McLean Photo #1: A 25-75 HP 1916 Case sitting derelict in
Canada’s Northwest Territory about 40 miles south of the Arctic
CASE ON THE MOVE
GordonMcLean, Box 1404,
Beaverlodge, ALB, Canada T0H 0C0, took a break from the arctic cold
of northern Canada to send in an intriguing photo of an abandoned
1916 Case engine. Gordon writes:
As I write this letter, our outside temperature is a very cool
-46 degrees C – or about -50 degrees E Not a good day to think
about steam engines.
This photo shows a 25-75 HP Case, serial no. 33717. According to
the J.I. Case affidavit of manufacture, this engine was completed
on July 24, 1916. Alberta’s first record of this unit shows it
was sold to a Louis Goebel in 1920 at Stoney Plain, Alberta,
Canada, a farming community just west of the city of Edmonton,
Alberta, Canada. The engine was next sold in 1933 to the Great Bear
Lumber Co. It was moved to an area known now as Sawmill Bay on
Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, about 40 miles south
of the Artic Circle.
This move would have entailed covering about 1,400 miles of
territory where no roads existed. It is likely the engine was
shipped by rail north to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, and loaded
on a barge for the rest of the trip. It probably was unloaded and
moved around the rapids at Fort Smith, then reloaded to continue
the journey to Sawmill Bay. This is all speculation on my part, and
I’m trying to locate someone who can supply better information
about this interesting venture.
The engine operated a sawmill on the edge of the bay. A uranium
mine started operating at about this same time. The lumber was
probably used in the mine’s construction, as there is no other
use for the lumber for hundreds of miles in any direction.
This picture was taken in 1996, when a friend of mine hired a
floatplane to take him to the site. They had no trouble locating
the engine and were able to land in the lake right beside the
engine. It is still fairly complete, but there was no sign of the
front wheels anywhere. As far as I know, it is still in the same
isolated spot. I am trying to find out more about this project, and
if I find anything interesting, I will write in to keep you posted.
Keep up the good magazine.
Editor’s note: I had the pleasure of meeting John
Ross, P.O. Box 751, Hebron, IN 46341, at the Pioneer
Engineers 2002 show in Rushville, Ind., where we sat down and
talked about the days of steaming, past and present. In this issue,
John shares his memories – and old photographs – with readers. John
was there for some of the earliest shows, and his recollections
evoke a time long past. John writes:
When I talked to you at Rushville, Ind., sitting on pop coolers
under the fly tent, you said there was interest in pictures I took
as an 11- to 15-year-old of the early steam shows in our area. I
went to my first show in 1949 when Dad let me miss a day of school
(3rd grade) to go to Pontiac, Mich. The following spring, we went
to Leroy Blaker’s farm, and was that ever a long trip in our
then-new 1950 Chevrolet. The roads were all two lanes, passing
through many little towns along old U.S. 30.
My dad told me he and my oldest uncle bought their first engine
in about 1905: a little 10 HP Springfield and a little wooden
separator that was hand-fed with a stacker. I still have old
pictures at home of four other engines they owned, including a 60
HP 1911 Case they bought used in 1915 that had been used to stone
our township roads, pulling two wagon trains of four each. Most
unusual today, those wagons could be turned around by just changing
the tongue from one end to the other and changing a pin from front
to back of each wagon to make them steer from the other end. When
they bought the 60, both common bearings had to be rebabbitted, and
the gear behind the flywheel and both drive pinions were renewed. I
still have the sales slip from the Case branch in Chicago on
Michigan Avenue. That engine saw an extreme amount of use: My dad
and uncle took care of ditching our township roads using a
pull-type grader, plus they used the Case for threshing, shredding
and silo-filling until early 1930.
In 1918, they bought an old, used Aultman & Taylor sawmill
equipped with rack-and-pinion plus friction drive. The mill was
used up until the early 1950s and is now at the Northern Illinois
Steam Power Show at Sycamore, Ill. I have been the lucky one chosen
to run this old mill at the show for the last 25 years.
The following pictures were all taken at Leroy Blaker’s
farm, the original site of the National Threshers Association, in
1951 and 1952.
Photo #1 is of Louie David’s 40 HP Avery in 1952 before
being steamed up for the first time in 30 to 40 years. When we
arrived that morning at about 10:30, the hand-hole plates were
still out from washing the boiler to get rid of alkaline water
leftover from the engine’s time in western Nebraska. Later in
the day, they got it steamed up, but it primed so badly there was
no hope to make it to the Prony brake. It was parked and left for
another boiler wash the next morning, so we never got to see it
work that year.
Photo #2 is the Homer Holp family’s 16 HP Advance in 1952. I
think Homer’s grandsons still own this.
Photo #3 shows the 24 HP Port Huron that was Leroy Blaker’s
sawmill engine. The Brodbeck family could probably tell us more
about it, as they still own it. This picture was taken in 1951.
Photo #4 was also taken in 1951, and it shows Percy
Sherman’s 25 HP Russell, which he brought from Palmyra,
Photo #5, also taken in 1951, shows Forest Williamson’s
23-90 Baker, the first steamer I ever saw on balloon tires. When
they put it on the Prony brake it danced up and down so badly it
threw the belt off. After they got it belted up again, they placed
a jack under one side of the front axle and a big block under the
other side to help steady it some. The airplane tires on the rear
still let the engine dance around like it had the heebie-jeebies.
By the way, I think Forest Liver, Latty, Ohio, and I saw this
engine four to six years ago at Portland, Ind., on the sawmill and
back on steel wheels.
Photo #6 is from 1952 and shows James Whitby’s 20 HP M.
Rumely, which was called Susie Q. For a couple of years starting in
about 1954 or 1955, Jim had his own show north of Ft. Wayne,
Photo #7 is, I think, Leroy Blaker’s 65 HP Case, which he
bought about this time (1951) in either Kansas or Nebraska. It ran
on the old Baker factory brake for about three hours, pulling 111
brake horsepower. That was the longest and hardest I ever saw an
engine pulled, and it was so heavily loaded a 50 HP Case was used
to pull it back on the belt three or four times during that
Photo #8 (also from 1951) shows the little 12 HP Frick that
belonged to Elmer Egbert from Botkins, Ohio.
The last picture, Photo #9, was taken in 1951. This was the
mischievous bunch from Churubusco, Ind. Clint Bloom, his brother
and a friend of theirs were always into something. I remember
seeing them at NTA, Blaker’s farm, Pontiac, Ill., Central
States and at Whitbey’s farm for the Old Time Threshers and
Sawmill Operator’s Show.
BARN THRESHING PORT HURONWe’re privileged
this issue to share a letter from CarltonJohnson, 2256 W Wilson, Clio, MI 48420, who
threshed in the 1940s. Carlton’s memories of threshing are
important reminders of our hobby’s origins, helping us connect
our present fascination with steam and threshing to its working
roots. And happy birthday, Carlton. We’re looking forward to
hearing from you in the future. Carlton writes:
I have enclosed a photo of barn threshing taken in 1942. The
engine is a 19 HP Port Huron engine belted to a 33-by-54-inch Port
Huron separator called a Port Huron Rusher. I threshed from 1940
until 1950, the last five years mostly field threshing. A thresher
made more money barn threshing, because every time a wagon load was
threshed you had to slow the machine down and wait for another load
to pull up to the machine. Some horses where afraid of the machine
and were hard to drive up, but after they became used to it they
A thresher had to travel twice the distance. First he made the
round on wheat and later came around for the oats, barley and rye,
if they raised it. And of coarse a steam engine was geared up for
about 2 mph. A few put them on rubber tires towards the last of
When you threshed out of the barn and you got done the grain was
in the granary and the straw was stacked near the barn to be used
for bedding the animals. Another thing when field threshing, you
had a different man feeding the machine. Some were faster than
others, and that made a difference in the quality of work you did.
You had lots of straw for bedding the livestock.
I would say barn threshing was done for 60 years. When the barns
were built, lumber was plentiful and close by so the large timbers
used in barns were nearby.
I still have the Port Huron engine and a Buffalo-Pitts 16 HP. I
bought the Port Huron engine first and started filling silos in
1936. I also have a 6 HP Russell portable, which makes a nice rig
for buzzing wood. I have a son and grandson who are interested in
the engines and fire one or two each summer. I will be 87 on Feb.
Stebritz Photo #1: The back of this photo is marked:
‘Unknown make used in ‘Economy System of Threshing,’
Grand Forks, N.D., about 1910.’
‘mystery’ engine on page 14 of the March/April 2004 issue
garnered its fair share of attention, with letters coming in from
all corners of the country. Thomas Stebritz, 1516
E. Commercial St., Algona, IA 50511, was the first to correctly
identify the engine, in the process breaking a streak of
identifications by the under-15 crowd! As the first to correctly
identify last issue’s engine, Tom will receive a free copy of
Steam Engine Guide by Prof. P.F. Rose. Tom also sent in
some interesting photos for readers. Tom writes:
Looking at John Spalding’s latest mystery engine, I would
say it is a Watertown steamer made by Watertown Engine Co.,
Watertown, N.Y. I can’t identify the thresher. Somewhere in my
collection of material, I have a picture of a catalog cut of the
left side of the engine showing the English-style of drivers and a
sectional cast steam dome.
I am enclosing a picture for the experts to ponder over. The
late E.R. Potter of Canada sent this picture to my late father, and
his writing on the back indicates he didn’t fully know what the
engine was. The picture is a little dark, but legible. I believe
the engine to be a 35 HP under mounted Aultman Star, and it’s
pushing a so-called header thresher. A number of things indicate
this to be an Aultman engine I have no doubt about this, myself.
However, this engine has a top-mounted cylinder, but does it also
have two cylinders under the boiler barrel? Well, fellas, let’s
have a good description of this engine.
The second correct response came from Jeff
Pewitt, 5203 Cottage Lane, Columbia, MO 65201
(firstname.lastname@example.org), who also has some thoughts on articles past and
present. Jeff writes:
I received the new issue today and started devouring it as
usual. I came across the mystery engine picture and believe it to
be a Watertown. The cast iron steam dome and the square smokestack
base are the best clues. The company was making these about 1888.
According to Jack Norbeck’s Encyclopedia of American Steam
Traction Engines, the company made them in 6, 8, 10 and 15 HP
models. I can only guess from the picture that it is about a 10 HP,
based on the size relation of the men and the engine.
I have enjoyed the Iron-Men Album and Steam Traction
magazine for many years and recently acquired my grandfather’s
old copies of IMA going all the way back to the 1950s. I have gone
back and read most of them, and it has been interesting to see how
the articles changed over the years. In the early issues, there
were lots of stories told by old steam guys about their favorite
engine or a funny story. Those fine men are all gone, and those of
us who just like the hobby are writing in about restorations and
the fun we have with them. These lumbering giants have a character
of their own and continue to be fascinating to run and watch.
Keep up the good work on a fine magazine. My only complaint is
that I have to wait two months to get another issue.
The third correct response came from James R. Erdle
Sr., 5071 Parrish St. Extension, Canandaigua,
NY 14424. James writes: Your mystery engine is a Watertown,
built by Hood & Bradford, Watertown, N.Y. I have one of these
traction engines, and I know of one more.
M. RUMELY ENGINE
Larry Gaertner, 7737 St. Joseph St., Walsh, IL
62297, shares a great vintage photo of an M. Rumely steamed up and
ready to work. Larry writes:
I really enjoy the Past and Present department of Steam
Traction reminiscent of Anna Mae’s column. Here is a nice
photo of a 12 HP M. Rumely. That is all that is written on the
photo envelope. I think the picture was taken during the 1950s
because of the type film that was used. It looks like the blower is
turned on and the engine is running. The photo is from the
collection of the late Al and Ella Brandt, Red Bud, Ill. More
Steam historian and author Robert T. Rhode, 990
W. Lower Springboro Road, Springboro, OH 45066
(email@example.com), continues his quest for the origins of
traction engineering west of the Alleghenies. Bob recently received
another piece of the puzzle from a fellow writer. Bob explains:
Jack Alexander, author of Steam Power on California Roads
and Farms (1998) and The First American Farm Tractors
(2003), sent me a reference to another early Ohio traction engine.
Page 218 of the Sept. 29, 1860, Scientific American contains an
announcement that on Sept. 14 John Walker of Mount Vernon, Ohio,
exhibited a self-propelling ‘locomotive cross-cut steam
sawmill’ at the United States Agricultural Society Fair in
Cincinnati. This event occurred only two years after the Newark
Machine Works produced a traction engine (Steam Traction,
March/ April 2003).
The journalist described the workmanship of the Walker machine
as ‘rude’ and criticized the placing of an upright boiler,
water tank and engine on a relatively insecure three-wheeled wooden
frame. The article states that the 5 HP engine had a flywheel to
furnish ‘power for threshing or other farm work,’ and the
reporter explained that for milling work a pitman from a crosscut
saw could be attached to the flywheel. The writer conceded that
with proper advances the Walker engine could become a boon to
Several years ago, when I was researching steam engine and saw
mill manufacturer Reinhard Scheidler’s life, I ran across a
reference for a Mr. Walker – no first name given – who was
described as a Canadian who had built two engines for the Union
Iron Works in Newark, Ohio, after 1890. Could this be the John
Walker of the 1860 Scientific American story? Professor
John Edson Sweet, a well-known engineer and educator, complimented
one of the Union Iron Works engines on display at the 1893
Columbian Exposition in Chicago. That engine was mounted on a
locomotive boiler. The other Walker steamer had a Bury-style boiler
(Engineers & Engines, July/August 1976).
According to the Nov. 8, 1940, edition of the Newark
Advocate, one of the Walker engines demonstrated its power at
the Licking (Ohio) County Fair by lifting a mass of pig iron by
means of a pulley attached to the limb of a tree. Scheidler
provoked Walker into betting $100 that no other engine could manage
By the next morning, Scheidler had attached special mud lugs to
the driver wheels of his road locomotive. Walker and the Union Iron
Works employees protested, but nothing in the wager had precluded
the use of lugs. One of Scheidler’s sons ran the engine. He
jerked open the throttle, the wheels slipped in the mud and a
murmur ran through the crowd. He stopped the engine and then pulled
the throttle again; this time slowly and patiently. The engine
crept forward and the bulky pig iron rose higher and higher. Walker
yelled, ‘Stop her! Stop her!’ The Scheidler son kept going,
as his father directed. The iron smashed into the pulley, the limb
crashed to the ground and the locomotive dragged its trophy back to
the exhibit of Scheidler equipment while the crowd roared. Walker
felt only humiliation.
Does anyone have information about the Walker engine of 1860 or
to the Walker engines of the 1890s?
CALL FOR BUFFALO-PITTS
Pete LaBelle, 802 Shadybrook, Holland, MI
49424, is on a quest for information about Buffalo-Pitts engines.
His goal is to create a list of engines and owners, including
specific information about the engines. Pete writes:
A few years ago, I became the proud owner and restorer of a 15
HP Buffalo-Pitts steam engine. Since it followed me home, I have
discovered there are not many Buffalo-Pitts engines around. In
discussions with other Buffalo owners, the thought surfaced to
locate as many Buffalo-Pitts engines as possible in hopes of
expanding knowledge-sharing opportunities between owners.
With that, I’m asking for the readership’s help: If you
own a Buffalo-Pitts steam engine, or know of one in your area,
please send me a note with the engine specifics and the owner’s
name and address. I will compile a list, and I will send a copy of
the list to everyone who sends in information.
Please send any information you have, along with a self
addressed, stamped envelope, by June 30, 2004. I should be able to
print a list and mail it out about a month after the deadline. And
remember, even if the guy down the road has a Buffalo, send me a
note about it anyway, as he may not. I would like to make this list
as complete as possible. Thanks for your help everyone!
Conrad H. Milster Jr., 178 Emerson Place,
Brooklyn, NY 11205, writes in with an interesting observation on
steam power and its use – or not – in powering air ships. Conrad,
we should point out, is chief engineer of the famous engine room at
the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. Conrad writes:
In the November/December 2003 issue, Robert T. Rhode had an
article on the various oddball and often-unsuccessful uses of steam
One of these, which most people would laugh at today, is the use
of the steam engine for powering an airplane. Yet, some people took
this possibility seriously, as evidenced by the enclosed photo of
the name-plate on the turbine generator set located in our engine
room at the Pratt Institute. It’s a 150 KW General Electric
unit installed in 1907 and retired in 1948. When this unit was
installed, the Wright brothers first flight had occured only four
years previously in 1903, and most people in 1907 probably
subscribed to the ‘if God had wanted us to fly, he’d have
given us wings’ theory. Yet, someone at GE saw a future for
aviation and put that limitation on the nameplate.
My guess would be they probably had dirigibles in mind rather
than heavier-than-air craft, but that’s only a guess. It
doesn’t, however, detract in the least from the historic
interest of the plate.
The engine room is the site of the original plant (1887-1900),
which was replaced by three Ames engines these are still in running
Although the turbine was retired in 1948, the three engines ran
daily until 1977. We still run one (or more!) whenever we have a
public event at Pratt so visitors can see what such a plant used to
TWIN CITY STEAMER
William Ellis, 322 15th Ave., Moline, IL
61265-2927 (firstname.lastname@example.org), noticed the Twin Cities
steam traction engine discussed in the January/February 2004 issue.
William, it turns out, is well-versed on the subject, and he
provides some interesting observations on the engine. William
While making no claims to a wide and deep knowledge of steam
engines, I am quite familiar with the photos of the Twin City
‘steam engine’ shown in the January/ February 2004 issue
and sent to me by Charles Doty (I also perused your Web page,
Original pictures of the left side, right side (and I believe
front-on) reside at the Minnesota State Historical Society (MSHS)
in St. Paul, Minn. Copies from their photos are presently in my
photo collection. MSHS would be pleased to print more, but any
interested party would need to visit them in person. They can be
reached at 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1903; (651)
After close examination of the photos, I have concluded they are
photos of drawings of a proposed engine, not photos of
real iron. The quality of the draftsmanship is excellent, but they
are clearly either highly retouched pictures of someone else’s
engine (to which the TC logo plates and TC wheels have been drawn
on) or a drawing.
Some clues are: The lack of a ‘vanishing point’ or any
perspective, each component is viewed straight on; while the wheels
are of typical TC design (spokes bear on the hub, not on the
rivets), they have no visible width; spokes on all four wheels are
dead plumb, as are all visible square bolt heads (yeah, it could
happen, but not likely!). Additionally, several of us
Minneapolis-Moline fans have reviewed many thousands of company
photos, and the ‘steamer’ never shows up in the factory
background with other machines or in other than the three or four
known views. Other ‘one-offs’ they made sneak into various
pictures of real iron to intrigue us.
As for the 1919 state of affairs, Minneapolis Steel &
Machinery Co. was industrially capable of building a steamer if and
whenever they wanted to. Yet, the lack of extant advertising
combined with no mention of the machine in various MS&M
corporate annual reports makes me think they did not build it. Even
their successful ‘high-wheelers’ TC 60-90 and 40-65 were on
the way out. Yes, MS&M read the writing on the wall. Others
misunderstood what they read.
It would be nice to get an Advance expert’s opinion on what
model and year Advance was being copied, if only to close in on the
reported 1919 date. As you said, it seems late.
Keep up the good work. If Tim Templin or anyone else wants to
view or purchase the photos at MHS, I can provide them with
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;email@example.com