1121 Hilltop Lane, Modesto, Calif.
On this anniversary of the great Blizzard of January 12, 1888, many older people who went through this terrible experience so many years ago, will no doubt be telling the younger people of their connection with this great stormy late grandfather had such an experience and he told me of it many times. With this thought, will send in my annual west coast steam report as I took part and saw things happen. First of all, the year saw the new magazine, 'Western Engines' off to a successful start and now from all reports, is starting off the second year with the promise of much material and pictures to assure continued publication, plus new subscriptions together with renewals from older subscribers.
I believe the first steam doings of any extent last year was the first steam threshing at the annual Frog Jump at Angels Camp, Calif. This affair held in conjunction with the annual spring fair draws huge crowds over a 4-day weekend and Loren M. Wade of Tracy, was asked to bring up his 50 Case engine and pull an old Case 18 x 36 hand feed machine and thresh some grain. So, after working over the valve gear on the engine, replacing pins and the sliding block and lubricator, the engine was pronounced in top condition and off it went on a low-boy up into the famous Mother Lode of early gold-mining days in the Sierra foothills. The fair manager had located an old 18 x 36 Case steel hand-feed machine with slat straw carrier in an old barn, not far from Angels Camp. It was built in 1913, serial number 62070, and had been used for threshing up in the hills for a number of years and was powered by an 8 HP gas engine. It was last used in 1926, according to writing on the side of the machine and had sat in a barn all this time.
The machine was in fine condition and has the big Case decal on the right side of the machine. The belts run slightly different than on the later machines and it has the complete set of original tools with it. It had been pulled from job to job with a team of horses and the engine was probably a portable, too. The rig was set up down on the flat in front of the grandstand and belted up. I tended machine most of the the time and Wilbur A. Skaar, of Alameda, fed the machine L. D. Graves came up to supervise the operation, it seemed and help out wherever he could. Wilbur fed the machine like a veteran, using baled oats for grain and the machine had a double-spouted sacking arrangement that would also register sacks as they were filled. We got some fairly good quality grain and the slat stacker certainly added something to the operation. I noticed that this machine ran much quieter than a rig equipped with blower and self-feeder. Never had helped around a hand-fed machine before. We had the rig in operation two days and fair manager told Loren, who was running his engine all this time, that the threshing exhibition drew the most favorable comment and largest crowd of any event at the fair, next to the frog jump. It is planned to have the rig in operation again this spring.
In June, I again moved the P.A. Miller 16-48 Aultman-Taylor engine out of the shed for the summer months and it performed with it's usual fine sound. In May, should say April, we went up to G. A. Humann's and helped out with an engine during his annual South Shasta model railroad layout spring showing and pulled a couple of flat bed wagons with the 16 Russell engine, giving people rides. They rode out from the house behind the little steam locomotive running on 2-foot gauge track steam out and back! In late July, we again went up to Mr. Humann's and helped out with his shake-down threshing to test the equipment before his show in September. He added a good 22x38 Red River Special separator to the collection and after a little work, and belting the 16-30 Oil Pull to it, threshed right along. Everything was pronounced ready for the threshing bee in September.
I went north to Oregon Aug. 20th, to attend the annual WSFA dinner and business meeting, which was held in the high school in Silverton, Aug. 21st. After a fine dinner, the meeting was called to order by president Rodney M. Pitts and such business was taken care of as was brought before the meeting. At the annual election of officers, Rod was re-elected president and John Berry, of Albany, Oregon is the new secretary-treasurer. The rest of the slate of officers and directors were re-elected for another year. Entertainment was also provided after the business meeting. While in Oregon, spent a night and most of one day with Mr. and Mrs. Tom Graves, of Tigard, Ore. We played around with his gas engines cranked up a 5 HP Foos and after cleaning out the gas tank, gas line and carburetor seems some WSFA members had been playing around with this particular engine a few weeks before and I believe the reason it was hard to start might be laid on their doorstep! Anyway, we got the Foos started, together with a Novo, a 5/8'ths HP 8 -cycle Dumpster engine, used for pumping water a most unusual type, and one more, make escapes my memory now. Tom has his big 20 HP Fuller & Johnson running right out in the front yard, fully restored and ready to go anytime. It it hopper cooled and he moved it home in pieces in his VW micro-bus. I spent another night and part of a day before coming home with the Carl Kirsch Family, at St. Paul. And here again, there is always something going on, whether it be with Carl's Holt 45 or Best 25 or diving into the old desk over in the corner and it's contents of Cat. Holt and Best literature of all types and models. Next day, we moved the two Cats, a D2 and D6 from one farm to another along with a disc and two plows; a field was opened up into lands for plowing, the D6 pulling a 7-16 bottom plow and really cutting a wide swath. I went home on the train that night. At Harvey's this year, there was an informal gathering both Saturday and Sunday, with 3 or 4 engines steamed up and running a-round and some of the fellows played around with Hilman Lovlien's 20-40 Rumely Oil-Pull tractor that he acquired last year. It has much of the original paint and looks to be in very good mechanical condition. With some cleaning, painting and tuning up will run and look like new. I was only there on Saturday and saw most of the regulars in attendance or else at the meeting that evening. Harry Fisher, of Pendleton, Roy Heinrich, Bill Hermans, Jim Clark, of Junction City was there, Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Richardson, the Kirsch family, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Graves, to mention a few. Guy Kyler was out to Harvey's said he had sold his model steam engine and has another one planned. We also got Harvey's type Y Fairbanks-Morse 2 cycle oil engine started Tom Graves put the finishing touches on this process and it runs nicely makes quite a noise, though. I only knew of one steam threshing held in western Washington and that was near Winlock, on the Borte Brothers farm. I am told it drew a large crowd and was most successful. Perhaps more will be forthcoming in 1966.
G. A. Humann was ready for his 3rd annual steam threshing Sept. 4-5th, and the boys and I loaded up the 2 HP Stover gas engine, 6-inch IHC burr ginder, some ear corn, belts, tools and etc., for engines and headed for Los Molinos, where we had a motel reserved during the show, and only about 3 miles from the Humann farm. We unloaded the equipment and set it up, then helped get other things ready for Saturday. Loren M. Wade's 50 Case engine was brought up from Tracy by low-boy and with 4 steam engines on hand and 6 stacks of wheat from 10 acres of grain, all was ready. Saturday morning, I fired up Loren's engine and took care of it until he arrived about 10:00 A.M. and took over. I then proceeded to fire up the Russell 16 HP engine, which I had charge of during the show. George Sheesley, of Livingston was running the 20 Advance, and Paul was running the 20-60 Gaar-Scott with the assistance of another man whose name I have forgotten, Glenn Weagent arrived from Stockton with his portable steam electric generating plan and set up under the big walnut tree and was soon ready for his end of the show he had a crowd around him both days all the time. Under another tree was the 2-hole Marsaille spring corn sheller, powered by an upright steam engine, with steam furnished through flexible steam line from either Russell or Advance engine, handiest at time of operation. The John Deere GP standard tread tractor was belted to a 6-inch IHC hammer mill, grinding wheat which was sacked in small sacks, sewed up with ears and sold during the show. About a dozen gas engines were brought in and set up under the huge walnut trees mostly Fairbanks Morse, Novo, IHC, Stover, a Waterloo Boy with a loud snapping exhaust, Economy and perhaps a Fuller and Johnson. There was also a 20 HP Fairbanks-Morse type Y style H 2-cycle oil engine in fine running order and completely restored. There was also the Duvennecks on hand with their 1900 Locomobile steam automobile and the Tangemann family from Coming with their steam automobile, too and in operation. Some old fire trucks were on hand as well as a 1935 airplane that flew during the show and the following old gas tractors, all in running order: 10-20 McCormick-Deering, 12-20 and 18-32 cross-motor Case, 2 Fordsons, one with a 2-bottom Oliver plow, 1923 Model D John Deere, and a Yuba City ball tread, don't remember HP of it. Out east of the barn, plowing with a team of horses on an old sulky plow, alternated with the Fordson and plowing with a 5 bottom plow pulled by the 20-60 Gaar-Scott engine took place both days and 2 mules powered an old horse-powered hay baler, baling freshly threshed straw. Plenty of help was on hand for all equipment running, except for some new large tractors.
Threshing started off Saturday morning with the Advance belted to the 28x46 Case machine between 2 stacks and the 22x38 Red River Special pulled by the 16-30 Rumely Oil-pull threshing off of two more stacks. Each steam engine threshed a stack of grain during a half day, alternated with steam, horse and gas plowing and corn shelling with the steam engine. The corn was then ground up in the 6-inch IHC burr grinder, pulled by a 6 HP Fairbanks Morse gas engine. A parade of all equipment was held at 1:00 P.M. each day and threshing again commenced afterwards. A tug of war held each noon between a steam engine and a lot of manpower guess it was a draw. The Gaar-Scott threshed Saturday afternoon, Loren Wade threshed his stack out Sunday morning with his Case and it seemed right at home in the long drive belt. Sunday afternoon, with Harvey Mikkelson's help, we helped thresh the last stack of wheat along with the alternating of other events.
Last, but not least should be mentioned that 2 beautiful 2-inch scale Case engines were brought in, a traction engine by one owner, a skid engine by a man from Oakland Mr. Baker owned the Case model traction engine, a hot air engine and Mr. Charles Banta, of Opportunity, Wash., had his 2 Minneapolis steam engines and Minneapolis threshing machine down and set up believe his scale is 1-inch. L.A. Boulden, of Manteca, Calif., had charge of the 2-foot gauge Koppel steam locomotive, giving rides to people all the time and Richard, one of my boys fired for him. Robert was doing something also and we got some nice tape recordings and pictures. Lunch was served in the engine shed and E. T. Currans, of Porterville, had charge of the Oil Pull both days he laid his hands on it and right away it sounded much better with a few minor adjustments, etc. Washington and Oregon were well represented by Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Mikkelson, Hilman Lovelien, the Wally Getmans, John Berry, Mr. Banta, and so many more I cannot remember their names. Wally Getman and John Berry set up shop under the trees and were busy signing up WSFA members and getting subscribers to Western Engines magazine. I have never seen so many people from up north down before and this only can show one thing the fine show's reputation is spreading farther each year and the entire show went off without a hitch most of all promised exhibitors brought in their equipment, the equipment all worked well and their help was excellent, together with the variety of operating equipment, as in days of old. I believe the corn shelling and grinding of it is something none of the eastern shows have done to date. I hope another show is being planned for this coming year, as the quality and scope of activity has increased yearly. It was a great success, and the biggest steam threshing show on the west coast.
I steamed up the Miller engine in September, washed the boiler and made it ready for the annual boiler inspection. October 10th, Loren M. Wade held his annual steam threshing exhibition with the Case outfit and Austin-Western steam road roller under steam and Glenn Weagent was over with his steam generating plant, but as he had no coal, gave up about noon and shut down. I had earlier hauled in the baled oats, some wood, and prepared the engine for firing and oiled around on the separator. Loren changed out the nozzle on the exhaust this made the engine sound better. Saturday, the 9th, We fired up the engine and tried it out, then Sunday, set the separator, and I belted up the Case 50 and we proceeded to thresh out the pile of baled oats. Wilbur Skaar and L. D. Graves rolled down the orchard with the A-W steam roller and the Model A club from Lodi came over with their restored Model A Ford cars. We had a hot, quiet bright fall day just right for threshing. After some visiting, the belts were thrown and rolled, engines put up on blocks for the winter and another steam threshing was finished. We had some nice, clean oats cleaner than a combine could get them. The whole season. In late September, Mr. & Mrs. Carl Kirsch came through on their way home from Los Angeles where they had gone to visit relatives. Carl was also on the hunt for Best, Holt and Caterpillar tractor she really found them nearly everywhere he went! We went out to Miller's and winter and winding up a busy steam gang had a good time and are looking forward to the next one in October, 1966.
After the annual boiler inspection, I put the hand hole plates and new gaskets back in the Miller engine, fired up and put away in the shed and drained the boiler in late October, thus putting the engine to bed for got the Holt 75 running, first time since 1951 and when he laid his hands on the engine and cranking bar, it just naturally started. I had earlier tried it could only get a pop now and then! We had a nice visit hope they come down this way again. Carl found other tractors on his way home, as well as owners with literature to trade with. In August, we all took a ride on the Super-Skunk, a steam powered passenger train between Willets and Ft. Bragg, Calif. They have one round trip of the steam train daily and 2 or 3 round trips daily with the diesel-powered Skunk rail buses so one can make up their own schedule. The grade climbs from about 80 feet at Ft. Bragg and climbs to 1,300 feet just west of Willets, about 10 miles of this is three percent grade. If you want to hear some stack music, just take this ride during the tourist season and listen to the exhaust as the engineer works his reverse at half stroke. This route is 40 miles long, and goes through some beautiful redwood timber and wild country, miles from any roads; many people have cabins whose only means of easy access is over the California Western railroad. But, if you want to ride, by all means you must make early reservations, as each trip is a sell-out, way in advance. They are now looking around for another steam locomotive to spell the regular engine off when it is in the shop for monthly inspection, boiler wash or other attention. Write to The California Western Railroad, Ft. Bragg, Calif., for information.
Pickering Lumber Company, of Standard, Calif., wound up all rail operations with a final train of logs, pulled by standard-gauge 3-truck Shay in December. This winds up 50 years of railroading in the woods and last logging by rail operation in California so far as I know. They are abandoning all railroad operations, even around the mill yard. Trucks will do all hauling next season. West Side has already been abandoned 2 years and it's rails are coming out this summer; it is a narrow-gauge system, and used both Shays and Heislers in regular service. The Shays of both lines are up for sale not to be scrapped and steam lovers can draw a long breath here that they will be saved. Well, this winds up my past year's activities and may the coming year bring lots of steam threshing and ever more engines restored and magazine subscribers.