SOOT IN THE FLUES

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75 HP Cooper-Bessmer oilfield engine permanently mounted on lowboy tractor-trailer at NWAPA Spring show.
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''First Smoke'' of the Fall NWAPA Show, from our 1909 Case. That's Glacier Park straight behind my smokestack.
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Frank Burris, who has been a long time contributor to this
column has suggested that we continue to use the title Soot in the
Flues by Anna Mae, even though Anna Mae has now passed on. We
consider this a good suggestion, and we appreciate all the letters
that have been coming in to our offices for the column. We think it
fitting that we continue to honor Anna Mae’s memory in this
way, since she was so important to us and to our readers. We’d
also like to ask all of you to share with us little pieces of
inspirational wisdom which you may come across, as Anna Mae did.
Now, to the first letter:

DAVE TAYLOR, P.O. Box 705, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin., writes,
‘I recently received this letter from my good friend Barry
Trindle of Earlham, Iowa, and I wanted to share it in part with you
and your readers.

‘I was sharing with Barry some of the details of the
successful Steam Engineering School, sponsored by the Western
Minnesota Steam Threshers Association and held each year at Rollag,
Minnesota. I am privileged to help with the school and told Barry
in a letter how much fun we all have.

‘I believe there may be a lot of us who remember when
harvests were a bit different and can relate to what Barry has to
share.’ Barry Trindle’s letter follows:

‘I wish you could tell your students another side of the
story, the side about neighborhoods of farmers working together to
harvest the wheat and oats. A time just before my time when about
15 farmers worked together, even formed Threshing Associations’
that owned the engines and separators. When a special service was
held at a country church when the harvest started, and another one
of thanksgiving was held when it was over, and at both services
hymns that everyone knew and loved were sung. I don’t believe
condoms were distributed at these services.

‘At noon, after they had made sure their team of horses was
watered and tied in a shady spot, the men washed up in the yard and
then ate a meal (after grace was said) of fried steak or fried
chicken, or fried pork chops or fried ham, or roast beef or roast
pork, or chicken and noodles or chicken and dumplings, or beef and
noodles or. . . with mashed potatoes, brown gravy, fresh corn on
the cob, fresh tomatoes, fresh green beans with bacon or ham, and
wilted lettuce fixed in bacon grease. Also there was a bowl with
fresh carrots, radishes, and green onions with a salt cellar beside
each plate. Dessert would be a choice of apple, cherry, or peach
pie with fresh cream or whipped cream or cheese. And gallons of ice
tea to wash it all down. Lord, those women could cook!

‘If there were any Catholics on the crew and it was Friday,
there would also be a platter of fried fish, channel catfish, taken
from the Raccoon River with somewhat less than legal bank lines
very early that morning. (They didn’t get up early and go
fishing, they set the lines the night before and took them in about
dawn). Sometimes this was the kid’s job before breakfast. Funny
thing about this was that the Protestants loved catfish to the
point of passing up dessert for it while the Catholics seemed more
interested in a second piece of pie.

‘Today one guy in a $150,000 combine will harvest the grain
in one tenth the time the threshing crew took. He’ll work by
himself, dumping the grain in trucks to be driven away later. Just
one guy, no wife (she’s working 50 miles away for $6 an hour),
no kids (they’re in day care), no Dad (he died young from
cancer, maybe the chemicals?), no Grandma (she’s in the nursing
home). He has a cellular phone and a two-way radio but no one to
talk to while he eats his turkey ham and lite cheese sandwich with
a diet Coke from the Styrofoam cooler under the seat, so he just
keeps running. In just a few hours the crop is gone for another
year. This is called progress by some, but I don’t like
it.’ (Barry has really struck a nerve here, I’m sure,
with many of us.)

‘This snapshot (below) is of the model D. June steam
traction engine I built several years ago. It is as close a model
as I could very well make of the engine my father owned in about
1916. Since there is very little information on the D. June line I
had to do my own engineering in some cases. For example: I am not
sure if the reverse mechanism I built into this tractor is like the
one the original engines had. My only sources of information were
an old catalogue my father left (he died in the flu epidemic of
1918), and a portable D. June engine in the Ford museum of
Dearborn, Michigan (but it is a portable, not a tractor, therefore
no reverse).

‘If any of your readers have any
information, or know where there is a D. June
traction engine, preferably in working condition, I should be most
happy to hear from them.

‘My little engine is about 1/5 scale,
it runs nicely, will drive a little saw, or will pull a couple of
people behind it.

‘I hope to hear from someone who can help.’ W. K.
WINKEL, 10614 Carlota, Houston, Texas 77096.

Austin Monk is shoveling coal into his 1914 50 HP in preparation
to belting up to Doug McDougall’s Baker fan. Doug is standing
behind the engine.

From GARY YAEGER, 146 Reimer Lane, Whitefish, Montana 59937 we
hear: ‘I just thought I’d report on what’s been
happening my direction this past spring and summer.

‘Last March about thirty interested people met at a coffee
shop here in Whitefish to see if there was enough enthusiasm for an
organization interested in preserving the power from the past.
These men were from all over the Flathead Valley, Kalispell,
Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Bigfork and Poison. We organized the
Northwest Antique Power Association under the auspices of the Early
Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association. On May 28th we had our
first Crank Up and Steam Up at my place, two miles east of
Whitefish. On display were my 15 HP Case, Austin Monk’s 50 HP
Case, three crawlers, around ten gas tractors and a couple of acres
of old engines from Maytag up to Nick Poncelets 75 HP Cooper
Bessemer mounted on a lowboy tractor-trailer rig.

‘Then in June it worked for me to fly into Toledo to attend
the 50th anniversary show of the National Thresher’s
Association at Wauseon, Ohio. In spite of five inches of rain
during the show, I had a great time with many of my old friends and
met many new ones too. The highlight of this show was when
President Marvin and Treasurer Shirley Broadbeck made is possible
for me to run their 32-120 HP Reeves Canadian Special Cross
Compound. What was so special about that engine, is that my dad and
his brothers plowed with it from 1920 through 1938. I played on it
as a child, but when Dad traded it to Tyler Brothers in 1954, for a
20-70 Nichols & Shepard, I still had never seen it run. Roland
Broadbeck made sure I spent time running it. I guess I even made
the official video they will be selling of the show.

Michael Yaeger giving rides behind our 1909 Case 15 HP. His
‘helper’ is his nephew and my grandson, 5 year old Maverik
Bursch. He makes 5 generations of steam.

‘In August, I once again went to the Barnes Steam and Power
Show at Belgrade. Montana, where I’ve been helping Austin Monk
run his 40-120 Emerson Brantingham Peerless. My son Michael drove
over from Helena on Saturday. His new Montana traction engine
license was only about three weeks old. Austin Monk let him
initiate his new license on the Peerless pulling the 20-bottom
plow. Michael told Austin that it would be ‘all downhill from
here!’ I got to fire the Peerless for Michaelas a matter of
fact, I fired it all eight rounds. I didn’t see Austin even run
it this year. Austin seems to just get a kick out of putting
someone new on it, when ever possible. His favorite pastime is
putting 110 Case owners on it to ‘convert’ them!

Michael Yaeger is initiating his new traction engine license on
Austin Monk’s 40-120 Emerson-Brantingham Peerless, pulling the
20 bottom John Deere 14′ plow. I was his fireman (with Wyoming
coal).

‘An old tradition of the first Barnes shows was reborn this
21st annual show, that of throwing crew members in the water tanks,
clothes and all. All of the Barnes family got wet. Don Bradley,
Doug McDougall, J. Hoffendasher, Gary Yaeger, and Dave Vaneck made
up a few of the Montanans thrown in. Even John Schrock of Mason,
Michigan, and Keven Small of Portersville, Pennsylvania, got thrown
in. J. Hoffendasher, an IMA contributor, and former
resident of Two Dot, Montana, told me he had the nickname, now, of
‘Splash.’

‘Again, on September 10 and 11, the Northwest Antique Power
Association had its fall show and threshing bee at the Norman
Borgan farm south of Columbia Falls. We had a pretty fine turnout
for an infant club.

‘It’s time for me to sit back and reflect on another
thrilling year of steaming and look forward to another one next
year.

‘Keep up the good work and hang in there, Anna Mae. We need
you. God Bless you.’

WILLIAM M. LAMB, 346 Ethel Drive, Tates Creek Estates,
Nicholasville, Kentucky 40356 and ROBERT T. RHODE, 735 Riddle Road,
Cincinnati, Ohio 45220 send this:

‘We hope our co-authored letter will do good. We present you
with an editorial; maybe kindred spirits in Engine Land will agree
with our point of view and help to preserve our agricultural
legacy.

‘To get to the business at hand, we call readers’
attention to the fact that another state has limited the pressure
to be carried in lap-seam boilers. The restrictions are so severe
as to make the owning of an engine with such a boiler an exercise
in futility, for one may own but scarcely run the engine!
We respect the parties who invent such limitations, because they do
so with thoughts of protecting against injury and, therefore,
ensuring public safety. But we question whether or not enough
consideration has been given to the public good. By restricting
lap-seam boilers, we are throwing out the baby with the bath
water!

Gary Yaeger at the 50th anniversary N.T.A. Show at Wauseon,
Ohio, in June, sitting on Marvin Brodbeck’s 32-120 HP Reeves
Canadian Special Cross Compound. Our family plowed with this engine
from 1920-1938. Being born in 1943, I’d never seen it run. I
started playing on it in about 1947, though.

‘To prevent citizens from viewing lap-seam-boiler engines
running under sufficient pressure to thresh wheat or to saw lumber
at reunions is to deny the public vital lessons in history. We
suggest that forfeiting the opportunity for the public to discover
North America’s rural roots does us a disservice. And this loss
is purchased at the cost of a mistake about lap-seam
boilers!

‘A good, sound, well-maintained lap-seam boiler enjoys just
as much right to be regarded as a safe boiler as an equally good,
sound. well-maintained butt-strap boiler. In Catechism of the
Locomotive
(1897), Matthias N. Forney wrote, ‘A butt-strap
seam. . .is little, if any, stronger than a. . .lap seam properly
proportioned’ (208). Who is to blame for the misunderstanding
that butt-strap boilers are safer than lap-seam boilers?
Ironically, we must point the finger at the steam-engine companies,
who, at the heights of the steam-power era, made a ‘talking
point’ (hence, a selling point) of their new-fangled butt-strap
boilers. Then, as now, advertising promoted changes as
‘improvements’ so as to sell new equipment. When butt-strap
boilers appeared, the clever public-relations staffs for the engine
manufacturers hailed them as superior to lap-seam boilers and the
sales ploy gradually became accepted as ‘fact.’ Today,
certain persons may even assume that the ‘fact’ is an
undeviating ‘law,’ like the law of gravity.

‘We have never heard of a lap seam boiler on a
locomotive-style farm engine coming loose along the seam (with
either a mere rupture or a more disastrous result). This confident
assertion does not deny the boiler explosions of the past, of which
even one was too many and which occurred more than once especially
in the earliest years of steam-engine history. Such explosions,
however, seldom resulted from a failure of a lap seam.
More often, they stemmed from carelessness.

‘We hope all engineers at present-day reunions will be as
careful and conscientious as we know most of them to be, so that no
danger will ever darken the brilliant track-record of safety at
these events. As the spiritual father of the preservation movement,
the Reverend Elmer Ritzman, frequently stated, ‘A good engine
in the hands of a bad engineer is worse than a bad engine in the
hands of a good engineer.’ A course wiser than punishing the
lap-seam boiler would be to insist that the few engineers
inclined to be dangerous become more desirous of protecting
themselves and the public from harm. As Dr. Robert H. Thurston
wrote in 1904 (in A Manual of Steam Boilers), ‘. . .
.the ignorance, the carelessness, or the utter recklessness’ of
a few people may account for nearly all catastrophes involving
boilers (551). The kind of seam makes little or no difference.

‘More important than the seam are these three factors:

1. The condition of the boiler.
2. The condition of the engineer.
3.  The safe working pressure as specified by the original
manufacturer.

‘Competent engineers can ascertain the first item through
ultrasound, X-ray, hydro, hammer, and other tests. Through a little
research, owners can determine the third factor what a given
manufacturer established as safe for a certain model of engine and
boiler. (Obviously, an engine today should not exceed its original
limit.) As the companies which designed and built engines for use
on farms gave all due consideration to safety, they were extremely
conservative in all their estimates. Indeed, these engines and
their boilers benefit from what is aptly termed ‘high factors
of safety.’

‘The lap seam simply overlaps and may boast one, two, or
three rows of rivets (in most cases). The more rivets, the more
rigid the joint, but, the more holes, the less the integrity, or
strength, of the boiler plate. Manufacturers of boilers understood
such trade-offs. They also knew not to select high-grade metals.
With considerable scientific prowess, designers determined the
proper thickness of the metal sheets to form the boiler, improved
the ways of forming the holes for the rivets, chose the best kinds
of rivets, figured out the ideal number of rivets and rows, spaced
the rivets to maximum advantage, and installed the rivets
correctly. The technology of boiler-making occupies literally
hundreds upon hundreds of pages in mechanical-engineering textbooks
of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and, although
errors were made early on (such as accidentally decreasing the
thickness of the boiler plate by gouging or ‘scoring’ along
a seam while calking or by placing the inner seam where it could
become a ledge collecting sediment and deteriorating more rapidly),
the wisdom of the boiler manufacturers transformed their craft into
a high art.

‘We do not have to fear that the manufacturers labored in
ignorance. As Forney attested, designers every bit as bright as any
in our own time understood that a lap seam and a butt-strap
construction were both good and sound. The common butt-strap boiler
places metal straps inside and outside the seam, which meets
exactly edge-to-edge (with no overlap). The number of rows of
rivets varies, with six being customary by the end of the
steam-power era. The straps clamp the joint firmly together. The
pressure inside the cylindrical form of a boiler pushes outward in
all directions on that cylinder. In the example of a lap-seam
boiler, where the metal edges overlap, one edge pushes hard against
the side of the other, thereby keeping the joint tight. Forces in
other directions may try to ‘unroll’ the cylinder, but,
before that could happen, something else would give way, probably
with the result that one of both tubesheets and/or the crownsheet
(in so-called ‘locomotive’ boilers) would blow out or down.
Textbooks from the engine era demonstrate that, if the seam is
tight and no leaks have caused corrosion there, failures of the
boiler are much more likely to occur in areas other than the
seam.

‘The typical butt-strap has no advantageous overlapping
edges of the metal comprising the cylinder, but it does have a
triple thickness at the seam: (1) the inner strap, (2) the barrel
skin, and (3) the outer strap. Which is better: the lap seam or the
butt-strap? The old adage answers the question it’s six of one
and a half dozen of the other.

Thurston noted that defective construction of boilers cause
dangerous conditions far less often than leaking tubes and scale.
Defective rivets, staybolts, and welds, Thurston showed, were
troublesome but not as likely to lead to disaster as corrosion or
general deterioration of the metal in the boiler deterioration from
stress or from not cleaning the boiler often enough. As Thurston
proved, seams gave way much less often than weak spots where decay
or injury to the metal had occurred.

‘We regret that some persons in positions of authority have
so disparaged engines with lap-seam boilers as to confine them (in
certain states) to remaining cold, silent, and unmoving for all
intents and purposes, dead. We wish that the numerous good, sound,
well-maintained lap-seam engines at our reunions nationwide would
be allowed to be fired up and to carry pressure sufficient to
thresh wheat or to saw lumber. We would like all such engines to
boil, whistle, and move as live-steam demonstrations of
the great American spirit of invention and as working
testimonials
to the agricultural heritage of our country and
Canada.

‘We trust that the seams of such lap-seam boilers will not
let go, so long as appropriate caution be exercised. We are sure
that the myth directed against lap-seam boilers can be exploded
long before any such seam would give way. Thank you for letting us
clean a little soot out of the flues!’

FRANK J. BURRIS, 1102 Box Canyon Road, Fallbrook, California
92028 sends this:

‘A bit of constructive comment pertinent to the fine article
by Mr. Maurice L. Hooks in the November/December issue of Iron
Men Album
concerning Reversing Linkages.

‘Mr. Hooks is to be complimented for his patience in art
work and much discussion concerning reversing gears for steam
engines in the November/December 1994 issue of ‘Our Tie that
Binds’ (IMA). It may be apropos to add a few comments
with regard to the illustrations of the hypothetical
single-eccentric direct rocker-arm design as depicted in the
article; lest some of you model makers set out to construct an
engine after the illustrative design and become disappointed
because it does not perform as you expected.

‘A bit of digression. First off; simple slide and piston
valves must have ‘lap’ if the steam is to be worked
expansively and economically within the cylinder. Secondly; the lap
will require ‘lead’ if we are to admit steam to the
cylinder at the beginning of the piston stroke in either direction.
Thirdly; these constraints require that the eccentric action LEAD
the piston action in the case of outside admission valve designs,
and LAG the piston action in the case of the more modern piston
valves as employed on a few traction engines but all modern of the
last railway locomotives.

‘Now, how much lead? Well, obviously, we cannot employ the
splitting difference of 90 degrees. However, if one is to scale it
out on the drafting board or even easily make a wooden model for
his mockup, he will find that (according to the amount of lap) a
displacement of 120 to 135 degrees will prove satisfactory. So, how
is this derived in the single-eccentric reverse gears of
locomotives? Ever hear of the combining link on Walschaerts, Young,
Baker, or Southern valve gears? In those designs, the motion from a
crank-mounted eccentric offset 90 degrees is ‘combined’
with the crosshead motion in order to yield a geometric sum of 90
plus 180 = 270 degrees; from which the opposite mechanical vector
is 135 degrees, a very workable figure.

‘On the fixed single eccentric as employed on Grimes, Woolf,
and similar gears, the valve drive is likewise derived by combining
the vertical block drive with the rocking horizontal component of
the offset in the eccentric strap. A very ingenious contraption,
indeed; except that there results a slight dissimilarity between
forward and reverse motions. These oddities have been described in
long-past editions of IMA by the dear long-gone engine
wizard of Oregon, Pop Arnold, and also a very bright threshing chap
from Canada whose name presently slips me. Please excuse for, when
one passes 91, he lays his glasses down and forgets where he put
them; even though he can recall events of the first year of his
life like I am composing in my autobiography.

‘In closing, let us recall the direct acting single
eccentric reverse gear as employed in such faithful old Iron Men as
Russell wherein the drive yoke to the valve was mounted on the
eccentric BUT, upon reversing, this yoke was slipped across the
eccentric (NOT through a center line, but) through a slot which was
off-center which resulted in either ends of the straight slot being
at approximately 120 degrees from centerline of the eccentric. Oh
yes, in closing, Pop Arnold stated that, in the case of the Woolf
gear, with piston on dead center, if the valve movement settled a
bit different between forward and reverse, this amount was
described as ‘slip.’ This did not occur with Stevenson
Link, of course. If railway locomotives had lived a bit longer,
they were likely to have emerged from their factories with Franklin
or Caprotti poppet valves driven by gear train. So, be careful when
you design a reverse mechanism for your model steamer! Otherwise
you may end up with a solid single eccentric drive which is not
conservative of steam and derives its reverse through ‘throttle
reversing’ of the complicated valve as employed in Soule mill
feed engines. I had one of them once, too!’

From THOMAS STEBRITZ, 1516 Commercial Street, Algona, Iowa
50511, comes this letter: ‘Commenting first on the passing of
Anna Mae, she and her husband both had their medical problems. Now
these are past. My late wife also had many miseries in her short
life; she is gone almost ten years now.

‘I am writing to support Gary Yaeger’s first opinion
about #5 picture about the 150 HP Case.

‘Mr. Yaeger you gave up too soon. Case experts are all wet
about that picture. To the naked eye it is very evident that indeed
the #5 picture shows the 150 HP Case. There is a lot of difference
in the 32 HP and 150 HP. Front to back in the picture, the front
saddle was very unique to the 150 HP. The engine frame on the 150
HP was different than on the 110HP or 32 HP. The 150 HP dome is
center mounted, the upper link on the left side of the 150 HP is
not visible because it is mounted on the side of the wing
sheet.

‘If you will look at picture #4 of Yaeger’s, the upper
left link on the 32 HP is very visible and sets on about a 45
degree angle and is hooked on a bracket, crankshaft level, just
back of the crank disc. The angle is exaggerated because the driver
on the 32 HP is smaller.

‘The steam pump is visible back of the disc. Another
important thing you will observe, the levers which on the 150 HP
are all mounted on the right side of the back firebox unlike on the
32 HP. Another important point is the visible height of the 150 HP
differential gear in the picture. The bull gear on the 150 HP is
about 60 inches diameter, and the differential looks to be about
65% of that. However on the 32 HP or 110 HP the bull gears and
differential gear are generally the same diameter.

‘Lastly, the drawbar on the 32 or 110 Case is about even
with the bottom of the ashpit. You will notice how low the bunker
hangs in #5 picture. The drawbar on the 150 HP is about 10 to 12
inches below the ashpit to the bottom of the drawbar which
positions the tank at 5 to 6 inches below the ashpit.

‘The 32 HP Case had flat spoked rear wheels briefly, and
this apparently is the reason why your experts jumped at their
conclusions. These persons should clean their glasses and relook at
picture #5. I repeat the 32 or 110 HP and 50 HP are so much
different that the two engines as observed can’t be
confused.

‘I have to wonder about Mr. Eric Campbell and his reasoning
about boilers in general. When he talks about people using a single
riveted barrel boiler and a hard time keeping the seams corked, a
junk man should have been consulted.

‘I wonder why Mr. Campbell believes a lap seam single
riveted barrel should be leaking normally. On most tractors engines
by the early 1880s the barrel was double riveted, a single riveted
lap seam previous to 1880s would have only carried about 65 to 70
lbs. steam P.S.I. Smaller vertical and Scotch marine boilers built
up to the 1960s were transitional and had some welding on them with
a single riveted lap seam. These carried safely 100 lbs. steam
P.S.I.

‘About the boilers Mr. Campbell who told about blowing up a
person, would have to see what was left of them to judge. Actually
neither one was designed for more than 125 lb. steam P.S.I.

‘About Mr. Campbell: 45 HP Case unless he owns one of the
last ones, the plates, excepting the flue sheets, are about
9/32 inch plate.

The above ad originally appeared in American Thresherman, date
unknown. It was sent to us by Ken Morse, Park House Apt. B-6,
Norwich, NY 13815.

‘I saw a 45 Case boiler at Tyler, Minnesota a few years ago,
a man had bought a 45 HP Case from four town dudes. This boiler had
been in use at south Minnesota shows for years. One day they were
firing up and when steamed up this boiler blew all the water, ashes
and soot out in a terrible chunk. I looked at the crown-sheet, as
the man suggested who now owned it, and all the staybolts in the
crownsheet had pulled loose and the crownsheet moved just enough to
disconnect. What happened was burned off staybolt ends and thin
plate were made thinner from years of use. The former owners got
scared stiff. The new owner put a 50 HP Case boiler on the engine,
and it’s still around.

‘If Mr. Campbell is around a boiler in use that’s
leaking I’d say RUN! But a boiler in general you shouldn’t
be scared of. Know what it is, and be respectful of its condition
and act accordingly.’

We appreciate the expressions of sympathy our readers have sent
in over the loss of Anna Mae. We have shared those letters with her
family, and shall continue to do so.

We want now to encourage everyone to continue to write to us and
send what you wish to share with our readers. Soot in the Flues
will continue as a forum for IMA readers, and as always,
we shall rely on you for your valuable questions, comments and
pictures.

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