Rt1 Nashville, Illinois 62263.
The once popular ‘Setting Contest’ event was revived at
the 1989 Pawnee Show and it proved to be a performance as well
liked as it was during the steam threshing era. Possibly due to the
decrease in show activity generally seen during recent years, this
event was dropped. It is however a real crowd pleaser and we wish
to tell you about it and suggest you attend the 1990 show as more
of this activity will take place.
The rules of the contest are simple and easily understood:
1. The steam engine is positioned in front of the threshing
machine with the drawbar in the exact position as if it were hooked
to the separator.
2. On a signal from the judges is when the stop watches begin
and the engineer moves the engine away as quickly as possible to
get into the belt.
3. As the engine has quickly turned away and backed up to be
lined up to the thresher in the location where the belt can be put
on the flywheel, men on the ground and the engineer put the belt on
the flywheel quickly as possible.
4. The engineer backs up the engine to tighten the belt as fast
as possible, while the men on the ground play the important role of
properly holding the belt until it begins to get tight and turn the
5. As the belt is getting tighter the most experienced engineer
begins to slip the clutch as the revolutions of the engine stay the
same or may be increasing while the men on the ground block the
6. Immediately following, or possibly even at the same time if
the engineer has great skill, the revolutions are brought up to
7. Obviously the officials stop their timing watches the instant
the feeder chain on the thresher begins to move, as that is when
the threshing can begin.
It is an interesting contest and the skill of the engineer is
mostly the key to winning. Of course some engines are easier to
handle than others and that has its effect too. Usually smaller
engines are easier to run in this contest than the larger ones, but
at Pawnee the 30 Nichols & Shepard won the contest due to the
skill of the engineer.
Here is a listing of engines, the engineers, and the time each
took to get belted up:
1. 40 Case, Steve Vorderland wehr, 1 min. 39 sec.
This young 16 year old engineer can run an engine very well. He
is the grandson of Kenneth Fiegel of Kingfisher, Oklahoma.
2. 28 Minneapolis, Floyd Kelly, engineer, 1 min. 31 sec.
An excellent job with this large engine. It is likely Floyd had
never tried to belt up this fast.
3. 40 Case, Ed Larson, engineer, 1 min. 17 sec.
Ed comes from antique car interests and has been into steam for
only 2 years. This was an excellent job.
4. 110 Case, Dale Wolf, engineer, 1 min. 48 sec.
Dale is also a young engineer with lots of skill. The big Case
with its power steering driven by the speed of the engine is not an
easy engine to use in this contest, but Dale did it well.
5. 40 Case, Steve Vorderi and wehr, engineer, 1 min. 24 sec.
As master of ceremonies I took the liberty in announcing to give
this young 16 year old engineer a second chance. The crowd cheered
for him and he did very well as you can see.
6. 30 Nichols & Shepard, Paul Martens, engineer, 1 min. 10
Paul handled this big engine so well that he won the contest. He
is only 30 years old and has learned all his engine skills from the
hobby activities, as obviously all actual on the job work of steam
traction engines took place before he was born. This statement can
be related to Ed Larson, Dale Wolf and of course Steve.
So we look forward to having this popular and interesting
exhibit again at Pawnee 1990 and also to expand the activity.
Also here I will make some comments about the Prony Brake
performance highlights at Pawnee and some at Mt. Pleasant in 1989.
Following last year’s shows I had several letters over the
winter showing interest in the Brake and asking questions on how to
build one and how to use it. One letter came all the way from New
Zealand. More people are all along becoming aware of how the Prony
Brake can be used on any size engine including tractors (even on
the P.T.O.). It is completely flexible on any light, medium or
heavy load and does not damage the engine or tractor. The fact is,
too, that governor action can be easily seen and charted and then
any necessary adjustments made. The fan on the other hand is
totally the opposite and many times is detrimental or damaging.
Certainly it measures nothing!
An entire article will be forthcoming as to how to build the
Prony Brake and how to use it to good advantage in many ways.
At Pawnee 1989 we made over 40 tests, a few of which are
1. On the subject of the governor action I refer to a 22 double
Keck owned by Ivan Burns. Ivan is one of the best informed valve
and governor men and his performance showed that. Although his
steam pressure was way below the original as Ivan is particularly
careful to practice safety, the results are clearly shown.
We looked at a typical range of HP for an engine working on a
36′ threshing machine of 36 to 65 HP as being an average. In
this range of power the engine only changed 5 RPM. You can clearly
visualize what a lovely sound that double was making as its load
continuously moved over that range and the engine RPM stayed that
2. We ran performance curves on quite a number of tractors
including a Sears Roebuck Bradley. Several of them, including a
John Deere D, had good accurate response but I make special mention
of a 1927 Hart Parr owned by Francis Sevart. Francis made some
adjustments after a run or two and he had it performing so that
from 15.8 HP to 30 HP the brake RPM dropped only 19. This is good
for the old tractors.
3. Now special mention to the 4-cylinder Reeves tractor. Dale
Wolf bought it from Lyman Knapp after many years in storage. Dale
cleaned it up and worked on the engine. When the tractor arrived at
the show the engine had not yet worked and the governor was only
Dale wanted to check it all out and we put it on the brake. In
only a minute or two we knew what action the governor had and what
adjustments to make. In a few minutes more we made another test to
find Dale had improved things and the second run gave him enough
data so that he knew what to do. He took it out of the belt to work
on it and returned in an hour or so. The performance was good with
the governor working well all through the range. Then finally while
we had the engine under different and varying loads he made his
final adjustments and he was ready.
The horsepower curve was smooth with no flat spots and with
steady small steps from 18 HP to 59 HP while passing through 21
readings. All these steps were close to 2 HP increments, while
consistently adding 10 lbs. on the scale. What a wonderful sight to
see that 40 Reeves tractor perform so smoothly all through the
Whereas the first test was poor, it was followed by an improved
second test. Then the final tuning and adjustments made the third
test very good. Dale had done the basics in his restoration work
and then the brake made it possible for Dale to know what to do and
to get such good results.
4. At the Mt. Pleasant show in 1989 a new face at the brake was
the 25 Aultman Taylor owned by Mr. Brown. He himself was the
engineer and it was indeed a pleasure to see him perform so
smoothly the full length of the power curve.
5. Back to Pawnee for the last honorable mention from 1989 is
the Marten Bros.
Nichols & Shepard single 9% by 12. Again Paul Marten was the
engineer. Due to this article already being lengthy, I will not
list here all the readings on the curve. If there is interest let
me know and I will include this and a few others in a special write
up of figures and include performance graphs.
To summarize here, the engine went from 44.4 HP to 117.4 HP,
through 23 readings, and the RPM only dropped from 278 to 267-11.
This I believe is well worth noting for those who are interested in
performance. Following the above with four more readings, it went
to 125.2 HP with a loss of only 5 more RPM. One more reading and it
peaked at 127.4 with a loss of just 1 RPM. Once the peak was
reached, only 10 more pounds load (each of the previous readings
was with a 10 pound increase) and the RPM dropped down to 254.
Immediately thereafter the loads were dropped slowly to let the
engine cool slowly, while Paul tended to less fire and slowly added
water to follow the policy of smoothness and no lugging or sudden
speed and temperature changes. This policy is good in all cases,
including even this one where there was an excellent boiler and
Best wishes to all readers and hope you have enjoyed hearing
about the highlights mentioned above.