While hard pressed by the diesels, steam still rides the rails. A 2-8-2 engine on the Great Northern-Duluth, Minn., to Grand Forks, N. Dak., line
One cold, stormy day in February, 1906, Mike Jensen signed an order in a room of the O'Pelt for a 35 hp. Advance tandem compound engine with La Fever boiler and a three section plow, each of four, '14' breakers.
The La Fever was the first successful straight flue straw burner boiler built and was patented by M. La Fever. That boiler was more economical on fuel and more serviceable in hard water than the Advance coal burner and that was highly efficient.
In the hard water of northwestern Iowa and southwestern Minnesota, where cold weather was encountered in the fall, flue trouble developed in straight flue coal burners the second or third fall and sometimes the first fall. In hard water sections of Kansas, new straight flue boilers were re-flued the first fall. Little or no fire-box trouble developed in Le Fever boilers in Iowa, Minnesota or Kansas. No boilers of that type, on the Salina Block, to my knowledge, ever was re-flued.
Cold air from the fire-door did not come in contact with he flues, causing expansion, contraction and leaky flues. The heating surface was greater and the combustion better in the La Fever boiler. The water-leg was a source of intense heat, gasses were consumed in that fire-box and little black smoke came from the stack.
The Advance tandem compound was powerful, economical and when mounted upon a Le Fever boiler was highly efficient. I consider that combination the most serviceable engine built by Advance Thresher Company and sold Mike Jensen what I believed to be the best.
The engine and plows were promptly shipped. The engine weighed 32,000 and was equipped with jacket, cab and cast stack. All compound Advance engines and engines with La Fever boilers, were equipped with jackets. A cast stack was special order on a La Fever boiler. Train gears were five inches and bull gears were six inches. The main pinion and bull pinion were all steel. All other gears were semi-steel.
Mr. Schnelle sent a young man in whom he had much confidence and of whom he thought a great deal, to unload, deliver and start the engine. He had rebuilt engines, was friendly and his being sent pleased Mike Jensen.
The engine had been delivered and the time had come to try it on the plow. The field was long, buffalo grass sod and nearly as level as a floor. The engine was ready about one o'clock and he started through the field but did not go far until the engine stopped because of low steam. I realized before he really got started he did not understand firing and handling the water when an engine was heavily loaded. He turned on the blower and injector, put the steam and water, where both belonged, tried again and several more times that afternoon but always with the same result. The engine's showing, before on-lookers, could not well have been worse and Mike Jensen grew restless.
The afternoon had been a trying one for the service man. We were 10 miles from Colby. In the dusk of evening, as we were hitching up the horses to drive to Colby, he said to me, 'If you do not put on your overalls and jacket in the morning, we will have an engine', and I replied 'It looks that way.' I have since thought well of him because he was man enough to admit he could not operate the engine and did not wait for me to remove him, which I should have done the first round.