Steam Engines & Threshing Machines
In the March/April 2004 issue, Chady Atteberry took readers for a trip down memory lane, looking at the early days of the hobby and specifically the early shows hosted by Harold Ottaway at Joyland Park in Wichita, Kan. Reader Dan Donaldson, 354129 Clinton Ave., Dade City, FL 33525 (damdonaldson @msn.com), read the article, and it reminded him of his family's connections to the early reunion days. Dan writes:
I thoroughly enjoyed the article 'The Joy of Steaming' in the March/April 2004 Steam Traction. My interest especially perked up when it was mentioned that Louis David had attended the 1953 show.
My grandfather Clare Donaldson lived in Plymouth, Mich., and knew Louis David. After reading the article, I sent a letter to Chady Atteberry and enclosed some photos that my grandfather had in his possession. I was told the Avery traction engine (Photo #1) belonged to Louis, and that one of the men pictured in front of the Port Huron (Photo #3), which belonged to Louis, is Louis David. Chaddy wrote back and said he didn't think Louis David was in the picture, but he thought the man with the hat and tie was LeRoy Blaker. I was hoping maybe you could show these pictures in the 'Past and Present' column to see if anyone can identify the engines or the men in these pictures.
Photo #2 shows my grandfather removing a wheel from a Port Huron engine. I was informed that the set of good wheels and bull gears from my grandfather's engine were traded to Louis David in exchange for his worn wheels and bull gears.
Photo #4 shows two engines that belonged to my grandfather. I believe they are both Port Huron engines, and he also owned a Reeves traction engine (Photo #5). All of these pictures and more can be seen online at http://members.tripod.com/dsmdonaldson/id5.htm
Writing in the July/August 2004 issue, Leo J. Fitzpatrick, 10845 E. Adams Road, Beaverton, MI 48612, treated readers to memories of threshing and steaming in rural Michigan. Some of our photo identifications were, it turns out, less than complete. Leo heard from a few readers, including Lee Whitmore in North Dakota, who wanted to help set the record straight. Our sincere thanks goes out to everyone who takes the time to help us ensure the material we present is as accurate as possible. Leo writes:
I'm writing to express my appreciation for your letter and the extra copies of the magazine for my personal use. I also appreciate the telephone conversation I had with you. In hindsight, I should have given a more detailed description of the photos identifying the equipment with the stories.
The photo on page 22 of the July/August 2004 issue of Steam Traction should have been labeled, 'Threshing clover seed with a Birdsall clover huller at Earl Sanders farm in the Fall of 1911, Arthur Township, Clare County, Mich.' The engine is a 14 HP Port Huron, and the clover huller is described in the story. The date purchased and the price was included. The same engine appears on page 24, where it is shown threshing at the Jess Newman farm.
Coe Robinette from Arthur Township, Clare County, Mich., owned the team of horses. They appear in the photos of the Newman farm and threshing clover seed. The pictures showing the team of horses were taken in the immediate neighborhood in Arthur Township, Clare County, Mich.
Regular contributor Gary Yaeger, 1120 Leisha Lane, Kalispell, MT 59901 (email@example.com), noticed the photo identifications in Leo's article, and he had some further information to add. Gary writes:
I really enjoyed Leo J. Fitzpatrick's 'The Threshers are Coming.' Leo's first photo is not of a Nichols & Shepard, and in fact the first three are all photos of Port Huron engines. Not only that, but they are all three simple engines, which is very unusual, as I would guess that 95 percent of the Port Huron engines were tandem compound. The first and third are earlier engines without the knuckle webbing along the edge of the driver wheel, as the second one has.
I think I know why Port Huron did that. I saw one in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1958 that had a crack in the cast iron driver wheel and undoubtedly that became a problem. By the way, I could have bought that engine for a $1,000, which I didn't have. It was in great shape except for the crack in the driver wheel, and was in operation at a show.
More memories of the early reunions come this issue by way of Larry Gaertner, 7737 St. Joseph, Walsh, IL 62297, who sends in some great vintage photos of one of Louie David's under-mounted Averys. This large 40 HP Avery is not the same engine reader Dan Donaldson notes on page 3, which appears to be a smaller 18 HP Avery undermount. Larry writes:
Here are two pictures of Louie David's 40 HP under-mounted Avery. They were taken at the National Threshers show, Montpelier, Ohio, during the 1950s. John Ross had a nice photo of Louie's Avery in the May/June 2004 Steam Traction.
Notice the Avery has a jacket on the boiler. The boiler jacket appears to be made of galvanized sheet metal or else it's painted white. How about those wheel extensions on the rear drivers? I don't think steel-toe shoes would stand up too well under those wheels!
Following up on his letter in the May/June 2004 issue of Steam Traction, in which he shared his memories of the early steam shows, John Ross, P.O. Box 751, Hebron, IN 46341, chimes in again, favoring us with yet more first-hand reflections from the early days of the hobby. This time, John regales us with photos he took at the Pontiac, Ill., threshing reunion in the early 1950s, when he was still a boy. John writes:
Have you ever seen a portable sawmill like this (Photo #1)? It's a complete house builder with a lap siding and shingle saw on the wagon. The wagon came from Missouri and was owned by a very long whiskered fellow by the name of Lucksinger. This was in 1952.
The saw, hung from the top, travels back and forth, and what we know as head blocks could be laid down to roll a log into place. I watched it saw for several years in a row in the early 1950s, and one last time about 10 years ago while I was sawing for the club on their mill.
Photo #2 is Ralph Fisher's 10 or 12 HP Peerless in 1952, belted up to the old Lucksinger Mill. Ralph is on the engine and I remember him as having a real full beard for a local centennial.
Joe Wensphal owned the 19 HP Keck-Gonnerman in Photo #3, and he showed it for many years in the 1950s. This photo was taken in 1951. You can just make out a little something painted on the side tank. Donald Duck was on that tank and Mickey Mouse was on the other one under the crank disc.
Photo #4 is, I think, a 25 HP Illinois I later saw at the Sycamore, Ill., show 10 to 20 years ago when it was sold and going to Iowa. This picture was taken at Pontiac, Ill., in 1953. Newton Gould - or more likely his father probably owned this engine at the time. I remember Newt telling me his father ran this engine home from the factory in Sycamore when it was new.
A late A.W. Stevens was a rare treat, and Photo #5, taken in 1953, shows the only one I ever saw, a 20 HP. J.O. Roberts of McLean, Ill., owned it and was a board member of the Pontiac show. His daughter Jean was secretary then, and last time I heard she was still alive and still owns the engine, but it has not been run in many years.
Homer Dickenson, a Case dealer of Yorkville, Ill., owned the 12 HP cross-compound Case (about 1893 vintage) shown in Photo #6. This photo was taken in 1953. The last time I saw it was two or three years ago in Konnie Kuiper's museum in Highland, Ind. I sawed with this little doll in 1993 at the Sycamore and Pontiac shows on its 100-year anniversary.
Homer showed all his engines, including a late 65 HP Case, which was gone over with a rag every morning and was always clean and neat. The first time I saw this engine at Pontiac there were many little weeps and seeps coming from the seams at the throat sheet and along the lap seam. I went and got my 73-year-old uncle to come and look at it, as I had been told how unsafe a leaking boiler would be. When we looked it over more, he showed me where it had a new shell on it and this weeping was more or less normal until it had been fully warmed up.
Wilbur Collins had two engines at the Pontiac show in the early 1950s, a Kitten and an 80 HP Case. Photo #7 shows the Kitten hooked up to the sawmill in 1952. Bill Rutdlege and his estate owned it until two or three years ago. Now, Francis Lauder, from the Kitten's birthplace of Ferdinand, Ind., owns it.
The engine number is 219, and if I remember right Bill told me that it was called the 'Aw Shucks' engine. I was told the steam dome had been put on backwards, and if you look real close I think two rivets have been filed so the main can go by to the point everything just clears.
The 80 HP Case in Photo #8 was also owned by Wilbur Collins and is about to pull a Canton Monitor portable in the parade in 1952. I was lucky to be allowed to run the 80 all day long. I was only 13 years old at that time. The big fellow nearest the portable was the engineer and the man sure looks like the owner, Wilbur Collins.
I had stepped off to take this shot while waiting for the parade to start. That morning my offer to oil up for the engineer (whose name I don't remember) was taken up. I sat on one or the other toolboxes while I oiled around, and when I came to the covered one in the center of the differential he asked me where I learned to oil up a Case engine. I told him we had a 1911 60 HP Case at home. He let me warm up and play with it and I ended up running it the rest of the day.
I took Photo #9 at Pontiac in 1953. It is a rare portable of unknown make to me, and probably Milford Rees of Franklin, Ill., owned it and the Canton Monitor portable. Milford owned several engines at that time, but these two were only at Pontiac two or three times, and I don't remember either one being fired up.
Dean Meissner, P.O. Box 42, Theresa, WI 53091, writes in this issue to inform readers of a new association formed to help preserve steam traction engines. Dean writes:
We have formed an association in Wisconsin for the owners, operators and anyone else interested in the preservation of steam engines, the Wisconsin Historical Steam Engine Association Inc.
We are independent of any particular show, and our group's focus is to bring together people from all across the state. While our group started out in response to anticipated changes in state boiler laws, we have grown in many other directions. The most important direction besides the boiler regulations is our steam school.
We will be putting on a steam school the first weekend in October of this year, and we hope to have a group of close to 75 students. Our education committee is in the process of writing a textbook and developing a lesson plan. While our school will not qualify someone to be an engineer, we hope to give a good overview on steam safety, steam engine operation and general boiler construction.
We have already accomplished many things here in Wisconsin, but we feel there is much more to do. We have established a great working relationship with our state boiler division and have been invited to host and sit in on the next training session for our boiler inspectors. We also have a member sitting on the state steam advisory board.
Our group is open to anyone, whether or not they live in Wisconsin. If you have questions about the organization or the steam school, please contact Mike Wahl, 10447 Highway 149, New Holstein, WI 53061; (920) 898-1853 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Jeff and Vicky Bloemers, W 4597 County Road F, Waldo, WI 53093; (920) 564-6292 (email@example.com).
Ed Gladkowski, 1128 W. Gardner St., Houston, TX 77009, writes in this issue with thoughts on the magazine and recent articles. Ed writes:
The May/June 2004 Steam Traction sure was another fine issue. I especially enjoyed your article about 'The Great Race of 1878,' and John Davidson's article about the 120 HP Case. If I'm not mistaken, it looks like both pictures of the Oshkosh engine seem to show they had semi-rotary valves with the arms that rotated them connected to the block in the reverse gear link. Can anyone verify this? One thing about the experimental 120 HP Case especially interested me, where it said one engine tested was 'equipped with a cylinder of the Stumpf Type' and used superheated steam. Over the course of several years, ModelTec magazine reprinted a book written by Prof. Ing Stumpf, who apparently was very instrumental in developing what he called the 'una-flow' (uniflow) steam engine. Stumpf claimed highest efficiency when running with high superheat and exhausting into a high vacuum, which of course the Case couldn't do without a condenser. So, was at least one of the 120 HP Case experiments a uniflow engine?
Further to Conrad Milster's letter about his G.E. Curtis steam turbine nameplate: Taking steam-powered flight seriously in 1907 was not so far fetched at the time for G.E.
In 1848, a couple of English gentlemen named String fellow and Henson (Henson later moved to the U.S. and became an American citizen) built a large model airplane with a steam engine and boiler that was claimed to be the first mechanically propelled machine to fly. Maxim and Langley did the same in 1894 and 1896, although at 8,000 pounds Maxim's machine was a little big for a model!
George and William Besler actually built and flew a steam-powered airplane in 1933 in California, and at the same time Swedish engineers were working on a steam turbine for aircraft. So, maybe G.E. was just coppering their bets against a lawsuit sometime in the future.
We received a number of letters from readers following our announcement of a subscription rate increase for Steam Traction. Many of you wrote in to express your support and appreciation, for which we are grateful, and others wrote to express their frustration. While it's easy to publish only the words of encouragement and agreement we receive, we believe it's important to air reader's criticisms.
Stephen W. Dunn, P.O. Box 112, Cleveland, OK 74020, writes:
I have held off writing for the last two years. I want Steam Traction to know how disappointed I was two years ago when you changed the name and did away with the 'Soot in the Flues' column. I have talked with other steam men across the country who feel the same way. It's human nature not to say anything until you find out how things are going to turn out until now.
I don't care for the new name or column headings or for the couple of color pages thrown in. For someone to editorialize about heritage and preserving the past and then to make the changes made is hypocritical. It's not like I haven't supported Iron-Men Album in the past with articles and photos. I started subscribing in 1982 and now have completed a whole set going back to the first issue of the Farm Album.
It's easy to blame postage increases, but there haven't been any for over three years. The biggest cost is probably from the slick paper and the two pages of color photos put in. Not many magazines are supported by reader contributions. A magazine like Iron-Men Album/Steam Traction is inherently a small-readership publication. It's really a journal of the steam traction engine hobby. You could almost trace its origins back to publications like The American Thresherman and The Threshermans Review.
Why don't you go for a non-profit permit that would reduce those 'outrageous' postage fees? To try to juice the magazine up with a new name and a few color pictures probably won't dramatically increase the circulation.
I'll pay the extra money for as long as the magazine lasts, but I expect you to take the criticism. If a 90.4 percent increase in cost doesn't kill it, I don't know what will. I hope your editorial content gets better when you start paying for it, and there's more color pictures, and it's published 12 times a year. But that's probably just soot in the flues.
James W. Russell, 125 E. 600 Ave., Oblong, IL 62449, also has some thoughts on the subject. James writes:
I'm sorry to hear you're having problems with Steam Traction. I'm sure it has never made a lot of money for any of the publishers. I realize Gas Engine Magazine is your moneymaker.
I feel you're doing a good job, and as a member of the steam community and a long-time subscriber I would like to humbly offer some suggestions. Forget the fancy paper and color pictures. Be thankful you get a lot of material and don't have to pay staff writers. One of the things you are blaming for the problems is an increase in postage. That's simply not true. Your postage on the mailing has not increased for two years. I have canceled my other magazine subscriptions so I can afford Steam Traction. I will try to support you to the bitter end.
I hope you are sincere in your comments to try to keep Steam Traction alive, but if you're not then just kill it now and save us all some grief. You should be careful not to over edit the stories, just print them the way they are written 'warts and all.' That's the tradition of the magazine and will save you valuable time. Good luck.
Editor's note: What has driven up our postage costs is a combination of factors, including increased processing and mailing fees. Paper costs have risen fairly dramatically, which has been a trend for years. Stemgas Publishing Co. was extremely conservative in subscription increases, and given the small circulation and proportionately high cost of producing IMA., had not been aggressive enough in ensuring income kept pace with expense.
Stephen Dunn is quite right when he notes the magazine is 'inherently a small-readership publication.' That reality simply makes publication that much more of a challenge.
We're fortunate this month to share some great reminiscences from Bob Hart, 421 W. 18th St., Apt. 5, Hermann, MO 65041. Bob has been culling through his collection of old photos and committing his memories of the early days of steam to paper for our enjoyment. There's more to come from Bob, but we'll start with some of his first notes to Steam Traction readers. Bob writes:
Charles Beul of Pershing, Mo., in southwest Gasconade County, had a sawmill in the Gasconade River bottom. They had been sawing the day before. They filled the boiler and banked the fire to be ready to saw the next morning. That evening it was cloudy and thundering in the west. During the night a huge downpour came over a very wide area. The very next day they were boat riding over the sawmill site (Photo #1). The water was halfway up the engine. I think everyone in engine land will agree the Jumbo's spark plug was wet. The engine was a 20 HP Jumbo, 1910 model.
Hart Photo #2: Henry J. 'Father Time' Lucksinger. Judging by the Ford truck, this photo was taken about 1951. Henry is the fellow John Ross refers to in his letter on page 5.
Photo #2 shows Charles Beul proudly driving home his new Jumbo 20 HP in 1910. The engine was delivered by the Missouri Pacific Railroad to Chamois, Mo. Jumbo engines and Belleville separators were very popular in the Hermann area, the Gasconade and the Osage River bottoms and on west past Jefferson City.
The sawmill men were fond of the Jumbo, as they were handy and easy to fire. This is the engine that was in the flood of 1915.
Mr. Beul's son, who is nearly 90, says his dad had a very rare Jumbo. He says it was a 22 HP with the Baker valve system. Its original owners were from Bland, Mo., who bought it to do plowing and threshing. I'm sad to say both engines were scraped in World War II. If anyone knows anything about the Big 22 made by Harrison Machine Works at Belleville, Mo., I would be glad to hear from you.
Hart Photo #3: Charles Beul proudly runs his 20 HP Jumbo after it was delivered by the Missouri Pacific Railroad to Chamois, Mo., in 1910.
Photo #3 is Henry J. Lucksinger, born 1871, died 1956. He was my first teacher in steam, and he taught me a lot. He was the creator of the one and only Singer Saw Mill shown at Pontiac, Ill.
Regular contributor Thomas Stebritz, 1516 E. Commercial St., Algona, IA 50511, has actively followed past discussions about undermounted Aultman Star engines. In the July/August 2004 issue, Alan New presented readers with a history of the Aultman under-mounted engines. Alan owns a 20 HP undermounted Aultman Double Star, and in his article he presented information he's ferreted out showing what sizes of under-mounted engines Aultman might actually have built. Alan's article prompted Tom to write in again. Tom writes:
I'm enclosing my renewal for Steam Traction and a few choice comments about the under-mounted Aultman Star. What's that smell? Someone stirring up the hog swill barrel, right!?
Who has seen a 35 HP Aultman under-mounted? The picture I sent in with my answer to Spalding's question about the Watertown steamer. The under-mounted Star pushing a header thresher had also a top-mounted engine on the boiler top. How this engine was geared I would like our Star experts to enlighten us. That picture of the under-mount shows a special-width driver with the outside row of spokes tapered back from the hub for a brace.
There was a picture of a 35 HP Star belted to a sawmill in a magazine call the Stumptown Steamer. Pictured from the back and clearly visible was the 40-inch diameter boiler with 24-inch drivers. I subscribed to this nice little magazine for a few years, but exactly what year the photo ran, I couldn't say. All of this, you might say, is a likely story.
Looking at the editor's 'A question of numbers,' there is a serious question of credibility, also. Back quite a number of years when all of this was first brought to light a number of credible people had their doubts about who actually owned what then, as now.
Mr. New compares the supposed 16 HP to his 20 HP engine, but looking at the overlay of both engines I can't make out a 16 HP engine in the picture.
Whatever information I make available is for the most part from my late father; he was a man who smelled the flowers and observed the machinery he used, and also the machinery as used by others, too.
His first rig was a 12 HP Stevens and a 30-inch C. Aultman thresher when he was 19 years of age in 1904. He told me he didn't think much of the Aultman thresher, but in later years he said maybe he was wrong in his judgment of the thresher as he had an open mind. There were quite a number of Star engines around up to the 20 HP single engines. I have the specifications of one 16 HP Double Star from his records, and I imagine by about the year 1910 the Star engines were all gone except for a few in the bone yards.
My father learned about the forge and became adept with the acetylene welder, but like a lot of men of that era, he didn't master the arc welder. My father had two 40-by-62-inch Case steel threshers in the 1930s. He decided one day to make a 28-by-50-inch out of one of them, which he did, putting up with ridicule. He welded the crankshafts with the acetylene and they held. Quite a few persons thought they had a big laugh on my dad, but they came up short when the whole mess came all together and worked. Using the soldering iron and acetylene torch, my father made a number of stationary steam engines and about a 1/4-scale 22 HP Gaar-Scott traction engine all of this from scratch in the early 1900s.
Alan New's article also got the attention of author and steam historian Robert T. Rhode, 990 W. Lower Springboro Road, Springboro,OH 45066 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Bob has been conducting some of his own research on the subject, and this issue he writes in to share some of what he has learned. Bob's information came in too late for us to research, but look for a further examination of the patents Bob notes in a future issue. Bob writes:
When LeRoy Blaker reported that Martin J. Hogan patented the under-mounted steam traction engine on Sept. 19, 1903, Blaker was half right: Hogan applied for his patent on that date.
The patent request was renewed in June of 1906, and the patent was granted on Jan. 29, 1907, and given patent no. 842786. I suspect that Blaker's number (173846) was assigned to the initial application. When W.N. Springer of the Avery Co. began production of undermounted engines, the designs were patented under nos. 842589 and 842840 - both granted on Jan. 29, 1907, the same date that the Hogan patent was awarded. The application dates were Dec. 21, 1904, for the former patent and March 8, 1906, for the latter. These dates indicate that, between Hogan and Springer, Hogan was the first to apply for a patent. When Springer applied for patents on similar machines, Hogan renewed his request.
In his book on C. Aultman, Dr. Lorin Bixler correctly stated that Hogan applied for a patent before the dissolution of the company, but Bixler mistakenly gave the year as 1904. Many undermounted engines had been patented before 1904, among them no. 93316 in 1869, no. 105956 in 1870, no. 256120 in 1882, no. 510707 in 1893, no. 626666 in 1899, no. 704652 in 1902 and no. 812137 in 1906. The 20th Century was patented under no. 704652. For that reason, I doubt that it was licensed under another inventor's patent.
Last issue, we said that Bob Hart had called to let us know he once owned the 12 HP Rumely featured on page 7 of the May/June issue. Chalk it up to advancing senility or just plain stupidity (more likely), but it wasn't Bob Hart who called, it was Henry Groner, 1110 Sauer Ford Road, Berger, MO 63014. Henry and Bob live less than 15 miles apart in east-central Missouri, and we're pleased to have the acquaintance of both men.
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