Steam and tractor historian Jack Alexander,
7795 Crews Road, Gilroy, CA 95020 (email@example.com), has a
wonderful habit of coming across interesting steam-related
material. This month, Jack sends us a great postcard, and we’ll
leave it to readers to make of it what they will.
While on the subject of Jack, we should mention he’s just
published a new book, The First American Farm Tractors,
Developments to 1917, that’s sure to be of interest to
steam and gas tractor fans. Jack’s book is the result of years
of research, and it contains references to hundreds of
manufacturers and would-be manufacturers. Much more than simply a
listing or a ‘Who’s Who’ of inventors and builders,
Jack’s book is a compelling look at America’s drive to
develop mechanized cultivation as the frontiers of the country
steadily gave way to the farmer’s plow. It’s an interesting
and effective chronology of agricultural innovations, and an
important work to anyone interested in steam, gas and agricultural
history. As for the postcard, Jack writes:
I can’t help but smile every time that I see this card,
which falls in the class of fantastic steam powered inventions from
the 1800s and early 1900s. The back side is plain, so it may not
have been a postcard perhaps a show premium? Enjoy.
Pierce Photo #1: George Schaaf’s 1890 Case return-flue at
the 2003 17th Annual Case Exposition. Case return-flue engines were
straw burners, available in 12 HP and 16 HP sizes.
Maumee Valley Update
Lester E. Pierce, 4998 320 St., Stanberry, MO
64489, director of the J.I. Case Heritage Foundation, chimes in
this issue with a quick review of the 2003 J.I. Case Heritage
Foundation Annual Exposition. Lester writes:
Antique power was well-represented at the Maumee Valley Antique
Steam and Gas Association 26th Annual Show at New Haven, Ind., Aug.
14-17, 2003. A dozen or so steam traction machines of different
makes were on hand, and gas tractors were lined up axle-to-axle in
the tractor-pull pavilion.
The Maumee Valley Association also hosted the 17th Annual Case
Expo. One feature was George Schaaf’s 1890 Case return-flue
engine, which is destined for placement in the new Racine Heritage
Museum in Racine, Wis. The attractively restored piece will be part
of the museum’s J.I. Case memorabilia. It’s a fine engine,
and certainly a bit unique in its appearance.
Another real antique on hand was a Case portable that came from
the Black Swamp area over at Archbold, Ohio. Brought to the show by
the Sauder Village Museum, the engine closely resembles Case #1
owned by the Smithsonian Institution. Case cars were also
represented, with a 1912, 1915 and 1916 model on hand.
Hahn Photo #1: Ames portable steam engine as found in Plumas
County, Calif., at an old mining site. The engine bed is hollow and
incorporates a feed water heater coil.
There was no plowing, as the field was too wet. Greg Sellers had
his 110 HP Case on the sawmill, and even with his heavy hand Jack
Corson just couldn’t stall the 110 Case – but he did complain
of choking down the sawdust drag! The portable sawmill matched a 65
HP Case well, and Case gas tractors such as the 30-60s,
cross-motors, three-wheelers, letter series and number series were
present in the area of the building and tent occupied by the J.I.
Case Heritage Foundation.
Steve Maxwell, Maumee Valley Association vice president, is a
past president of J.I. Case Heritage Foundation. Those Case
Heritage folks are always welcoming other fine folks into their
organization. In 2004 the Case Expo will be at Albert City, Iowa,
and in 2005 it will be at Lathrop, Mo.
Ames Portable Found in California
Peter H. Hahn, 3608 Big Bend Lane, Reno, NV
89509 (firstname.lastname@example.org), writes in this issue, looking for
information on an Ames portable engine discovered in California.
Jack C. Norbeck of Coplay, Pa., referred me to your magazine in
the hope that you might be able to supply some information on an
This engine was recently discovered abandoned on a historic
gold-mining site in a remote location in Plumas County, Calif. We
are seeking documentation of the engine in the form of catalog
illustrations and descriptions, photographs of this type of engine
in service, and any other pertinent information. I am trying to
document it as completely as possible to convince the U.S. Forest
Service to allow it to be removed for proper display. Plans have
been put in motion to remove the engine, and some other very old
mining equipment, via Air National Guard helicopter (as a training
exercise). The engine and equipment will be exhibited at the Plumas
County Museum in Quincy, Calif.
It is a two-cylinder engine mounted atop the boiler. A unique
feature (to me) is that the steam chests exhaust into a hollow
engine bed, which contains a feed water heater coil. The end of one
coil can be seen where the cover has been partially removed near
the large spur gear. The exhaust pipe extends forward from the
engine bed into the smokebox, where the nozzle was mounted. The
steam dome, which looks like a cap stack, appears to be a fluted
Also unusual is that the flywheel (broken off) appears to have
been mounted on the front shaft, and driven at plus or minus 40
percent of crankshaft speed. Crank discs (one is present but
dismounted) were on the shorter shaft with the small gear.
There are brackets on the front of the firebox, which could have
held a jackshaft, and brackets inside the rear wheels (firebox
view), which could have had a sprocket mounted. This suggests that
the engine could have been self-propelled, but still steered by a
team. There is no steering mechanism.
I have received a description of the ‘Vim Agricultural
Engine’ made by Ames in 1909, but it is a single-cylinder and
bears no resemblance to this engine.
Any further information we can obtain on this engine will be
greatly appreciated and will add to the historic interpretation,
which will be made as a museum exhibit. Thanks for any help.
Herbert E. Mann, 2588 W. 250 S., Warsaw, IN
46580-6101, was the first person to correctly identify the
‘mystery’ engine shown in Spalding’s Corner in the
November/December 2003 issue of Steam Traction. It was, as Herbert
noted, a Style K built by A.B. Farquhar Co., York, Pa. For getting
his correct answer in first, Herbert gets a free copy of Steam
Engine Guide by Prof. P.F. Rose.
Not surprisingly, we received more than a few correct answers,
some giving more detailed information on the engine.
3902 Beckleysville Road, Hampstead, MD 21074, happens to own an
identical engine, so this was a pretty easy catch for him. Jim
The ‘Mystery Traction Engine Photo’ on page 25 of the
November/December issue of Steam Traction is a Farquhar
traction engine manufactured by A.B. Farquhar Co. Ltd. of York,
Pa., Model K, Size 15-45. I own the exact engine here in
Of special note, however, was the response we received from
Susan Stant, 6101 Harmony Road, Preston, MD 21655.
This issue’s mystery engine is a 1912 Farquhar Model K. They
were manufactured in York, Pa. I am 12 years old and found this
engine myself. Thank you.
Okay boys, that certainly ups the competition, now that you know
there’s a sharp-eyed 12-year-old girl out there! In special
recognition of her interest, and to further encourage her interest
in steam, we’re sending Susan a copy of Steam Engine
Guide. An ‘atta girl,’ if you will.
Dorset Steam Fair
Many of you may not be aware that Steam Traction mails
out far beyond the shores of the U.S. Our readership extends to
just about every continent, but by far the largest group of
‘foreign’ readers is located in England. That makes sense,
as the language barriers are few.
British steam enthusiast Boz Oram is an
energetic participant at the annual Great Dorset Steam Fair in
England, and this issue he writes in with some thoughts on making
it easier for overseas visitors to take in the Dorset event.
Boz’s thoughts are essentially a business proposition (he is
a partner in a tour company), and we normally steer clear of
announcing issues of this sort in our editorial pages. However,
given his knowledge and involvement in the Great Dorset Steam Fair,
and given the difficulties in finding accommodations in or around
Dorset, we think Boz’s idea merits mention. Think of it as a
public service announcement. Boz, by the way, owns an 1891 Savage
electric light engine that was the prototype of the Showman’s
Vanarsdall Photo #1: A 10 HP Fowler crane engine, the
Wolverhampton Wanders, pulling a load of rocks at the 2002 Great
Dorset Steam Fair in England. Note the cast wheels on the trailer
loaded with rocks.
If anyone is interested, contact Boz at: P.O. Box 1829,
Shrewton, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP3 4PN, England, or e-mail:
email@example.com Boz writes:
I couldn’t help but notice the article written by Beth
Vanarsdall about the Great Dorset Steam Fair in Steam Traction,
Vol. 57, No. 6. It must have been quite a shock for your readers to
see so many different photos of European engines in an American
magazine! Beth’s article was brilliant it’s good to see the
show through fresh eyes and nice to see photographs from the
working rather than the flywheel side. Yes, I know our steamers
look strange to you, but they look okay to us. Personally, I am
intrigued by the shape and cleverly designed engines that grace the
continent of North America, especially as the machines were
designed so cleverly for maintenance. The designs differ quite
significantly, and I read somewhere that the proposed working life
of North American engines was about 10-15 years and the British
were about 30 years. Fortunately those designers all got their
calculations wrong, as we found a passion in them, which means that
we still have them around, albeit heavily rebuilt.
The Dorset event has been and gone again, and I am sitting here
at my PC suffering from miles of walking, listening, watching,
taking part, plenty of eating and drinking and thoroughly enjoying
a working grand social event. Due to the fact that the whole show
is situated on over 500 acres, the meeting of nations takes place
here, there and everywhere.
Like all successful shows, it started with small beginnings: a
bit of threshing, heavy haulage, steam electricity generation,
cable ploughing, or watching an old-time fair in operation with
steam carousels, steam yachts, chair-o-planes, etc. The event grew
and grew, until the original site at Stourpaine was too
inaccessible as the Dorset roads are narrow, and with many
thousands of people attending, it became a victim of its own
success. It moved to another site and now takes over Tarrent
Hinton. Just shows you what happens when you supply what the public
wants. Somewhere over 250,000 people go to the event, including
people from the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Holland,
Germany, Belgium, Japan heck, the list is endless.
I have had a number of requests about going to this show, and I
have had a word with the organisers as to how we could make it
easier for overseas visitors to come over and enjoy it. The hotels
and B&B’s are fully booked a year or two in advance, so
nearby accommodation is nigh on impossible. But traveling larger
distances means getting trapped in traffic queues, and sometimes
waiting over three hours to get in. One solution to the problem is
to hire a selection of caravans to stay in. The caravans would be
normal four-berth-type, and those who use them would have to cater
for themselves. We can put a pre-tour in as well. It all depends
upon numbers, but it is a way of meeting people from different
countries and making friendships from all nations. Admittedly it
will be basic, but if there is interest, then I’ll go ahead and
sort out the logistics. Price will be determined by how many people
come across. As Beth said, there are some 100 mechanical organs, a
large display of working horses, tractors (with many from the
U.S.), country crafts, a market trader section where you can buy
all sorts of bits and pieces, an auction, models, railway loading
demonstrations, oh, and I almost forgot well over 300 steam
engines! The dates are Sept. 1-5, 2004.
The search for the first steam traction engine built west of
Pennsylvania has been a subject of keen interest for steam
historian and author Robert T. Rhode, 990 W. Lower
Springboro Road, Springboro, Ohio 45066 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Bob
has an uncanny knack for ferreting out new information on the
history of steam traction engines, and he’s done it again with
his discovery of an Ohio traction engine built at least by 1871.
The March/April 2003 issue of Steam Traction carried my
discovery that the Newark Machine Works of Newark, Ohio, had
produced a traction engine as early as 1858. Recently, I unearthed
another fact in the history of traction engineering in the Buckeye
The Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the Ohio State Board of
Agriculture, covering the year 1871 but published in hardcover
in 1872, includes the findings of a committee charged with
evaluating the performance of some two-dozen portable steam engines
at the 22nd Ohio State Fair. Among the committee’s conclusions
is this surprising detail:
‘Your Committee wish to call the special attention of the
Board to the road steamer and portable engine of Hulburt &
Page, Painesville, No. 7, as being worthy a special commendation.
The machine consists of a portable engine resting on a frame
supported on four high wheels, connection with two of which is made
by gearing, and a belt from the pulley of the engine, so that the
steamer can traverse ordinary roads, and over quite rough grounds.
The inventor, Mr. Rider, uses this engine in connection with one of
Russell’s threshing machines, drawing the thresher after the
engine from farm to farm, setting it up in the desired place, then
putting the engine in its proper position, and in trim, when, by
throwing off the connection between the engine and driving wheels,
he is in position and ready to run the thresher. It was remarkable
with what ease this machine could be manipulated to place it in
position to run a threshing machine as he did on the grounds; going
to their different threshers, placing it in position by its own
power, putting on the drive-belt and going to work all in the short
time of about five minutes.’
For those readers unfamiliar with Ohio geography, I locate
Painesville almost on Lake Erie northeast of Cleveland. While 1871
is obviously not as far back as 1858, it is before 1874, the year
when the Owens, Lane & Dyer Machine Co. of Hamilton, Ohio, won
the Grand Gold Medal presented by the Ohio State Board of
Agriculture at the 1874 Ohio State Fair for the first traction
engine west of Pittsburgh. I wonder why the Ohio State Board of
Agriculture awarded such a medal for what was touted as ‘the
first’ traction engine when, not three years before, the same
board had received a report from a committee commending Mr. Rider
and Hulburt & Page for producing a traction engine. I also
wonder why the Board was not familiar with the traction engines of
Newark Machine Works 16 years earlier. One fact is clear: many
years’ worth of traction engines existed in Ohio before one
rolled from C.&G. Cooper’s factory in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. I
am amused by the persistent claim that Cooper built the first
traction engine in the United States. Unfortunately, I have no
illustration of the Hulburt & Page traction engine.
Gary L. Miller, 101 E. 3rd St., Jasper, MO
64755, (417) 525-4228 (email@example.com), is looking for a home
for an old belt-driven wood planer he’s come across. Gary
The plate on this old woodworking machine identifies it as a
‘Hall & Brown Woodworking Machine Co., St. Louis, Mo.’
I would like to find someone interested in saving it. It is
apparently a wood planer, and it has cutters on all four sides. The
machine is located in a vacant building on the same block where I
live. It’s quite heavy, but we were able to move it with a
tractor. If anyone is interested please contact me.
Steam Engines in Indonesia
Steam power was used extensively for manufacturing and transport
in the sugar industry, and in some countries its use continues.
Steam buff Ray Gardiner, 28 Hyacinth St., Asquith,
Sydney NSW 2077 Australia (firstname.lastname@example.org), took a trip to
Indonesia this past summer, and he has written in to give the rest
of us a brief look at steam’s continued presence in the
Indonesian sugar industry. Ray writes:
I have recently returned from my sixth trip to Indonesia looking
at steam locomotives and steam-powered sugar mills. Unfortunately,
steam power is slowly disappearing, and only a few sugar mills use
steam locomotives on the field trains, with most cane being brought
to the mill by truck. The cane is transferred to rail wagons to be
shunted into the mills, but a number of steam locomotives are still
in use pulling the rail wagons.
There are still about 50 sugar mills operating on Java, and most
still use steam-powered machinery in some capacity. We visited
every operating mill (and several closed mills) and counted over
600 stationary steam engines, of which about three-quarters were
still in use.
I have sent several photos of a vertical-boiler steamroller at
the Tasik Madu sugar mill. Only used on rare occasions, we paid to
have it steamed specially for us in August. There are still about
eight steam locomotives in use at the mill and we posed the roller
next to several for photos.
Unfortunately, the roller has no identification on it, but it
may be a Kelly-Springfield. The pressure gauge was made in the U.S.
Most of the locomotives and machinery in the mills were built by
German or Dutch companies. There were a small number of locomotives
built by Baldwin, Dickson and Vulcan Iron Works in the U.S., and
most were built around the 1916-1920 period when it may have been
difficult to get locomotives from Europe because of the war.
The Dutch company of Du Croo & Brauns built many locomotives
for the sugar mills of Java, and the book Du Croo & Brauns
Locomotives by Jan De Bruin also has a drawing of a
vertical-boiler steamroller identical to this one. Although the
book says that Du Croo & Brauns built three of these rollers,
this is very unlikely as they do not appear in the builder’s
list, but several portable engines are listed. It is more likely
that Du Croo & Brauns were agents handling the sale of the
I have also seen a photo of a very similar roller in use in
Malang in the mid-1920s. Maybe one of your readers will be able to
help identify this roller.
My good friend Rob Dickinson runs two Web sites that have much
more information: World Steam,
http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/steam/ internat.htm and Stationary
Steam, www.messiaen.co.uk/steam/mills/ livesteam.htm
Frick History – Setting the Record
Accurately documenting the history of various old-line
manufacturers is sometimes art as much as a science. Fortunately,
there are people in the steam community like Brenda
Stant, an avid researcher and collector of information
pertaining to the Frick Co. of Waynesboro, Pa. Brenda, 6101 Harmony
Road, Preston, MD 21655 (email@example.com), read the article
on Frick equipment in the November/December 2003 issue and noticed
an error in need of correction. Steam must run in the Stant family
blood, as Brenda is the mother of 12-year-old Susan, the steam
engine sleuth. Brenda writes:
Gardiner Photo #1: A circa 1912-1927 Henschel steam locomotive
and an unidentified steamroller at the Tasik Madu sugar mill in
Indonesia. Both units are functional.
Just received my issue of SteamTraction and
found the article on ‘Frick Catalog Cuts’ interesting. I
wanted to mention one item in the story: It says production of
Frick traction engines ended in 1936. Actually, the last Frick
traction engine, no. 30519, was shipped on Oct. 6, 1927. My Dad
purchased that engine in 1959, and I own it today. I have a letter
from Frick Co. from 1960 verifying that it was the last Frick
traction engine built. Although Frick Co. showed traction engines
in a few of their catalogs after 1927 available on special order
none were ever built.
In fact, Frick Co. had my engine shipped back to their factory
in Waynesboro for their 150th anniversary festivities Oct. 4, 2003
two days short of the 76th anniversary of it leaving the factory
for the first time!
I know you have to rely on your contributors for accuracy of
their columns, but I just wanted to point this out to you. A lot of
times, years later, people use these columns for researching facts
and it makes it hard when statements are inaccurate.
Gardiner Photo #2: The unidentified steamroller at the Tasik
Madu sugar mill in Indonesia. It appears to be a
Buffalo-Springfield, but what model?
I haven’t been able to find any records of when the last
portable steam engines were built, but the last two were shipped in
1945. I remember Mr. W.J. Eshelman talking about the ‘last
production run of 1936,’ but I haven’t found out if any
were built on special order after that. Frick Co. used the date the
equipment was shipped for the year built. We also have no. 30704,
which was shipped in 1941 according to Frick shipping records. All
told, 122 portable and stationary engines were shipped between 1936
Frick Co. sold its sawmill business in 1973. Today Frickco Inc.
of South Bloomington, Ohio, manufactures complete sawmills and
sawmill components under the Frick name using original Frick
THE WIDE AWAKE THRESHER, WITH RUSSELL WIND STACKER
Bowen & Quick, Stevens Engines
Regular readers will remember the catalog illustration of a
Bowen & Quick Wide Awake Thresher sent by Charles
Hitchcock and published in the July/August 2003 issue of
Steam Traction. A further illustration of the Bowen &
Quick Wide Awake Thresher comes to us from William U.
Waters Jr., 11421 Mountain View Road, Damascus, MD
20872-1605. Bill sent copies of a 1904 Bowen & Quick catalog
showing the firm’s thresher and announcing their offering of
the complete line of steam traction engines built by A.W. Stevens
Co., Marinette, Wisc.
The catalog makes for interesting reading, informing prospective
customers that Mr. Bowen, Mr. Quick and numerous other employees of
Bowen & Quick were previously associated with the A.W. Stevens
company, presumably when A.W. Stevens was in its old factory in
Auburn, N.Y., and called itself A.W. Stevens & Son Co. When the
company moved to Marinette in 1898 it changed its name to A.W.
In announcing Bowen & Quick’s association with A.W.
Stevens Co., the catalog notes that Bowen & Quick had been
working on designing its own steam traction engine when it decided
to sell the Stevens line, instead.
Twin Cities Steam Traction Engine?
Some time ago reader JimTemplin, 11316 County Road 475, Anna, TX 75409,
alerted us to an interesting misidentification. It concerned a
catalog photo of a steam traction engine Jim came across at the
Willard Public Library in Battle Creek, Mich. In his note, Jim
I discovered a ‘mystery’ steamer. I have been
corresponding with Doc Rhode about it, and he feels that readers
might be very interested in helping identify a catalog photo on
file at the Willard Public Library.
It is of a rear-mount, tandem-compound engine, very similar to
the Advance-Rumely Universal or Case, except it has heavy
flat-spoked wheels and a large Twin Cities logo on the boiler. The
library’s index lists many catalog photos that are described as
Nichols & Shepard products, but are obviously Twin Cities of
Until this photo turned up, there had never been any idea that
Twin Cities made a steamer, as they were one of the few early
tractor manufacturers involved with gas engines only (or so we all
thought). I think it would be of interest to readers, so I thought
I would call it to your attention and maybe see if the Willard
people would allow you to publish the photo in an effort to
discover its real history.
After receiving Jim’s letter, we contacted the folks at the
Willard Public Library. Librarian George Livingston was pleased to
have the error noted so he could correct their catalog index, and
gladly gave us permission to publish a copy of the library’s
photo of the Twin Cities steam traction engine. But it didn’t
In the course of e-mail conversations with regular contributor
Gary Yaeger, 1120 Leisha Lane, Kalispell, MT 59901
(firstname.lastname@example.org), Gary happened to mention photos of a Twin
Cities steam traction engine sent to him by Thomas Stebritz. On the
back of one photo Tom wrote: ‘Mpls. Steel & Mchy. Co.,
Mpls. Minn., 1919. Proposed TC? Castings look like straight from
Note that Tom sent Gary ‘photos.’ The Willard collection
only contains one photo of the Twin Cities, showing the right
(flywheel) side of the engine. Tom sent Gary two photos, one
identical to the photo on file at the library and another showing
the left side of the engine. These pictures are more than a little
intriguing, showing as they do an engine previously undocumented,
and coming from a company known only for gas-powered machines.
Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. did have experience with
steam, however. In 1903 the company started building Corliss steam
engines, but those were built primarily for industrial
THE STEVENS ENGINE.
Waters Photo #2: A.W. Stevens traction engine offered by Bowen
& Quick. Stevens engines were all single-cylinder. This appears
to be a 16 HP engine.
And then there’s the date written on the photos: 1919 was
pretty late in the game for any company to be developing a steam
traction engine. Gas-powered tractors were grabbing an ever-larger
slice of a growing tractor market, and by that time the writing was
on the wall: Steam was on the way out.
You Know You Might Be A Steam Engine Man if
We received an interesting e-mail from steam enthusiast
Travis Brown (TBrown@AmericanTireDistributors.com)
containing some fun – perhaps even thought-provoking observations
on steaming. Travis writes:
Thanks for the great job you’re doing with the magazine.
I’ve been working on a submission on the road trips we took the
last year, taking our model to several different shows in Illinois
and Indiana. But for now …
You know you might be a steam engine man
1. You have ever used a coiled flat belt lying on the seat next
to you as a ‘cup holder.’
2. If there is firewood hidden behind your wife’s shrubbery
3. If those little chunks of coal are riding around in the back
of your truck or on your trailer on a year-round basis.
4. If you do not consider a person a ‘real’ member of
your family until they have been showered with soot and water by a
5. If you have ever used your oil can full of steam cylinder oil
for other uses (last year, while towing home, I used a little steam
cylinder oil to nurse a failing universal joint the last 100
And finally …
6. If you have read any edition of Steam Traction magazine more
times than your wife has watched the video of your wedding!
If you have a comment, question or reminiscence for Past
and Present, please send it along to: Steam Traction, 1503 S.W.
42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or e-mail:
‘I wonder why the Ohio State Board of Agriculture awarded
such a medal for what was touted as ‘the first’ traction
engine when, not three years before, the same board had received a
report from a committee commending Mr. Rider and Hulburt & Page
for producing a traction engine.’