Mehmke collection.
Photo #5 shows a Gaar-Scott side mounted engine threshing on a
farm near Northwood, N.D. The barn is quite a nice one, and back
then farmers took care of their horses in a barn in the same manner
as today’s farmer takes care of his tractors and machinery in a
Photo #6 is a copy of a postcard showing a Holt steam engine
plowing with six disk plows. It is also from the Carl Mehmke
Photo #7 shows a larger Minneapolis straw-burner engine and
thresher, having been snowed on in the stubble field. It could have
been a freak snowstorm or could be normal weather around
Thanksgiving time. I am wondering if the engine was belted to the
rear or if they turned the engine around before they quit threshing
for the day? A continuing thank you to Carl Mehmke, for sharing his
pictures and for allowing me to share them with readers.
Well, the stories and pictures of this summer’s shows should
start arriving on your desk, giving subscribers another
winter’s enjoyment through our corresponding fellow engine men
sharing their special moments at shows. You and your fine crew
please keep up the good work in providing the finest steam traction
engine materials found in any publication on earth. Bar none!
Mr. Hughes. I have no problem with you
including me with the ‘hobby engineers,’ as that has been
my favorite aspect of my steam career for the past 49 seasons.
However, I also carry a second-class stationary engineer’s
license (up to 250 psi) for our state (Montana), and I happen to
use that one in my vocation (I am the maintenance chief and the
head engineer for a local school district, plus a retainer engineer
with a local lumber mill), as I have for over 14 years. I log an
average of nearly 700 hours a year in that capacity, with multiple
boilers and as a supervisor. In spite of automatic controls, I am
paid to be conscious of the water level in the glass. I realize you
were not questioning my expertise or experience, but you had me
fooled for quite some time
I stated; ‘In the engine I am operating, you will always
find one-quarter to one-half glass of water, plus water in the
tanks, and enough steam to run the injector or pump.’ Yes, Mr.
Hughes, I am ‘sure about that.’ I can honestly and proudly
say I never have, and never will, compromise those conditions.
Ever. I grew up under the iron fist of a real ‘iron man,’
and I was taught there is no room for error, so I have conducted my
steam life in that manner, to the very best of my ability. I
probably should have carried my statement one sentence further and
commented on how many times I have pulled a fire because the water
level over the crown sheet could have become a threatening issue. I
have had hand hole gaskets blow out, cantankerous injectors or
pumps that wouldn’t pick up, scale in a check valve, and
numerous other challenges while under quite high steam pressure
that would threaten the margin of safety of the water level.
Certainly, my adrenalin level was up until the situation was
From the moment I first threw a match into our old 20-70 Nichols
& Shepard at 11 years old, it was impressed upon me repeatedly,
for years, to never lose sight of the terribly destructive force of
steam. It was drilled into my subconscious that a drop of water
expanded nearly 1,700 times when it turned to steam. No, Mr. Hughes
(and Mr. Aldrich), I am not over confident and ‘dangerous,’
as you would suggest. I take my steam engineering very
I have not seen the video of the 32 HP Case as it approached the
Medina Fairgrounds. People I know who have seen it tell me of the
poppet valves (on each end of the cylinder) releasing a puff of
steam on each end of the stroke of the piston. To me, this would
indicate operating pressures above 175 psi and likely closer to 200
psi. At pressures approaching 200 psi, a standard injector would no
A functioning fusible plug could, possibly, have remedied this
incident. That may have prevented the overheating (read the
sheriff’s final investigative public report, Mr. Hughes, it
states that the crown sheet was ‘overheated’) of the crown
sheet. It would seem that, ‘… after being subjected to years
of corrosion and subsequently reduced to a thickness well beyond
acceptable limits’ perhaps was not the factor.
But this 32 HP Case engine did go through Minnesota inspections,
at least as recently as the 150th Case Anniversary held at Rollag
What is your definition of ‘acceptable limits,’ Mr.
Hughes? I realize some boilers can be completely shot. I was not
including these. I was referring to the ones that would hold water.
However, if it will pass a 150 percent warm water pump up, and
provided the stay bolts and sheets have been hammer tested, they
can be generally sound.
Living in a state that requires boiler inspections, I believe
boilers that pass inspection shouldn’t suffer a catastrophic
incident as long as water is kept on the crown sheet. I have
cataloged boiler explosion pictures and stories for nearly 50
years, and there is one common denominator: If the engineer
survived, they nearly always swore, ‘there was water in the
glass.’ But, the crown sheet blew down when the throttle was
opened, the injector was turned on, or the engine moved and in one
case when the firebox door was slammed. I am glad Montana requires
engineer inspections and licensing.
A friend related a story to me of an engine east of the
Mississippi in which, when mud and scale was washed out of the mud
leg, a ‘near dime’ size hole appeared in a firebox side
sheet. This engine had been operating at 150 psi just the day
before and hadn’t leaked, or blown up. Please don’t accuse
me of advocating thin boilers, but this hole, had it sprung a leak
in the water leg, would likely have just made it impossible to keep
a fire going
I am quite aware that high carbon steel isn’t close to being
ductile enough for boilers and would only crack and split (and
explode) in that application. I have several engineering and ASME
books for reference and ‘thorough research,’ Mr.Hughes.
Don’t lose yours.
Randy Schwerin, you are correct about fusible plugs. An
engineer’s mind should never tell him he has one more level of
safety when operating a traction engine: You should operate it as
though there was no soft plug. Bruce Babcock would undoubtedly
agree -there just may not be one. And, Randy, you are also correct
– the ASME has no equation to assess an operator’s
Pierre Bos, La Cerisaie, 16, BD. DIE, F.1 3012,
Marseille, France, sent in a copy of a drawing (Image #1) evidently
drafted by Geiser Manufacturing Co., Waynesboro, Pa., on the event
of the 1893 Chicago Exposition. At some point soon thereafter,
these drawings, or copies thereof, made there way to France as part
of a display on agricultural mechanization in the U.S.
The drawings are rich with detail, seemingly showing every
rivet, stay-bolt and flue. No engine size is noted, and it’s
hoped one of our readers will have the answer. Next issue we’ll
run a companion drawing showing further details. Note that all
measurements are in meters and millimeters.
Frick Eclipse 28803 Update
Regular readers will remember A.J.
Hamilton’s story, ‘The History of Steam Traction
Engine 28803,’ which appeared in the July/August 2002 issue of
Iron-Men Album. In that article, A.J. presented
documentation tracing the engine back to its original owner, a Mr.
John H. Burchard of Chestertown, Md. Well, as luck would have it,
A.J. was able to track down a photograph (Photo #1) of Mr.
Burchard, and he sent a copy so we might share it with readers. The
date of the photo is unknown, but it shows John H. Burchard
standing alongside his wife, Alice. It’s quite something, after
all this time, to have the rare privilege of putting a face to an
engine built almost 80 years ago.
Thoughts on Boiler Failure
Recent subscriber Ed McCall, 22 Camp Road,
Jewett City, CT 06351 (860-376-3131), writes in with his thoughts
on the on-going discussions surrounding boiler safety and causes of
failure. Ed writes: As a new subscriber to your magazine, I want to
thank Gary Yaeger, Chady Atteberry, Larry Creed and Lyle Hoffmaster
for their constant banter, as well as the capable Thomas Stebritz
and Melvin Pierce for overseeing. They make the magazine!
A letter in the May/June 2002 issue by Mr. Aldrich caught my
attention. He criticized Mr. Yaeger for offering insight and
impartial comment on metallurgy and related facts involving a
boiler explosion. Mr. Aldrich suggests we not ignore facts, yet
would deny where those facts lead. Blame (responsibility) is
irrelevant, he says, as it will not change anything, yet he wants
to avoid such an occurrence in the future?
He offers his own deduction that failure of the crown sheet
could have been caused by excessive pressure due to a deteriorated
condition of the boiler. He apparently seeks to absolve the
operator of responsibility by blaming the explosion on the machine.
He claims Mr. Yaeger is denying corrosion of stay bolts, etc., yet
the presence of these conditions is evidence of operator error.
There are conditions under which all boilers can be safe. It is the
responsibility of the operator to determine and meet those
Mr. Yaeger is further accused of having a dangerous attitude
regarding boiler condition versus operator skill. Talk about
convoluted logic. Whose boiler exploded? Mr. Aldrich says it is the
job of a boiler inspector to shut down unsafe boilers. This is a
prime example of bureaucratic mentality. The purpose of an
inspector is to determine the conditions under which an activity
may be permitted. Permit procedures are in effect to manage or
control. ‘Regulate’ is not synonymous with
I thank this magazine for the objective and comprehensive
coverage they gave this incident.
P.S. Hey Creed and the rest of you guys, remember, I’m new
at this. I need some opinion on compounding versus simple and large
boiler low pressure (100 psi) versus small boiler high pressure
If you have a comment, question or reminiscence for Past
and Present, please send it along to: Steam Traction, 1503 S.W.
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