Past and Present

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Schwerin Photo: From left are Adam Robinson, Leon Koob and Randy Schwerin with their Nichols & Shepard steam engines.
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Watcher Photo #1 (left): Dave Watcher’s 24 HP Minneapolis 8010, with Leonard Rynda.
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Watcher Photo #2 (below): At Leonard Rynda’s auction, from left, Lyle Lugdone, Leonard Rynda, with his back to the camera is Bernie Woodmansee and Big Foot John Nagley.
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Watcher Photo #3 (above): Stevens engine located at Funk Grove, Ill., about 1998.
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Watcher Photo #4 (right): Dave Watcher’s 20 HP Illinois, no. 135.
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Mix Photo #5 (left): A 19 HP A.D. Baker on the separator at the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher’s Club Show at Mason, Mich., in 1972.
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Mix Photos #2, #3 and #4 (below, center and bottom): Ken and George Lewis’ 22 Advance-Rumely on the sawmill at the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher’s Show at Hastings, Mich., in the late 1960s.
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Mix Photo #1 (left): Ralph and June Woodmansee on their 50th wedding anniversary.
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Mix Photo #6 (below): The first firing up of the Mix 19 HP Port Huron.
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Mix Photo #7 (above): From left, David Wortley, Larry Mix, Roy Ballentine and Lynn Mix on the 19 HP Port Huron.
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Fitzpatrick Photo#1: Leo Fitzpatrick and his Dog “Chum” with a Case steam engine in the background, 1930.
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Mix Photo #8 (left): Mix’s dad, Lynn Mix, running the 19 HP Port Huron, engine no. 7991.
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Brunton Photo #1 (left): Jim Perry’s rig crashes through the Smithville Bridge on the Grand River near Eaton Rapids, Mich., in April 1918.
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Fitzpatrick Photo #2: Taken on the Bernard Fitzpatrick farm in 1953, Clare County, Mich. The engine is a 1913 Port Huron, engine no. 7594. Top row, from left: Leo Fitzpatrick, Bernard Fitzpatrick and Harry Kaul; bottom row, from left: Barney Gerow, Jim Gerow, Bill Fitzpatrick and Charley Anger.
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Brunton Photo #2 (below): A mobile photography studio owned by a Mr. Fowler on Main Street, Charlotte, Mich. The engine look to be an A.W. Stevens, complete with horizontal flyball governor. Note the large deer antlers mounted in front of the headlight.
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Brunton Photo #3: Threshing scene, possibly in California.
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McLean Photo: Steam supply for a corn cooker, the Reliance boiler features a three-pass system. The hose running over the wheel goes to the corn barrel. Al Taylor is the engineer.
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Davis Photo: C.F. Mann’s traction-locomotive, patent no. 26,195, Nov. 22, 1859, carried its own railway.
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Rohrer Photo #1 (left) and #2 (below): A Reeves engine that sold at auction in Pennsylvania a few years back. Who owns this engine now?


Randy E. Schwerin, 3040 160th, Sumner, IA 50674; (563) 578-5242, has been promising to send in some photos of Nichols & Shepard engines, which he has faithfully done. Randy writes:

Well, I am finally getting around to sending photos of the Nichols & Shepard engines. The photos were taken in August 2004, at the Antique Acres Old Time Power Show, Cedar Falls, Iowa. The engines in the photo below are as follows, from left: 1923 16-60 double-cylinder, rear-mount, serial no. 14007, owned by Randy E. Schwerin, Sumner, Iowa; 1916 2070 double-cylinder, rear-mount, serial no. 13373, owned by Adam Robinson, Mechanicsville, Iowa; 1910 25-85 single-cylinder, side-mount, serial no. 11212, owned by Adam Robinson; 1915 25-85 single-cylinder, side-mount, serial no. 13007, owned by Leon Koob, Janesville, Iowa; 1918 16-50 single-cylinder, side-mount, serial no. 13796, owned by Leon Koob; 1893 10 HP, single-cylinder, side-mount, serial no. 4632, owned by Randy E. Schwerin. Also pictured in the photo, from left are Adam, Leon and Randy.

The three of us had a most enjoyable time getting these fine old engines together. They got a workout at the show doing a variety of jobs ranging from plowing to sawing, threshing, clover hulling, corn shredding as well as steaming sweet corn, and pulling on the Dyno and Baker fans.


A letter on page 17 of the January/February 2005 issue of Steam Traction refered to the “late George Hedke.” Several readers contacted us to inform us that George was very much alive, and that his name is spelled “Hedtke.”

Unfortunately, George has since passed along, as noted by Mark Corson on page 24. Our apologies and condolensces to the Hedtke family.


Dave Wachter, 1787 S. Gunn, Holt, MI 48842, attended the Rynda auction held May 7-8, 2004, and he didn’t walk away empty handed. Dave writes:

Here are some photos of Leonard Rynda’s auction in May. Photo 1 is of my 24 HP Minneapolis 8010, with Leonard. The 24 HP Minnie was running in three days. The boiler was in great shape.

Photo 2 is also at Rynda’s sale; Bernie Woodmansee has his back to the camera. Photo 3 is a Stevens engine John Ross wrote about in the September/October 2004 issue. It was located at Funk Grove, Ill., about 1998. The Illinois engine John wrote about is the last Illinois they built, no. 163, and is owned by Dennis Johnson of Nebraska.

Photo 4 is of my 20 HP Illinois, no. 135. I bought it from Doc Murphy, and the photo was taken at the sale.


Regular contributor Larry Mix, 2075 Coburn Road, Hastings, MI 49058, has some more great photos to share, along with some information on the Reeves Canadian Special. Larry writes:

I thought I would send in a few more photos to the Steam Traction magazine. I have really enjoyed the photos John Ross has been sending, and I especially like the photos of the steam show at Jim Whitbey’s Old Time Thresherman and Sawmill Operator’s Show near Fort Wayne, Ind. I had more fun at this show than any other show I have ever been to. We could have a good time on Saturday nights and not have to worry about getting thrown in jail, unlike some other show I could mention. Jim Whitbey was one of the nicest persons I have ever met.

Now, onto the photos I have sent. Photo 1 doesn’t have a steam engine in it, but it shows one of the best steam engine men that ever lived. This is a photo of Ralph and June Woodmansee on their 50th wedding anniversary. I was able to learn a lot from Ralph on how to run steam engines. Ralph was a real good practical joker. I remember one time we were on our way home from a show and stopped to get a bite to eat. Ralph and my dad were picking on the waitress just a little, having fun. When it was time to pay for the meal Ralph went up to the checkout and asked the waitress if they had any good cigars. The waitress replied, “Yes we do, we sell a lot of these.” Ralph and Dad both bought a cigar. When we left the restaurant they unwrapped their cigars and tried to smoke them. The waitress got a good one on them, the cigars were the bubble gum cigars.

Photo 2, 3 and 4 shows Ken and George Lewis’ 22 Advance-Rumely on the sawmill at the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher’s Show at Hastings, Mich., in the late 1960s. This engine is now owned by Lange Somerville in Mason, Mich. The sawmill is owned by Lloyd Blough of Clarksville, Mich. They run two steam engines on this sawmill. This mill is still running at the steam show in Clarksville, Mich., every year in August.

Photo 5 shows a 19 HP A.D. Baker on the separator at the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher’s Club Show at Mason, Mich., in 1972. The man with his arm on the rear wheel is my dad, Lynn Mix, and the other fellow is a lot younger and thinner me.

Photos 6, 7 and 8 show the first steam traction we owned. It is a 19 HP Port Huron, engine no. 7991. We bought this engine in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1962. Photo 6 shows the first time we fired it up. Photo 7, from left, David Wortley, Larry Mix, Roy Ballentine and Lynn Mix. Photo 8 shows my dad, Lynn Mix, running the 19 HP Port Huron. We had to do a lot of work on this engine, but it was worth it. I don’t know where this engine is now.

When I have time, I will go through some more photos of early shows and send them.


Robert T. Rhode, 990 W. Lower Springboro Drive, Springboro, OH 45066, ( explains what went wrong when he tried to verify the spelling of an engineer’s name. Bob writes:

I apologize to Steam Traction readers for misspelling Homer Dickson’s name, and I thank David Bridge for correcting the error (January/February 2005). I think I may be forgiven, as I am only as accurate as my sources. On page 20 of the May/June 1956 issue of Iron-Men Album, Homer’s last name is misspelled “Dixon.” On page 55 of the January/February 1965 issue of the IMA, his name is similarly misspelled. I consulted these sources before I suggested what I understood to be the correct spelling of Homer’s name – but I didn’t stop there. Just to be on the safe side, I turned to my father’s copies of the annual programs from the Pontiac, Ill., show. I found that both the 1955 and 1956 programs listed “Homer Dixon” as one of the directors. By the time I had found four sources that spelled the name “Dixon,” I was convinced I had discovered the correct spelling. In journalism in college, I was taught I could trust information repeated in three sources. I had four, and I searched no further. Had I gone on to examine the 1957 Pontiac program, I would have seen the name spelled “Dickson” and would have conducted further research to determine the accurate spelling.

I am reminded of Mark Twain’s advice to journalists: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort ’em as much as you please.”


Leo J. Fitzpatrick, 10845 Adams Road, Beaverton, MI 48612-9603, has some very early memories of steam, memories he’d like to share with readers. Leo writes:

Before I started going to school, I was fascinated at seeing my uncle’s steam engine. My first memory was before I could say steam engine. I called it a “tonk-tonk” engine. In the winter months in the house, I had a tiny little red wagon to play with. I brought in the house a pair of rings from the hub end of the old wooden wagon wheels about 2 inches wide and 7 inches in diameter. I set the rear wheels of the wagon inside the metal rings to simulate the rear wheels of a steam engine. As long as I only moved the little wagon straight forward and back, the wheels would stay in the rings.

The first year I went to school I came home one fall afternoon, and Uncle Den Fitzpatrick’s Alligator Feed Blizzard was set up to fill the silo and Uncle Bill was running it with the old Case steam engine. Den used the Case to run a Birdsall clover huller until the middle of the 1930s, and powered the buzz saw for cutting firewood at three Fitzpatrick homes until the gas rigs took over. The old Case engine was scrapped about 1940.

I learned years later that a young man tried to put enough corn in the Blizzard silo filler to plug it. The Case engine’s response was it tore the drive belt in two.


John R. Brunton, 27739 Ark Road, Mass City, MI 49948, sends in some great photos, including an interesting shot of a Stevens pulling a mobile photography studio. John writes:

Photo 1, my grandmother took this photo in April 1918. It is the Smithville Bridge on the Grand River near Eaton Rapids, Mich. Jim Perry owned the threshing rig. My grandfather worked for him. He was the separator man on Jim’s “beaner” (bean thresher). He fed the machine.

Photo 2 was taken on Main Street, Charlotte, Mich. It is a mobile photography studio owned by a Mr. Fowler. To me the engine looks like an A.W. Stevens. Note the large deer antlers mounted in front of the headlight.

Photo 3, my brother-in-law gave this to me. It was probably taken in California. His family had some relatives move there in that era and they had sent photos back of their family; this being one of them. To bad no information was written on the back.


Gordon McLean, Box 1404, Beaverlodge, ALB, Canada T0H 0C0, has some thoughts on the steam hobby and some added information on a photograph he submitted for the May/June 2004 issue of Steam Traction. Gordon writes:

The January/February 2005 issue, “Letting off Steam” by Richard Backus really hits on a good point and one the steam hobby family should pay attention to. I agree, we really need a collective voice in the U.S. as well as in Canada, to protect our hobby and make our concerns heard. The provinces here in Canada operate under the same Canadian Standard Assn. (CSA) code but each one interrupts sections differently and enforces certain sections completely opposite. We need a force to protect our hobby for sure. It would be nice if we could have international organizations, as I m sure our concerns for safety, training, etc. are the same on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border.

Now for a bit more information on the 75 Case at Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories, I reported on in the May/June 2004 issue of ST. The engine was originally located west of its present site on McVicker Arm, at a site known as Grizzly Mountain. The timber was much larger at this area and where most of the timber was sawn for the uranium mines. This was the uranium that was shipped (actually trucked most of the way) south to be used in the Manhattan Project. Sometime after the sawmill shut down it was decided to move the Case to Sawmill Bay, its present location. Moving on land presented many problems, plus a huge distance, so they moved it in the winter on the lake ice. By cutting across on ice the trip was shortened 60-80 miles! To supply wood for the boiler a Fordson tractor equipped with half tracks and pulling a sleigh made trips back to shore to get a fresh supply of wood then catch up to the engine back on the ice. It must have been some trip.

I’m wondering if someone can help me find information on a small hoisting engine, which our museum had donated last summer. It was built by the Puget Sound Iron & Steel Works, it’s not reversible and has only a single drum. The single-cylinder engine would be about 4-by-5 inches or so. I’m also trying to locate the name and source of a magazine I seen several years ago. It is a British publication, very similar to Steam Traction, with stories, pictures, etc. of British shows and engines. My son found it on the newsstand, of course we misplaced it and have never found another one. I would like to get a subscription. Any help on these items would be greatly appreciated.

After reading a couple of years ago about some members using steam to cook corn, our museum group decided to give it a try. We have a small three-pass boiler operating at 100 psi that we use to supply steam to a 10 HP vertical stationary engine. We use it for the corn cooker. Steam is taken off a 1/2-inch valve, opened about three-quarter of a turn and sent by hose into a 45-gallon barrel. We built a rack about 8 inches above the bottom of the barrel to set the corn on. We husk the corn before placing it in the cooker as it cooks faster and is easier to handle after cooking. A loose fitting lid completes the cooker. We find it takes very little steam and we cook about 320 cobs in 20-25 minutes. This little boiler would easily handle three or four barrels at once if required. Thanks for the idea Steam Traction. Keep up the good publication.

Editor’s note: We think the magazine you’re trying to find is Old Glory, published by Mortons Heritage Media, P.O. Box 43, Horncastle LN9 6JR,


Regular contributor Mike Rohrer, 12025 Steven Ave., Smithsburg, MD 21783; (, sends along a few photos of a Reeves engine he’s been wondering about. Mike writes:

Here are two photos of a Reeves engine. I was digging through my collection and found them. They came out of a sale in Pennsylvania a few years ago. Does anyone know of this engine? It is marked on the back of the photo with “Bob Hawks Inc., 1623 S. Main, Tulsa.”


Steve Davis, 654 Route 20, West Winfield, NY 13491; (, has some information to share on the Empire Agricultural Works, Steve writes:

Normally I do not comment on the mystery engine photos that are sent to Steam Traction. However, in regards to Mike Rohrer’s letter in the March/April 2005 issue, I thought some clarification on some of his information was in order.

Empire Agricultural Works of Cobleskill, N.Y., never produced an engine of any kind. My late father-in-law Dave Kriskern lived on a parcel that was once part of Empire in Cobleskill, and did extensive research of the company and had many examples of their products in his collection. Also, he had the company records, which I inherited and have donated to the New York State Museum in Albany, N.Y.

The company records themselves make no mention of any engines. The Empire Works did not include a foundry but rather was primarily a wood working, painting and assembly shop, a small portion of which still exists.

Now, what about the illustration on page 17? This goes back over 50 years to Floyd Clymer’s book on historical steam traction engines, where the claim originated and has been perpetuated ever since.

Empire did not produce steamers but did sell them. They were agents for Oneida steam engines made by the Oneida Iron Works in Oneida, N.Y. When the Empire catalogs were printed it was quite simple to alter the engraving of the Oneida engine to read “Empire.” This is the source of the confusion.

Also, relative to Wayne Murphy’s plea for information regarding his Ajax: While doing research in the archives in the Henry Ford Museum, I uncovered four Farquhar catalogs, 1885-1907, which most likely would include much information that would be helpful to Wayne.

I’ve also enclosed some materials that should push back the history of Caterpillar-type propulsion a few years. The letter was written by Willard Durkee, who belonged to the New York Steam Engine Assn. many years ago and did a great deal of historical research.


We’re hoping someone can help overseas reader Maxime Poirier, 728 Rue Haute, 45590 Saint Cyr En Val, France (, find plans for building scale Case engines. Maxime writes:

I am 76 and have spent most of my professional life working in the field of agricultural machines. I am now retired, but I am still very much interested in machines of all ages.

One of my friends is currently building models of steam machines on the scale of 1-to-10, and needs to find plans of a Case 60 HP (or any other size) steam tractor. Could anyone please let me know where and how to find such documents?

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;

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