PAST AND PRESENT

By Staff
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Gladkowski Photo #1: A copy of an old catalog cut for a Gill Pearless thresher.
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Mix Photo #1: Threshing on grandpa Decker's farm, circa 1917. Can anyone identify the engine?
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Kemler Photo #1 (center): Matt Kemler’s newly-purchased 16
HP Russell being loaded up for the trip home. Matt had just bought
the Russell at the auction of ‘Steam Engine Joe’
Rynda’s collection of engines May 7-8, 2004.

RYNDA RUSSELL UP AND RUNNING

The historic auction of engines belonging to the legendary
‘Steam Engine Joe’ Rynda took place May 7-8, 2004.
Remarkably, at least three of the engines sold are already up and
running, including the 1922 16 HP Russell purchased by Matt
Kemler
, 1151 N. Deja Road, Stanton, MI 48888. Matt is
justifiably excited, and wrote in to give the rest of us some
details on the Russell. Matt writes:

One photo I’ve included shows my 16 HP 1922 Russell, serial
no. 17085, at the 2004 National Threshers Assn. 60th Annual Reunion
in Wauseon, Ohio, held June 24-27. T purchased the engine at Joe
Rynda’s sale in Montgomery, Minn., on May 7, 2004, and most
likely it had not run for 50 years.

With the help of my dad, Kevin Hayslett and other Russell
experts I was able to bring the engine back to life. The boiler
needed no work except hand hole gaskets and a good washing out. We
replaced the old piping, the governor shaft, fixed the oil pump and
loosened the engine. We made a new smokestack to replace the
‘Starved Rooster’ stack that came on the engine, and we
built a new platform and repaired the original water tanks so they
would hold water. The engine performed well at Wauseon and runs
better every time it is fired.

Kemler Photo #2 (below): Less than two months later, Matt’s
Russell was up and running, pulling on the belt at the National
Threshers Assn. 60th Annual Reunion in Wauseon, Ohio. Matt, who
says the Russell is a fine runner, even had it out plowing during
the NTA show.

GILL PEARLESS THRESHER

Ed Gladkowski, 1128 W. Gardner St., Houston, TX
77009, writes:

I was looking through some old Iron-Men Album magazines
the other day, and a classified advertisement in the May/June 1969
issue caught my eye: ‘Gill Peerless straight-straw rye
thresher, 6-foot rasp bar cylinder, equipped with Johnson L.H.
binder. New but shopworn, an unusual thresher for a collector or
museum.’

This reminded me that many years ago a printer friend of mine
sent me a copy of an engraving for a Gill Peerless he’d found
in a flea market somewhere.

Since I don’t recall ever seeing one mentioned in
Iron-Men Album (I don’t have a complete set, so I
might have missed something) or Steam Traction, I thought
the engraving might interest some readers. The back of the
engraving was marked ‘MFD. By B. Gill & Son, Trenton
Agricultural Works, Trenton, New Jersey.’

It surprises me that ‘Peerless’ was used on threshers
manufactured by both Geiser and B. Gill, but I don’t know if
both companies used the name at the same time. I don’t know
what this particular machine was built to separate, as the
engraving didn’t say. It looks to me like quite a small
machine.

THE COST OF READING

Steve Davis, 654 Route 20, West Winfield, NY 13491, has some
thoughts on subscription rates he wants to share with readers.
Steve writes:

I was somewhat dismayed by the letters in the September/October
2004 issue of Steam Traction concerning rate
increases.

I have been a constant subscriber of the old Iron-Men
Album
and now Steam Traction since I was a boy, in
1961. Never has a rate increase led me to consider dropping out.
Increases are an on-going trend with all publications and
especially so with those that deal with small specialty
interests.

I love early automobiles and subscribe to the Horseless
Carriage Gazette
and have contributed articles and pictures as
well as advertisements, just as I have done with Steam
Traction
. And the cost? Almost exactly the same. I believe the
content and quality of Steam Traction to be much better and of
broader interest than before. At first I, too, was sad to see the
old IMA logo disappear from the cover, but now I see it
really is a sign of the rebirth of a magazine of fine
tradition.

As for the glossy paper, if my memory serves me correctly, Elmer
Ritzman printed many years on glossy paper and those old issues are
clear and crisp yet, while the ones on plain paper have not
survived as well. After all, we keep them all, don’t we? I do,
and I’ll bet 99 percent of us save all the old issues and some
of us seek out the issues of old that we lack. Clearly then, we are
talking of something of value now and in the future it is not like
last week’s paper.

Lastly, to make our magazine thrive and improve it needs more
advertising. This is how the bills are paid, after all.

FUELING THE FIRE

Regular contributor Thomas Stebritz, 1516 E.
Commercial St., Algona, IA 50511, writes in again this issue,
sharing his thoughts on a variety of subjects touched upon in
recent issues. Tom writes:

Now let’s move on to the Rynda sale. This was a case of old
age creeping up and time running out as far as any person gathering
to pay Joe Rynda any respect. They were after what they could
get.

As a friend of Joe’s for many years, I observed the state of
the engines down through the years. The farm is peat, and while he
was younger, Joe used to use a switch engine to keep the engines
from sinking in the peat. Of course, as he aged that all became a
pain to take care of. Joe Steinhagen mentioned the missing smoke
box doors and brass accessories: Most of this was taken the last
few years. I ask all of you, when you per chance saw these items at
a flea market recently, did you ask the present owners where they
came from?

By and large, the boilers on all these engines were in good
shape, a much better bargain than many for sale for the last 40 to
50 years. Joe Rynda’s 20 HP Gaar-Scott rear-mounted sold for
about $7,600. The running Gaar-Scott was a ringer brought in by the
auctioneer. As things stand, about 12 Rynda engines were moved
before the sale. What long-range plans there are for these I
don’t know.

I was about to sign off when I read John Ross’ commentary in
the September/October 2004 issue about people and engines at shows
in the 1950s. About Homer Dixon’s Case, I couldn’t say what
the engine was, but the Case company did not make a cross-compound
steam engine; they made tandem compounds and trunk compounds. And
about the 19 HP Keck-Gonnerman with the Disney character painted on
the tanks; the owner was Joe Weishaupt, not Wensphal.

Editor’s note: John Ross did not intend to
identify Homer Dixon’s engine as a cross-compound engine. That
was our mistake, and clearly it’s a center-crank. Tom is quite
right in noting Case never made a cross-compound engine.

GRANDPA DECKER’S FARM

Regular contributor Larry Mix , 2075 Coburn
Road, Hastings, MI 49058, chimes in again this issue, sending in a
vintage shot from the days of threshing with steam. Larry
writes:

Once again, Jack and Mark Corson have asked me to send in
another photo to Steam Traction magazine, so here it is.

This photo was taken on my grandpa Burt Decker’s farm about
1917. By the looks of the straw pile, he must have had a good crop
that year. My grandpa and grandma Decker lived outside of
Nashville, Mich., across the road where the Maple Valley School is
now.

My grandpa is standing next to some feed sacks behind the drive
belt, about half way from the engine to the separator. I never met
grandpa Decker, as he passed away in 1927.

I’m not sure what the make and the size of the engine is, as
there isn’t enough of it in the photo for me to identify it.
Maybe someone could help me identify the engine?

ADVICE NO LAUGHING

Lee Wehrs, 205 S. Sunset Hills Drive, Apt. 116,
Concordia, MO 64020-8606, writes in this issue to share a memory
from the days of threshing, a reminder of the humor of life on the
farm. Lee writes:

About 1925, when I was a young boy of 7 years, I had the high
privilege of going along with my dad to some steam threshing event.
My dad was the separator ‘boss’ and my uncle Lorenz Meyer
was the steam engineer. Dad and my uncle gave me some advice about
laughing and when not too. This advice was given to me because of
an incident that caused some stress the summer before when the
ladies had prepared a sumptuous dinner for the threshing crew.

Just before starting the meal, the old German grandfather was
asked to request the Lord’s blessing on the meal. This he did
in a long (very long) drowning manner. A snicker or two was heard
and the meal began.

Uncle Lorenz had lectured the crew and me not to look at my
uncle Oscar’s nose because he had a habit of flaring his
nostrils real wide just before breaking out in heavy laughter.
Anyhow, the old grandfather drowned on and on while we silently
prayed for saintly behavior and reserved our comments until we were
safely under the shade trees before resuming threshing when Uncle
Lorenz gave two toots on the steam engine whistle ‘whew,
whew.’

Johnson Photo #1: This photo originally ran in the
September/October 2004 issue. Thanks to reader Carlton Johnson, the
men standing next to Leroy Blaker (left) have been identified. From
left they are: Carlton Johnson, John Dawe and John’s brother,
Harry Dawe.

STEAM MEN IDENTIFIED

It’s always amazing to run a photo of an event that occurred
over 50 years ago, only to have someone write in with first-hand
information on the shot.

Carlton Johnson, 2256 W. Wilson Road, Clio, MI
48420, noticed Dan Donaldson’s photos in the September/October
2004 issue, in particular the photo of Leroy Blaker and three other
men standing in front of a Port Huron. Dan didn’t know the
other men’s identity, but Carlton does. Carlton writes: The
photo sent in by Dan Donaldson in the September/ October 2004 issue
of Steam Traction (page 3) of Leroy Blaker was one that he
(Blaker) had taken. It was on a sawing job I had up by Birch Run
and Clio, Mich., using Lewis David’s 24 HP Port Huron engine. I
am standing next to Blaker, the man to my left is John Dawe and to
his left is his brother Harry Dawe, the sawyer, who owned the mill.
I was surprised to see that photo, as Leroy generally sent me the
photos like that he took.

Johnson Photo #2: Carlton Johnson’s 19 HP Port Huron running
the Lansing mill at a sawing job at Fowlerville, Mich., in
1949.

Harry’s mill was one his father used and was a Lansing. I
used the 24 HP for threshing for a couple of years while my 19 HP
Port Huron was the sawmill. I had my 19 HP on the mill about three
years – we did four sets while sawing for them, the Thurston Lumber
Co., Howell, Mich.

I hope you’ll excuse my poor typing – I don’t type as
good as I did as I am 87, and half way to 88.

STEAM INSURANCE

Reader John H. Viens, 421 E. Main St.,
Bainbridge, IN 46105, noticed Gordon McLean’s insurance query
in the July/August 2004 issue. John writes:

In the July/August 2004 issue, Gordon McLean wrote in looking
for a company that understood insuring steam engines. If you have
web access, go to the Google search engine and type in
‘Hartford Steam Boiler Insurance Company’ that will bring
you to their website. I believe they might be what Gordon is
looking for. Hope it helps.

Editor’s note: We’d like to collect a
file on insurance companies experienced with antique boilers. If
you know of a company experienced with insuring antique boilers,
please forward their vitals to us here at Steam Traction.

UNDER THE COVER

Regular contributor Alan New, 5389 W. 900 S.,
Pendleton, IN 46064, says he’s been waiting for someone to
comment about an engine shown in the May/June 2004 issue. Seeing
how that hasn’t happened, he decided to write in. Alan
writes:

I’m writing in response to the Stebritz Photo #1 that
appeared on page 6 of the May/June 2004 issue of Steam
Traction
. I had hoped that our Canadian friends might have
responded to identify this photo, as they know more about this
engine than I do, but since they haven’t yet, I will attempt to
set the record straight and keep the history as correct as
possible.

The outfit has been identified as some sort of bizarre top
mounted/under-mounted, double/triple-cylindered 35 HP Aultman
engine pushing some kind of contraption called a ‘header
thresher.’

I’ll deal with the harvesting machine first. Headers were
used in the vast wheat fields of the western states and Canada.
They were simple machines that cut large amounts of wheat at a time
and loaded it loose into special wagons called ‘header
boxes.’ They were much less complicated than the reapers and
binders used in the Midwest and they harvested more wheat at a
time. Teams of four to six horses pushed them.

I think we all know what threshers are. Headers were first
combined with threshers as early as the 1870s in California. The
machines were called ‘combined harvesters,’ a name later
shortened to ‘combine.’ The term ‘header thresher’
may have been a local term used somewhere for a short time, but
I’ve never heard it before. The question is, what is the
machine in the picture?

Some early combines built by Best and Holt were pushed by their
traction engines, but most were not. So, is the machine in the
picture a combine? On first glance, it appears to be a standard
separator. I see no hint of the header attachment that was usually
on the right-hand side of combines, plus the machine has a wind
stacker. Combines always dumped the straw into windrows, which were
picked up by wagons equipped with loaders. A wind stacker on a
moving combine would have been useless, as it would have literally
blown the straw to the four winds! So, is the machine a separator?
I don’t think so.

Living in Indiana, my family’s collection has included more
husker/shredders than separators, though we have both. The heavy
timber framing around the lower part of the machine, plus the
V-shaped iron frame on the right side indicates that the machine is
probably a husker/shredder. I’ll go so far as to say that it
appears to be a husker/shredder built by either the Advance
Thresher Co. or the American Abell Thresher Co., which Advance
partially owned.

The second question in my mind is, why was the engine pulled up
so close behind the harvesting machine, whatever it might be?
It’s obviously not pushing it, as the front wheel’s turned
hard to the right. With the hundreds of pictures of machinery on
our farm, I can pick out many pictures with engines or tractors in
unusual positions to separators, husker/shredders or hay presses.
One would have to be there to know why. All I can say is, if this
were a working harvesting rig of any kind, the act of pulling a
traction engine up that close to an operating wind stacker would be
very dangerous. One spark from the engine’s stack would have
turned the wind stacker into a blowtorch. This is another reason to
conclude it is not a ‘header/thresher’ or combine being
pushed by the engine. It is simply an engine pulled up behind what
I believe to be a husker/shredder, which is not in operation. The
winter clothing also suggests this, as corn shredding was always a
winter-time operation.

So, what is the engine? There are two things I can tell you.
First, no one ever built an engine with top-mounted and
under-mounted cylinders. No one in his or her right mind would have
ever contemplated such a thing. It could not work! Besides, one
purpose of building under-mounted engines was to keep the strain of
the moving machinery off the boiler. Secondly, Aultman never built
that engine. Nothing of the engine even closely resembles anything
ever designed by Aultman. I hate to rehash things, but I own an
Aultman engine and have examined other surviving Aultman engines. I
know an Aultman when I see one. Other Companies, however, did use
design features used in the depicted engine.

The wheels, in particular, look familiar. Disregarding the fact
that the engine has extension rings, the hub design, spoke pattern,
the tricycle arrangement of the front wheels, and the layout of the
engine suggest the engine might be, in fact, an American Abell. It
is not the standard 28 or 32 HP American Abell that we are familiar
with, but I suggest that it might be an earlier version of their
tricycle-pattern engine. I suggest this picture probably is of an
American Abell corn shredding outfit that may be just setting up
for operation.

Finally, Ross Photo #9 on page 19 of the September/October 2004
issue shows a Yipsilanti, built in Yipsilanti, Mich. My dad just
missed buying a Yipsilanti, possibly this very engine, at an
auction in Illinois several years ago.

NICHOLAS AND SHEPARD MEMORIES

Wurth Photo #1: Frank Wurth’s great-great-grandfather’s
single-cylinder Nichols & Shepard. Frank’s
great-grandfather Louis Jarvis Sr. is standing on the boiler. Note
the governor: The engine is running!

Reader Frank Wurth, 5265 Kraft Road, Freeburg,
IL 62243, has strong memories of his great grandfather’s
Nichols & Shepard. The engine, which was in the family for many
years, was sold long ago, and Frank wonders where it might be now.
Frank writes:

Greetings from southern Illinois. I am sending some photos of my
late great-grandfather Louis Jarvis Sr. of Centreville, Ill.,
working with his Nichols & Shepard steam traction engine. All
that is known about this engine is that it is a double-cylinder
side-mount with the extra wide wheels (three rows of spokes) and a
plowing hitch.

He bought this engine in 1912, the year after he got married,
trading in his father’s single-cylinder compound Nichols &
Shepard (Photo #1). Note in the photo, the governor indicates the
engine is running while Louis is standing on the boiler must have
been hard on shoes.

Wurth Photo #2 (below): Louis Jarvis Sr. (right) standing on the
wagon tongue of his circa 1912 Nichols & Shepard.

The other photos show my great-grandfather’s engine. I’m
not sure what size the engine was, but we believe it to be a 25 HP.
We do know that many of the older farmers in the area referred to
it as having been the biggest engine around. It was used for custom
threshing, plowing and was even contracted to help grade the
roadbed for Illinois Route 13 into Centreville.

Some of the local farmers remember their families taking trips
down just to watch the big engine working on the roadbed. It must
have been an awesome sight for someone used to following a mule all
day.

Photo #6 shows Louis (left) standing on the platform after a
hard day’s work, judging from the size of the coal chunks on
the right.

We know he still owned the engine until the 1940s, when he sold
it to Cyril Voellinger’s father, manager of the
Minneapolis-Moline dealership in Belleville, Ill. Cyril used it a
few years on a sawmill and in parades until it needed flues. Then
it was sold at some time in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

I do not believe the engine has been scrapped, due to the fact
that the person who bought it brought a large truck and hauled it
north in one piece. It is believed to have gone to northern
Illinois, possibly the Rochelle, Ill., area. We have been looking
for this engine for several years now and hope someone out there in
‘engine land’ may be able to help us. If anyone could help
me find out what happened to this engine, please let me know.

COVER (MIS) IDENTIFICATION

More than a few of you wrote in to alert us of our error in
identifying the engine shown on the cover of the September/October
2004 issue of SteamTraction.

The image, sent in by Canadian reader Ralph Henderson, showed
what we thought was a 20 HP George White & Son Co. steam
traction engine. Shame on us for not registering the stenciled
writing ‘The North Line’ visible on the barrel with
American Abell’s famed ‘Cock O’ the North Line’
slogan. Ralph, by the way, did not identify the image – the mistake
was ours alone. Thomas Stebritz was among those
alerting us to the error. Tom writes:

The engine smoking on the cover is an American Abell. They
called it the ‘Cock O’ the North Line’ and as such it
had no relationship to the George White Co. The photo is dim but a
person can make out an offset steam chest peculiar to a cross
compound of the American Abell design.

Advance Thresher Co. bought an interest in the American Abell
Co. in the early 1900s. This alliance lasted a number of years,
until Dr. Edward Rumely showed up in 1912 with a wrecking ball and
smashed the company to pieces. Rumely planned to call it Canadian
Rumely but the whole fiasco fell into a heap before anything came
to pass.

Wurth Photos #3: Louis Jarvis Sr. plowing with his circa-1912
Nichols & Shepard somewhere in Illinois, dates unknown

Wurth Photos #4: Louis Jarvis Sr. plowing with his circa-1912
Nichols & Shepard somewhere in Illinois, dates unknown

Wurth Photos #5 (from top): Louis Jarvis Sr. plowing with his
circa-1912 Nichols & Shepard somewhere in Illinois, dates
unknown

We also received an e-mail from Robert Fisher
(curranfamily@sympatico.ca), who wrote:

Just received my latest issue of SteamTraction and admired the great photo on the cover. Sorry
to say, though, the engine is not a George White by any means. It
is, however, Canadian-made, and is of course an American Abell
(formerly John Abell, pre-Rumely involvement) built in Toronto,
Ontario, Canada. It reads ‘Cock O’ the North Line’
along the barrel. Possibly a 25 HP, and I believe this one is a
straw burner.

Regular contributor Alan New also spotted the
error. Alan writes:

The cover picture is misidentified. The phrase on the side of
the boiler is partially obscured. It originally read ‘Cock
O’ the North Line.’ The engine is an American Abell and
probably a 22 HP, but I can’t say that for sure.

STEAM ENGINE INFORMATION

As the owner of a D. June & Co. steam traction engine,
Joseph M. Hood, 9601 N. 100 E., Rushville, IN
46173-9042, is understandably interested in learning more about the
firm and surviving engines. Joseph writes:

I’m looking for data or pictures on the old D. June &
Co. of Freemont, Ohio. I have a reprint copy of The American
Thresherman and Farm Power
booklet, and there is a picture of
an 1878 D. June traction engine on page 6. I would like a copy of
this picture and any other pictures or data on this company.

Wurth Photo #6: Louis Jarvis Sr. (left) standing on the platform
of his Nichols & Shepard after a hard day’s work. Note the
chunks of coal in the bunker at right.

I have a 6-to-8 HP 1906 D. June traction engine that is in A-l
condition. It has an upright boiler (Freeman). The steam engine is
an upright laid on its side, with steel drive wheels 12 inches wide
and about 36 inches high. It now has tractor tires over steel for
road use. This unit was originally made with a wood frame, which
was replaced with steel. The unit now has a top and it is super
nice looking. The engine and running gear are fine and it runs like
a watch.

This engine was found in the woods of southeast Ohio 30 years
ago and a machinist restored the boiler, rebuilt the engine and
made the steel frame to replace the old wood frame.

Rhode Photo #1: Joe Weishaupt’s 18 HP Keck-Gonnerman at
Pontiac, III., in 1951. Note the image of Donald Duck painted on
the right water tank. This photo originally appeared in the
September/October 1952 issue of Iron-Men Album. Although the
original photo caption does not identify the engineer, he’s
believed to be Joe Weishaupt.

The story goes that this unit was made from spare parts that
were lying around the June factory. This story comes from the old
fellow who had the engine in the woods. He said it was a sweet
running little engine when he used it.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Steam historian and regular contributor Robert T.
Rhode
, 990 W. Lower Springboro Road, Springboro, OH 45066
(case65@earthlink.net), noticed some errors that crept into the
last issue of Steam Traction. As a historian, Bob
naturally feels compelled to set the record straight, and we thank
him for his attention to detail. Bob writes:

I greatly appreciate the photographs and commentary that John
Ross has been contributing to SteamTraction.
Whenever my engine was belted to the sawmill at Will County in the
1990s, John’s running of the saw made me look good. As a few
typographical errors crept into the latest installment of
John’s memories, I thought I might offer corrections to
preserve our history accurately. The owner of the Donald Duck
Keck-Gonnerman was Joe Weishaupt from Mackinaw, Ill. I attended the
Pontiac reunion in 1955 when I was 1 year of age, but my
recollection of that year’s thresheree is a little fuzzy.

I definitely recall that, by the time I was 4, I looked forward
to seeing the Keck with Donald on one water tank and Mickey Mouse
on the other.

Ralph Fisher grew a beard for the 1953 centennial of Assumption,
Ill. A photo of Ralph in whiskers was published in Iron-Men
Album
. I can verify that the Illinois engine did belong to
Newton Gould.

Roberts’ initials were J.D., not J.O., and Homer spelled his
last name ‘Dixon.’ Francis spells his last name
‘Lindauer.’ The unidentified portable engine is also called
a Monitor, but the Ypsilanti Machine Works in Michigan manufactured
it (not C. Aultman, as suggested). I want to thank John for sharing
his pictures of the early years of the Pontiac show.

Rhode Photo #2: A bearded Ralph Fisher (right) stands with
Virginia Jenkins in front of his Peerless, sometime about 1957.
This photo originally appeared in the September/October 1957 issue
of Iron-Men Album.

MAKING YOUR OWN

Reader Edward Kearney, Box 1161, Ponte Vedra
Beach, FL 32004, is interested in building a small steam engine,
and he’s looking for information.

Two engine building books currently available (see our
advertisement on the inside back cover) are, Steam and Stirling
Engines You Can Build and Steam and Stirling Engines You Can Build
Book 2
, which include detailed plans for a variety of
different engines. Ed writes:

Many years ago (probably over 20), one of the science magazines
ran articles on constructing a small steam engine. All I remember
is the author’s first name, Anton. Can anyone help me find this
information or anything similar? The boiler was, I believe,
silver-soldered copper pipe and tubing. Thanks, and keep up the
good work.

The second question in my mind is why was the engine
pulled up so close behind the harvesting machine, whatever it might
be?’

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; e-mail:
rbackus@ogdenpubs.com

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment