I am sitting here and thinking of Spring Things and Summer
Madness that comes with the thoughts of getting the engines loaded,
supplies packed and ambitions riding high to get on the road to the
many steam and gas engine reunions. Won’t be long now, you
know. I’ll bet many of you are set to go already, while others
must put on the finishing touches to the ‘GEM’ of their
eyes. I’ll be thinking of you. It’s been awhile since I
have been to a reunion but have always enjoyed them, especially
after communicating with so many of our Iron Men Family, a
While I have also been busy, my duties, etc. have not all been
pleasant. Ed, my dear hubby, who has not been well since his stroke
last May, is now back in the hospital. He was coming along pretty
well, but Valentine’s Day he was taken to the hospital again
with congestive heart failure, gall stones which they will not
operate on due to his heart condition, then he had pneumonia for a
few days and is still in the hospital. He seems to be coming along
fairly well, but now has some type of infection in his lungs and
some complications. I’m sure he has some buddies out in Engine
Land who have many problems also, but we just take a day at a time
and sometimes an hour at a time. God will always help us through
enough of this and on to the communications from you fine
This is a very rewarding letter to read; it comes from BILL
THURMAN, R.R. #1, Box 226, Archie, Missouri 64725. I think he must
be an A-1 person of this day and age. Read on and I believe you
‘I am writing this just to say thanks for such a fantastic
hobby.’ I am 27 years old and have loved steam engines all of
my life. I never dreamed of ever owning one till I was retired, but
thanks to many good friends my dream came true last year.
‘I had restored old tractors since I was 16,’ but it
didn’t excite me like seeing a steam engine run or hearing it
on the belt, so I was always looking for the chance to run one.
‘Well, last year at our annual show in Adrian, Missouri (I
belong to the Western Missouri Antique Tractor Machinery
Association),’ I asked why a 1907 18 HP ‘U’ Peerless
engine hadn’t been run for several years. I was told the owner,
Mr. Jim Courtney, couldn’t find anyone to run it. I
couldn’t believe it that no one had stepped forward, so I wrote
him a letter asking if I could help. He not only said I could, but
would try to work out a deal with me to buy the engine.
‘At the show I was thrilled to death to run the throttle for
the first time. I have run tractors all my life, big and small, but
there is no greater power than steam.
‘Well, to make a long story short, Mr. Courtney sold me the
engine. Without him I may have never realized my dream. I know he
sold me that engine for a lot less than it was worth and I thank
him for all the time and questions he has put up with from me.
Also, I thank my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank B. Thurman, for their
help, for without them I would be nothing. I thank Mr. Wilbur
Hemming of Platte City, Missouri for showing me how to be a
‘safe’ engineer and putting up with a lot of stupid
questions. Also Mr. Jim Bellis who helped repair the engine for a
lot less than he could have charged. But most of all, I thank God
for letting me live in this country and for blessing me with a
wonderful family and friends and a wife who doesn’t complain
about the dirt and expense of owning an engine. I feel I am a lucky
man indeed.’ (You surely are Bill, but it is so wonderful you
express it and it’s wonderful the way these folks in this hobby
like to help each other.)
‘I would love to hear from fellow steam men as I am still a
DOUG SELLERS, 1102 Peach, Abilene, Texas 79602 is seeking
written information on an International Harvester
‘Sterling’ #705 threshing machine with 22′ cylinder
manufactured in 1916 by Heebner & Sons of Lansdale,
Pennsylvania. He is hoping someone out there in Engine land can
So come on Fellows if you have any data let Doug hear from
‘I am in the process of restoring an Advance traction engine
and need a little help,’ says DEAN ALLING, Box 10264, Burbank,
‘I need to know the paint colors for trim and I would like
information on this tractor’s adjustment and operation. It is a
Model 212F, #6744. I believe it to be a 12 HP and to be built in
1898(?). Thanks in advance!’
M.A. HALL, 44W059 Empire Road, St. Charles, Illinois 60175
writes us: ‘Some time ago you published an article I wrote
about my British table engine. Shortly after the article appeared,
I received a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Lansell of Thomaston, Maine,
informing me that they had an engine very similar to mine and that
they also had a Weeden electric motor on which I had requested
‘A couple of letters back and forth and I now have pictures
plus an excellent drawing of the commutator and brushes which were
missing on my motor. Now I can fabricate new ones.’
‘With all the complaints many people have, I felt it
appropriate to hand out an orchid to those people who are willing
to help other model makers and/or restorers my hat’s off to
‘Memories’ come to us from PERRY WILLIS, R.D. #3,
Louisville, Ohio 44641. ‘After a drought year in 1988, we had a
wet spring this past year-1989. It was followed by a relief period
and some farmers got a half-decent crop. Not 100% but enough not to
be a total loss.’
While reading some articles of magazines, different sources of
all kinds of machinery, brings memories of happenings of years
The pioneers developed this nation and get little thanks for the
hard labor involved.
Machinery has changed in design and size, and parts are hard to
find at times. A modern piece of equipment is worthless if not
working for the need of a part to replace the defective part.
‘Memories of fixing farm machinery with few tools is
heartwarming.’ The older neighbors were the best helping hand
an individual had. There are still a few around who share thoughts
and ideas as we did years ago. Today your neighbor cares little for
anyone except himself.
Most young men leave the farm and never go home to help in any
way to ease the burden at harvest time.
‘Brothers and sisters are at each others’ throats to
divide up the estate when the parents die. Some never did anything
to help Mom and Dad, yet they do everything to stir up
trouble.’ (This may be true in some cases, Perry, but I’m
sure we still have a lot of young folks with the old time views.
I’m sure I don’t hear from them all, but I do get letters
now and then that make your heart swell with joy, especially from a
nowadays-teenager. Come on young men, send me some more.)
A son who stays on and works and shares with his parents and
buries them also, with no help for cost of burial, should have most
or all of the estate.
When my parents died there was friction. I told my brothers and
sisters I wanted nothing, yet I could have put in a claim for debts
I paid in past years. It was a home and I respected what was done
and what we had.
Most of all we started with was what we could afford. A person
learns quickly to take care of a tool or piece of machinery. Where
the money comes from today to buy expensive machinery is a
Farm prices are not much different than years back. More farmers
are going bankrupt for their style of farming and for want of very
big equipment. No upkeep and they cannot repair for cost. So they
sell out and get a job-THAT does not solve the problem.
The Amish have large families. Most use horses, mules, some oxen
and machinery 80 and 90 years old, some newer, but very few pieces.
They live happily and share and most are respectful to
I do all I can for everybody, if help is needed. I share and I
expect nothing as I believe in the old saying: ‘Let me live in
my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.’
CARLTON JOHNSON, 2256 W. Wilson Road, Clio, Michigan 48420 sends
the following as he writes: ‘I don’t remember seeing
pictures of stacked bundles of grain in Iron-Men Album, so have
sent in these two photos.’
‘This man, Ed Lachels, who built these stacks knew what he
was doing, as they are just about perfect.’ It was an art that
a few had and many did not have; to be good, they had to look good
that is the shape and design and to shed water from rains. As a
rule, wooden rails, boards or beams were put down on the ground to
build them on.
The wing-feeder in the photo worked nice on threshing out
stacks. The stacked bundles of grain to be threshed out later is
the other picture. Both photos were taken from November 1908
We always look forward to the letters from our Iron-Men Family
and the latest from CARL M. LATHROP, 108 Garfield Avenue, Madison,
New Jersey 07940 tells us:
You will certainly recall the Hepburn/Bogart movie African
Queen, and the steam launch of the same name that was described in
the May-June 1982 IMA. It was almost eight years ago that I wrote
that article and there has been a lot of water pass under the
Queen’s keel since then. I thought that I would bring you up to
date on her latest adventure.
Her home port continues to be a Holiday Inn Harbor, Key Largo,
Florida, although the old launch is now quite a world traveler,
having been shipped abroad on a container ship in November 1986.
After a few trips on the River Thames she was the guest of honor in
the courtyard of the United States Embassy in London where a formal
reception was held in her honor.
More recently she has been the subject of hearings before the
Maritime & Fisheries Commission in Washington as a part of the
petition to exempt her from the Jones Act so that this historic
vessel could be put into revenue service carrying passengers. On
August 16, 1989, President Bush signed the legislation that exempts
her from the provisions of that Act. This 1920’s era act was
legislated to prevent foreign built ships from usurping our
This, however, has not been without its problems. You will
recall that the African Queen had been equipped with a boiler that
carried the ASME code stamp. More recently she had been fitted with
a boiler that has been built by the Semple Engine Company of St.
Louis. This is a popular supplier to the private steam launch
hobby, but unfortunately their shop can not affix the ASME code
stamp that is required by the Coast Guard under whose jurisdiction
she now comes. That has created a problem which her owner, Mr.
James Hendricks, is working with currently.
To maintain the Queen’s authenticity as near as can be
practical, a boiler of classic design is being fabricated by the
Dixon Boiler Works of Los Angeles. Richard T. Dixon has been in the
business of building specialty boilers to the ASME code for the
past 50 years. His handiwork appears in such places as the
Disneyland and Disney World steam locomotives and the two Golden
Spike replicas at Promontory, Utah.
Now that code problem just happens to bring me to a side issue
that might be of interest to your readers. We have not manufactured
any steam traction engines in this or any other country for a great
many years. Similarly, steam railroad locomotives are no longer
manufactured in the U.S. either. They continue, however, to be
built in the People’s Republic of China. In fact, three of them
were purchased by tourist railroads and arrived in Long Beach,
California, November 7th aboard the ‘Trade Fir’.
During contract negotiations there was a problem in
rationalizing Chinese fired pressure vessel manufacturing standards
with the ASME boiler code accepted by most states, for one goes
Boone, Iowa and one to Kane, Pennsylvania and one to Essex,
It’s a long story but briefly there were some compromises
worked out between the Chinese and our side. Mr. Joe Michaels, a
professional engineer with background in code calculations, worked
the problem to the satisfaction of all concerned. The engines going
to Pennsylvania and Connecticut were built incorporating those
changes under the direction of David Conrad of the Valley Railroad.
The one headed to Iowa was a ‘stock’ engine and could
encounter some difficulties.
‘My activities on our Catskill Mountain Railroad (Serving
The Valley of The Esopus) have pulled me away from steam somewhat,
but I still look to IMA with affection. Our association has been an
integral part of my retirement years.’ (Thanks CarlI find this
whole subject of the Queen and the new engines being built in China
very interesting and informative. Write any time).
‘I enjoy the articles and looking at the photographs,’
says LOWELL M. ANDERSON, R.R. 1, Box 83, Heimdal, North Dakota
58342 as he adds another year to his subscription of IMA.
I have been constructing a model of a 1908 Advance. This engine
is similar to one that threshed for my grandparents in 1913. I am
currently working on a model of a 1912 25-85 Nichols & Shepard.
The first one was built free hand. Since then I have gotten a small
lathe which greatly helps with fabrication of parts.
‘I was wondering if I could get historical information for a
Nichols & Shepard by writing to White Tractor Company. Well,
will close.’ (Maybe some one of our family may give you
suggestions or write you).
‘Mystery of the Camelback’ tractor comes from K. CHRIS
HAMEL, 150 Glenwood Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey 07306: ‘I
am enclosing this letter with my order. I already have some of your
published works.’ They are of high quality indeed considering
the rarity of many of the originals! I am 33 years of age and a
railroad buff, also interested in such outlying areas as steam
construction equipment and yes, traction engines.
Perhaps you can help me. I vividly recall a photograph of an
unusual outsize steam tractor in one of the mechanics-type
magazines. I would guess the article dated to the late fifties. I
saw it in a stack of old Popular Mechanics, Science and Mechanics,
etc. type magazines in a carton at the now defunct Jack’s
Auction Market in Pine Brook, New Jersey what would be called a
This was around 1967, a warm summer night, and Dad and I were
magazine mining, as it were. What immediately caught my eye was a
huge steam tractor. The machine was photographed lying in a field
and according to the caption was ‘awaiting restoration’. It
was more or less an unrestored ‘fossil’. What struck me as
most interesting about the machine was it had a cab over the
center, actually aft of center, of the boiler, like a Camelback
locomotive, and had enormous drive wheels eight feet in diameter
and having a definitely spooky or spokey appearance. The machine
also appeared to have a very high ground clearance, seeming like
six feet between the boiler and the ground. The cab appeared to be
of wooden construction. Also the entire boiler barrel appeared to
be lagged somewhat along the lines of a water wagon, having a
distinctive ribbed appearance (see sketch). I have managed to
contact tractor historian Charles Wendel, and he thinks what I saw
may have been a Case 150, but that machine did not have a center
cab in the photos I have seen. Also the machine had a weird
‘dinosaur groin’ thing under the boiler, an ash pan,
perhaps? Perhaps you Iron-Men can shed some light, if not mere
filings, on this monster road locomotive.
‘Some time ago (a few months) I sent a letter to Mr. Hedtke
and never received a reply. Well, good hunting! And again, I am
hoping you can solve this mystery of the past. Valve off and
throttle closed! K.C.’
FRANK M. SILVA, 1 Wolfback Terrace, Sausalito, California 94965
sends this definition with his photo. ‘This picture is of a
model I acquired at a recent auction in San Francisco, of a Case 75
HP traction engine. It is 42′ long with 12′ diameter
driving wheels, and is in excellent working order.’
‘If you know of any available books having information on
this engine, I would appreciate knowing the source.’
‘I recently purchased a model steam engine that I have not
seen before. I would like to know if some of your readers could
tell me more about the engine. The insignia on the side has GB, N,
Bavaria, on it. The boiler is 13 long, 4? wide; the flywheel is 5
diameter. It is an alcohol burner, 1′ stroke. The boiler is
brass as well as most of the other parts. I would appreciate any
information and will answer all letters.’ LOUIS G. SHAFER, 7125
Old Clinton Highway, Knoxville, Tennessee 37921.
I always like to tie up the column with some advice or words of
wisdom. Today I have picked an acclamation of courtesy called
‘Beatitudes For Friends Of The Aged’ (that includes a lot
of us doesn’t it?):
Blessed are they that understand my faltering step and palsied
hand. Blessed are they that know my ears today must strain to catch
the things they say. Blessed are they who seem to know that my eyes
are dim and wits are slow. Blessed are they that looked away when
the coffee spilled at the table today. Blessed are they with a
cheery smile who stop to chat for a little while. Blessed are they
who never say, ‘You’ve told that story twice today.’
Blessed are they who find the way to bring back memories of
Yesterday. Blessed are they who make it known that I’m loved
and not alone. Blessed are they who ease the days on my journey
home in loving ways. Esther Mary Walker
And you know what? I don’t think that is a dissertation for
the aged but for all ages, including me.
And I’ll add a few more courtesies: Never speak loudly to
one another unless the house is on fire (that’s a pretty hard
one). The greater the man, the greater the courtesy. Nothing costs
so little and goes so far as Christian courtesy. Courtesy is a duty
the servants of Christ owe to the humblest person on earth. The
measure of a truly great man is the courtesy with which he treats
small men. (These are taken from Uncle Ben’s Quote book by
Benjamin R. DeJong.) So as you make your trails and trips this
upcoming ‘reunion season’, remember these few suggestions.
I bet they will make a lot of folks happy, including you.
And don’t forget to get the stories and little incidents
that happen while you are traveling, all of us would like to hear
from you. I’ll be waiting for your letters. Love you all!