Farm Collector


We can tell that the annual ‘show season’ is upon us, as
we haven’t heard from as many of our correspondents this month.
This usually means that folks are either getting ready for the
shows, or actually participating in them. However, we have heard
from of a few of you, and we will start off the issue with an
anecdote from long ago.

We have this interesting bridge crossing story from LEE E.
WEHRS, 205 S. Sunset Hills Drive, Apt. 116, Concordia, Missouri

A Risky Bridge Crossing By Steam Engine

It must have been on a warm, early July Saturday morning that my
dad, Martin Wehrs, left Emma, Missouri, a mid-central Missouri
village divided by the Lafayette-Saline County line, and drove out
to my Uncle Lorenz Meyer’s farm. The farm was located about
three miles southeast of Emma on the Black water River.

As we were driving along, I reminded myself every now and then
not to reveal a secret that I was a party to. If I remember
rightly, I was only about eleven years of age.

The secret was that Uncle Lorenz was going to fire up the big
threshing machine steam engine and move it across the Black water
River bridge, probably against the advice of his neighbors, and
definitely against the warnings of his wife, my Aunt Bertha.

The bridge referred to was a wooden plank floor type, with lots
of metal super structure. One thing that made this trip more
treacherous was that the bridge stood unusually high over the river
bed. On the far side of the bridge, the dirt road dropped sharply
downward into the willow tree studded bottom.

Without knowing what was going to take place, my dad’s
sister readied her shopping list and headed to Sweet Springs,
Missouri, to do the Saturday shopping.

Shortly after her departure, that big, dark behemoth of a steam
engine was fired up and prepared for the short trip to the bridge a
mile or so away.

At this point I must explain why this special crossing was
planned. The first threshing job of the season was about three
miles or so from Uncle’s farm, by way of the bridge. The only
alternative route was to travel some fifteen miles or so on other
roads which may not have been safe enough, either. Anyhow, the
engine approached the bridge from the north on level ground.

I stood on the south end of the bridge taking in the scene,
wide-eyed and probably whispering a prayer for Uncle Lorenz, my
favorite uncle.

As the main weight of the engine got on the planks, there was
considerable groaning noise, and the flat steel made loud slapping
sounds as though it was protesting the whole deal.

I was prepared at this time to hear the worst and see Uncle
Lorenz crashing down with the engine and girders into the creek
bottom. Praise the Lord the crossing was successful.

In telling this story to an old timer at an engine show, how the
planks groaned, and the steel slapped and strained, guess what he
said? ‘Oh, that was good!’ Mentally I retreated and said,
‘How could that be?’ He said the groaning and clanking was
a sign that the bridge was accepting and distributing the weight
where it was the least stressful. After a bit I said to myself,
‘I’ll bet he was right.’

To conclude this story, I don’t recall how Aunt Bertha
reacted when she returned from the shopping trip, but I am sure the
engine tracks plainly told her what had transpired.

Caswell’s Gasoline Tractor Thresher: The above illustration
represents a complete threshing outfit consisting of gasoline
engine and thresher combined. It is the invention of Caswell
Brothers, Cherokee, Iowa, manufacturers of the adjustable belt
guide. The advantages claimed by the inventors are that it is
self-propelling, can be placed in motion as a traction propeller
almost while you are putting on the belt of an ordinary thresher,
and is a great saving in the cost of operation, doing away with the
water boy and team as well as engineer. The above machine has been
successfully operated both as tractor and thresher and is equipped
with a four-cylinder, 45 horsepower marine gasoline engine.

My dad and Uncle Lorenz did custom threshing for several years
and I was privileged to go along many times. It is no wonder that I
enjoy being around steam engines at engine shows and will become an
old timer, also.

This month we have heard from HERBERT KULENKAMP, 329 Geneva Ave.
#219, Oakdale, Minnesota 55128 who says, ‘There was a sawmill
in Warren, Arkansas 71671, some years ago, which had a steam engine
with a 26 foot diameter flywheel. I would like to see a picture or
blueprint of the engine. The mill is run by electric now, but
I’m sure somebody could come up with information on such an
unusual engine, maybe the patent office.

‘The company’s new owners are Potlatch Inc. I would like
to describe this, but can’t write good anymore.

‘There are other engines which would be of great interest to
steam enthusiasts. The steam engine running the cotton gin in
Cooter, Missouri, for example. The engines with the unique slide
valve linkage in river paddle-wheeler boats. Also, many steam
engine pumping engines special built for various purposes,

The Cook Auto Threshing Outfit: The above represents cook’s
auto-thresher, consisting of threshing machine and gasoline
traction engine combined. Herman Cook, the inventor, Sioux City,
Iowa, will tell you all about it. For full particulars address the
manufacturers, Caswell Brothers, Cherokee, Iowa.

‘Hope you will look into this and preserve some of the past
before it is lost.’

CARLTON JOHNSON of 2256 W. Wilson Road, Clio, Michigan 48420
sent us two pictures and this note, ‘The two pictures are of
self propelled threshers that were built in 1908 and shown in the
American Thresher man of that time. Then later, in 1910,
the Sageng thresher, self-propelled, was shown, but none caught on
and no more were built, as far as 1 know.

‘The Sageng was built new from the ground up, and the other
two were regular separators changed over.’

Note, the captions are the ones which originally appeared with
the pictures in American Thresher man.

Harold Holp’s 20 HP Advance engine at the 2000 Darke County
Steam Threshers Association, Inc. reunion. Kevin Holp is on the

Well, we have come to the end of the column for this month, but
there is lots to read in the rest of the magazine! Remember to
think of us as you attend the shows this summeras we’ll be
looking for your news in the fall.

You might want to look in the back of this issue at our
advertisements there are several new books of interest to steam

Steamcerely, Linda and Gail

  • Published on Jul 1, 2001
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