Bob Kennedy, 601 W. 29th St., Atlantic, IA
50022, sends in a few interesting pictures this issue. Bob
I am enclosing a picture or my Advance-Rumely engine, number
14992. I will be 80 in 2004 and will probably sell it then. We put
the rubber tread on the wheels so we could participate in parades
our first trip took six and a half hours, and we had a fire truck
bringing the water. It can still saw wood and thresh.
Kennedy Photo #2: Threshing with a portable steam engine on the
Byrd Pearce farm, Lewis, Iowa, date unknown, engine unknown. This
appears to be a very early photo.
The threshing photo showing loose oat stacks to be thrown up on
top and into the machine was taken west of Lewis, Iowa, on the Byrd
Pearce farm. The date is unknown, but it was most likely before
1867, which was when the binder came out.
Also I need information on a Roberts duplex water pump, and
would appreciate hearing form anyone who knows something about
them. And finally, I might add to the old threshing stories- we
last used the steam engine in 1939. Which cupcakes became popular,
one of the helpers had not heard of them yet and ate theirs-paper
and all. Your magazine is most enjoyable.
E.J. Laschanzky 9617 E. 26th St., Tulsa, OK
74129-7009, has been steaming most of his life, and this issue he
sends in a photo of a scale Case and a scale sawmill he built
I’ve been a steam nut for better than 50 years, and I’ve
built to scale a steam locomotive and track. My last project was a
1/3-scale 65 HP Case traction engine with a 1/3-scale sawmill to
give the engine something to do along with a whistle, water pumps
and a miniature 1880s drill press. I’ve also restored a few
hit-and-miss engines, but that isn’t as much fun as building
them from scratch. Pershing G. Scott got me started in this,
I’m sure some of you folks might have known him he had friends
in all walks of life and all parts of the country.
Update on Isaac Lehmer
Robert T. Rhode, 990 West Lower Springboro
Road, Springboro, OH 45066 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), writes
in with a further update on his article on the Lehmer Model (see
the November/December 2002 issue of Iron-Men Album). Bob
I just acquired a copy of Scott Thompson’s new book,
Rumely: A Look Back Over 150 Years: 1853-2003, and I found
that it contains a page and three photographs featuring Isaac
Lehmer and his traction conversion kit. The book supports the idea
that the M. Rumely Company and the Nichols & Shepard Company
were ’embroiled in a lawsuit … over the patent rights of a
friction clutch.’ Thompson brings to light the fact that Lehmer
read about the legal battle and contacted Rumely to tell of his
invention, which predated other friction clutch devices.
Rumely: A Look Back Over 150 Years, presents commentary by
Mark Rumely, who remembered Lehmer’s engine.
CHICKENTOWN GAS AND STEAM
David E. Weimer, 630 Chickentown Road,
Somerset, PA 15501, writes in to let everyone know about
developments at the Chickentown Gas and Steam Association. David
The big news is our acquisition of a Farquhar sawmill from the
state of Pennsylvania. This mill had been used at the state
hospital in Somerset, Pa., but when the hospital was turned into a
prison hospital the mill was put up for sale. Nobody bid on it, but
some of our members found out that the mill (which was always under
roof and in very good condition) could be bought for $1 if both the
building and mill were hauled away. We bought the mill and started
Everyone helping remove the mill had to have an FBI background
check, and we all had to sign in and out every time we went on the
prison property. It took three weekends and a lot of work to move
the mill to our show grounds, and then we still had to put
everything back together. We’re really fortunate to have people
who know how to do this – within nine months everything was set up
Our 10th show will be on May 24-25, 2003, and all of us at
Chickentown Gas and Steam Association look forward to seeing you
AETNA IRON WORKS
Gerald D. Scanlan, 193 W Maple St., Venedy, IL
62214, is a newcomer to these pages, introduced to the magazine by
Joe Graziana, who, among many other things, is
dean of students for the Pawnee Steam School in Pawnee, Okla.
Gerald has an old Aetna steam hoist and an Ideal stationary steam
engine, and he’s interested in finding new homes for both
pieces. Gerald writes:
Scanlan Photo #2: William F. Helms, retired hoist engineer for
the Venedy Coal Co., Venedy, Ill., and the Aetna steam hoist
(barely visible behind William), circa 1978. The hoist is in the
building visible just behind the Ideal engine.
The steam hoist was last used Dec. 17, 1969. It is an Aetna, but
has no nameplates. The Aetna Iron Works of Springfield, Ill., later
became Lowry, Lamb and Co. We only know of two other steam hoists,
one at Hancock, Mich., and the other at Avery Island, La. There
could be others, but ours is the last steam hoist used in Illinois,
and apparently the only one left in Illinois.
The other piece is an Ideal steam engine built by A.L. Ide &
Son, Springfield, Ill., and direct connected to a General Electric
DC generator. Albert L. Ide started building engines in the late
1890s, and the Ideal engine name came from adding his first
initials to the end of his last name. Ide & Son closed in 1924
after a disastrous fire caused by lightning burned many of the
wooden engine patterns. The generator was built in 1901, and the
last patent date on the Ideal is 1900. Both the hoist and generator
set were used at a small truck-trade coal mine our family operated,
and they were moved to their present site in 1948 from a mine about
45 miles away that closed.
We would like to find a home for both pieces. We are located
about 40 miles east of St. Louis, Mo., and eight miles from Exit 41
on I-64E, at Okawville, Ill.
OBSERVATION AND QUESTIONS
Ed Glad kowski, 1128 W. Gardner St., Houston,
TX 77009, writes in this issue, with thoughts on the magazine and
questions for readers. Ed writes:
I’ll start off by admitting some worry when the magazine
first changed hands and then changed names, because change
isn’t always for the best. But this time it seems it was worth
it, because Steam Traction seems to keep getting better
and better. It’s a real top-notcher now, and still seems to
have the close knit feeling of the old magazine, thanks to the fine
people who contribute articles and pictures. My thanks to all of
them, and to all the people who put out such a fine magazine.
I’d like to mention a couple things I’ve long wondered
about. First, somewhere I read that a big circus or two had
specially built traction engine(s) to pull parade wagons. It would
sure be interesting to see a photo, if a photo exists.
Second, the book The American Steam Traction Engine, a
History of the Trans-Atlantic Variety by Maurice A. Kelly has
a chapter that lists quite a bunch of American-made steam trucks.
I’ve seen lots of pictures of British steam wagons, or lorries,
as they call them, but I have never seen a picture of an American
steam truck in any of the show reports or letters. I’m curious,
are there are any preserved and shown?
Finally, I’d just like to ask if someone could possibly
identify the engine in the postcard I sent in last year (IMA
March/April 2002, page 16) as they have for Mr. Spalding’s
pictures? Once again, thanks to all for the magazine.
BOILERS AND SAFETY
Alan Derting, 1425 Everett Lane, Hopkinsville,
KY 42240, writes:
Richard, it is good you have taken such interest in this
magazine. You seem to like big wheels and the way they grip the
ground. Plowing is my favorite traction engine job, and even as a
child on my pedal tractor I spent most of the time looking
backwards at the tracks I was making.
I’m including a couple of photos of a traction engine boiler
used for steaming tobacco beds in this area. The castings were
taken off and the boiler put on wheels so it could be pulled to the
ground that was being sterilized. Typically run at 125 to 150 psi,
boilers such as this were fired hard to make a lot of steam to get
the ground under the pan hot enough to sterilize it. It is not
uncommon to see a crown sheet like this on these boilers the stay
bolts have been welded again and again, and more often than not
there is a plug instead of a soft plug.
The people running these boilers knew they would not blow up as
long as there was enough water in the boiler – safety features come
in to play when human error allows the water get low. I like to be
as safe as is possible, but it is interesting that the men who used
these boilers did not get too concerned about a crown sheet like
this. I would not want to stand near a boiler that looked like this
one when under pressure, but it would not blow up unless there was
a low water situation. A boiler like this would leak around the
stay bolts and put the fire out, and then they would weld the
staybolts again. There is a healthy fear of steam and its power,
and there is also an unreasonable fear of same. I appreciate your
efforts to make people aware of the awesome power in 250 gallons of
water at 350 degrees.
Someone will probably infer that I am condoning firing boilers
like the one in these photos – I am not. The purpose here is to
make a point about what will explode and what will not, and that
this was understood when these boilers were used. I say this at the
risk of being criticized. Such is the case with any statements made
publicly … right, Gary?
I would also like to commend Bruce Babcock, who has conducted
some interesting research that should benefit all steam
enthusiasts, and I also appreciated Bruce’s story on his prony
brake (January/February 2003 and March/April 2003).
I met Bruce at the Pawnee Steam School the year it was held at
Booneville, Ind. We compared notes, and he knew I had built the
brake that is used at the Darke County Steam Threshers
Association’s Greenville, Ohio, show. Ever since I sold that
brake to Greenville I have been collecting pieces for a ‘bigger
and better’ one. I will use some of the simpler features that
Bruce used, such as big wood blocks for the brake band a lot less
work than many small ones.
Following Bruce’s articles on fusible plugs, I decided I
should try to melt some of the fusible plugs I have. The
later-model hex-head plugs melted out mostly liquid. In the Reeves
I’m working on there is an old square-head plug that is so
clean and perfect (no wrench marks and like-new threads) that I
truly believe it is the original plug. That would be about 1907. I
put the heat to it and got the casing red hot there was no liquid
at all, just some powder that came out when I pushed it out with a
nail. I mean, that plug was 100 percent oxide.
So for the record, a lot of these old plugs indeed do not melt.
You have noticed the soft plug in the crown sheet of the boiler in
the photo. I tried to get it out but have had no luck so far. I
want to know if it will melt.
GEISER ENGINE DRAWING
William U. Waters Jr., 11421 Mountain View
Road, Damascus, MD 20872, writes in with observations on the Geiser
engine drawings that appeared on page 25 of the January/February
2003 and page 24 of the March/April issues of Steam
Traction. Bill writes: This is a Class Q engine; it had a
7-inch bore and 9-inch stroke. The design was by F.F. Landis and
his brother, A.B. Landis, and their designs started Geiser in the
steam engine business. The Class Q was rated 10-36 HP, and this
size was discontinued some time before 1913. There are unique
features about Landis engines, many of which are shown in the
Starting at the front of the boiler, note the waterfront
smokebox, in which water ran around the smokebox to extract more
heat from the flue gas. The smoke stack and spark arrester are
rather complex, and note the petticoat pipe at the exhaust nozzle.
Wrought iron rings were used in the boiler construction at the very
front of the smoke box and the smoke stack opening, and they were
also used at the mud ring and fire door opening. Geiser continued
using these rings long after the waterfront was discontinued.
Another Landis design was the ‘crownsheet protector,’ a
sheet iron device built into the boiler that helped to ensure the
crown sheet stayed covered with water when descending or ascending
grades. It also worked to collect impurities in the boiler water,
and there was a surface blow cock and a large hand-hole plate for
cleaning this area. The cleanout plate marked ‘D’ is shown
at the underside of the water front. On the top of the valve chest
and cylinder is the Gardner governor Geiser used on their early
engines. Take note of the crosshead pump casting below the
connecting rod. The pump rod and piping are not shown. This device
was troublesome, as it had to be watertight to work, and it was
discontinued on later engines.
Another interesting feature is the fusible plug, which was
placed at the high point of the crown sheet. A close look at the
drawing in the January/February issue shows a plug (it was brass)
in the wagon top, just over the fusible plug. Under this top plug
was a brass tube extending down to within 1/2-inch of the fusible
plug. If the fusible plug melted out the top plug was removed and a
new plug (just the tin, somehow attached to a rod) was inserted
into the bottom furl or plug. A few light taps with a hammer seated
the fusible plug and the top plug was replaced.
Another interesting feature on these engines was the springs
used at the king post; a lock in the king post kept the engine from
springing while in the belt. Geiser engine owners should take note
of the mounting of the king post to the boiler, as this is a weak
spot on these engines.
A cut from Geiser Manufacturing Company’s 1905 Catalog shows
location of axle springs and compensating gear springs. Note the
links allowing axle and compensating gear movement relative to the
There are also springs at the back axle. The left wheel is fast
to the axle and the compensating gear is on the right side of the
engine and loose on the axle coil springs in the gear take up shock
in the drive. The four springs for the compensating gear are shown
in the right rear wheel, along with the wooden spokes. According to
Mark Landis, F.F. Landis’ son, F.F. Landis liked wood spokes
and always drove cars with wooden spokes. The linkage in the
compensating gear allows up and down (and rocking) movement.
Another item to note is the very effective brake on the
intermediate shaft to hold the engine in the belt, item ‘R’
in the drawing in the January/February issue, which is operated by
lever ‘Q’. This brake is one of the very few good ones
found on steam traction engines. Right hand steer and left hand
flywheel make this style of engine handy for a right hand
After about 1920 Geiser engines were classed as 40 HP, 50 HP and
60 HP. They built the 40 HP and 50 HP engines in the Landis style,
like the 1893 engine. The 60 HP engine was an Anderson style; a
four-shaft, right hand flywheel with 9-1/2-inch by 10-inch
cylinder. It also had a very unique spring mounting and replaced
the older UU engines. There are many 50 HP engines left, but the 40
HP and 60 HP are rare. Almost all Geiser engines used the piston
valve, a Landis design, and the Geiser Company owed much of its
success to the Landis Brothers.
1893 GEISER-THIRD VIEW
This issue we present the third and final drawing sent in by
reader Pierre Bos, La Cerisaie, 16, BD Die,
F.13012, Marseille, France.
This drawing was one of a number displayed in France in the mid
1890s as part of an exhibition on agricultural mechanization in the
Last issue’s drawing focused in on the Geiser’s engine,
plumbing, wheels and steering linkage, while this last drawing
provides a good look at the Geiser’s frame, suspension and
THIEVES HIT STRASBURG RAILROAD
Reader Blake Malkamaki (email@example.com) sent
out an e-mail alerting us to a break-in and theft at the Strasburg
(Pa.) Railroad. In operation since 1832, the Strasburg Railroad
claims to be the oldest operating short line in the U.S. Blake
Thieves broke into the engine house at the Strasburg Railroad
late evening or early morning, Feb. 9-10, 2003, stealing a number
of items from the Strasburg Railroad’s collection. Items stolen
included: the number plates from engines #31, #90, #475;
classification lights from engines #31 and #89; one new
classification light; six rear end marker lamps (four kerosene and
two converted to battery operation); one photograph of engine #89
on the Green Mountain, side view with specifications; one Strasburg
Railroad rulebook, red loose-leaf format; one small (about half
normal size) locomotive brass bell and yoke; and one CC steam
locomotive defect chart.
It appears there were two perpetrators, and they seemed to have
a ‘shopping list’ in that they took only rail fan
collectibles, and only specific ones at that. Pennsylvania State
Police are investigating. The Strasburg Railroad is asking for help
in the return of the stolen property and finding the individuals
responsible for the theft. If anyone has any information, please
call the Strasburg Railroad at (717) 687-8421, or e-mail:
Lester E. Pierce, 4998 320 St., Stanberry, MO
64489, writes in with further thoughts on the magazine. Lester
By dang! Let’s shake out the ‘Old Timers’ for items,
stories and pictures of steam days. True, the old timers are
becoming scarcer, and they weren’t as handy with pencil and
paper compared to the electronic age. With the passing of older
generations old pictures and stories are passed on into the hands
of a younger generation. Comes here a retired fellow. How old is
this guy? Counting back, he is of Depression vintage. Steam was
rapidly waning. Lots of good stuff still tucked away, but it needs
to be retrieved. Steam Traction beat the bushes.
MORE ON SPALDING’S PHOTOS
Thomas Stebritz, 1516 E. Commercial St.,
Algona, IA 50511, writes in about the engine photos sent in by John
Spalding for the January/February issue of Steam Traction.
Some of what Tom writes we already know from the last issue, but
Tom supplies some additional details on the photos. Tom writes:
Steam Traction, that has a nice sound, I like it. Now
on to Mr. John Spalding’s letter.
Photo #1: A center crank Case rig of the middle to late 1890s. I
have an 1898 Case catalog and I referred to the specifications
therein. The engine is tandem-compound with an extended boiler
barrel, which would have had 96-inch boiler tubes. The engine was a
20 HP engine with 8-inch x 48-inch front wheels and 66-inch drivers
with 16-inch faces.
Photo #2: Shows what is clearly a Julius J.D. McNamar engine. I
have a 1906 McNamar catalog. The engine in the picture would be
newer because of the design of the clutch and different valve
Photo #3: From comparing a few dimensions, I would say the
engine is a 16 HP A.W. Stevens built in Auburn, N.Y. The Stevens
Co. had a full line of machinery, including threshing machines, but
Bowen & Quick had no steamers in their line so they jobbed the
Stevens engines. Incidentally, Bowen & Quick went through
several name changes. The last, I believe, was Quick & Thomas.
They called their thresher the ‘Wide Awake.’ The A.W.
Stevens Co. moved their factory to Marinette, Wis., about 1900 and
went out of business in 1908.
Photo #4: Mr. Spalding sure came up with a real jewel with his
last picture, which is of a double-cylinder undermounted Aultman
Star. Looking at the picture and the spec sheet from my 1908
catalog, that is a 35 HP engine, but no one knows how many of these
large engines were built. Some specs of the engine are: boiler
diameter 40 inches; firebox length, width, height 51 inches, 38-1/2
inches, 44 inches; 82 flues, 2 inches x 90 inches long; heating
surface 285 square feet.
The engine was equipped with two 8-1/2-inch x 10-inch cylinders.
I can’t recall any pictures of this engine shown back in olden
days or in any hobby magazines in later years. With good steam
pressure that engine would have really turned out the horsepower.
The drivers were 24 inches wide by 6 feet in diameter. The
undermounted engine had two speeds, as did the single-cylinder, top
mounted Star engines. The Star engines had balanced valves with an
exhaust relief in case of pulling over.
Visible on the left side of the smoke box is a riveted strap
similar to a butt strap joint; this ends up against the boiler
jacket. The riveting is not the zigzag pattern of a lap seam, and
most butt seams had separate seams for the smoke box. So what, you
might well ask? The Star engines were last built in 1908, a few
years before the first butt straps were used this is indeed a
mystery engine in a number of ways. I’m wondering if Mr.
Spalding has any more pertinent facts, such as where this engine
did its work and perhaps some information about when it was
Tom’s letter makes this the perfect spot to insert the
latest crop of unidentified photos from reader John
Spalding, 112 Carriage Place, Hendersonville, TN 37035.
John collects vintage photos of steam engines, and through the
years has amassed quite an interesting selection of old
John didn’t have any information to offer on this latest
batch of photos, but we’re betting somebody out there can clue
the rest of us in on what we’re looking at. All three shots
show return-flue engines, all of which appear to be from different
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: