STEAM ENGINE & THRESHING MACHINES
Bob Kennedy, 601 W. 29th St., Atlantic, IA 50022, sends in a few interesting pictures this issue. Bob writes:
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 E.J.writes:
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.
Robert T. Rhode, 990 West Lower Springboro Road, Springboro, OH 45066 (e-mail: email@example.com), writes in with a further update on his article on the Lehmer Model (see the November/December 2002 issue of Iron-Men Album). Bob writes:
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.
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 writes:
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 to work.
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 and running.
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 there.
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.
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.
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.
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 drawings.
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 drive gear.
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 sawmill.
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.
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 U.S.
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 driveline components.
Reader Blake Malkamaki (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 writes:
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: email@example.com
Lester E. Pierce, 4998 320 St., Stanberry, MO 64489, writes in with further thoughts on the magazine. Lester writes:
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.
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 gear.
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 built.
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 pictures.
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 manufacturers.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org