Well, Hi to all my wonderful IMA family, and a blessed holiday
season coming up. I know, I can never get used to thinking of
Thanksgiving and Christmas at this time, but that is the way it is
I must say, I feel a little better this year, as last
November/December issue I really thought that would be about the
extent of my communicating with you great folks, as the material
had really slowed down and the future did not look good. But praise
the Lord, for right now the letters are coming in fairly well, and
as long as that continues, I will continue, God willing! So,
please, don’t slow up now. I know there are many great pictures
and stories out there yet untold, and I’m a ‘waiting to get
them. So, while you are still out there touring the great U.S.A.,
get some more interesting bits to me of what’s going on all
I’ll bet you are getting some of your Christmas shopping
done at the great reunions. They do have some useful and beautiful
crafts at most of these events, so get two jobs done at once.
And now on to the communications for this issue.
JAMES ELLIOTT, 19475 CR 146, New Paris, Indiana 46553 writes:
‘Some 20 years ago, Margaret said, ‘We should have a steam
popcorn wagon when we retire.’ Well, I finally have a real
steam engine and a steam whistle, and the machine is not a fake.
Folks will like it; they have liked it for 11 years now.
‘We found our Cretors engine in 1981. It looked like it had
been dropped on a gravel road and stepped on, but it looked
restorable. Thanks to Ray Petersen of Grass Lake, Michigan, it is
restored, better than new. He is a fine machinery man and a
‘I built a popcorn wagon in my shop, with welded frame,
sheet metal skin, garden cart wheels, lawn mower handle and the
vent cover on top was Margaret’s bird bath. That steam engine
worked magic on the (homemade) wagon.
‘We have run the popper from Blanchard Mill Pond to
Rushville and shows in between. We also went once to Pawnee, Ok.,
and to Milton, Ontario. We try to visit with every customer who is
interested in the machine. In Milton, just about everyone wanted to
see the works.
‘In 1988, grandson Michael decided he wanted a steam popcorn
wagon. Ray Petersen restored a 1905 Cretors engine and Michael and
I built a second popcorn wagon. He has operated the popper in the
Michiana area for the past three seasons. We now have three
generations of steam nuts in our family.
‘We usually take two grandchildren with us to each show.
They love to go and they are good helpers. We spent our 50th
wedding anniversary at the Milton Show, but we really celebrated
all summer. Wow! What a fun steam machine!!
‘Anna Mae, we love and appreciate you!’ (Thanks so
much, James and Margaret.)
‘I am wondering if someone can help me. I would like to find
out what the original paint scheme is for a 1912 A.B. Farquhar 20
HP traction engine. Mark and Todd Slone and I bought it last fall
and we are in the process of getting it ready for the first show
this summer, which happens to be the feature tractor of the Butler
County Antique tractor club in southwestern Ohio. The engine was
built in York, Pa., and the serial number is 16333. I don’t
know how many we built and I’ve never seen one like it. A brass
tag on the smoke box door says the American Roads Machinery Co. The
only color paint under what the previous owner put on is silver,
which I don’t think is original, I hope! If you or anyone can
help me, I would greatly appreciate it.’
This letter comes from EARL ALSDORF, 7564 Bethany Rd.,
Middletown, Ohio 45044.
‘I hope you continue with the Soot in the Flues. You add a
Christian perspective to your writing that is always a joy to read.
I have been reading IMA since the early 1960s. (Thanks for the
‘Enclosed is an original Nagle Engine and Boiler Works
catalog from my files. It is written in Spanish (I guess), but the
dimensions are okay. Notice of special interest is the safety
valves. They are all the lever and weight type. This catalog is
1906. I wonder why they were using this outdated safety valve at
that late date? You are welcome to reprint this catalog for use in
IMA.” (See cut at right.)
The above came from RAYMOND SCHOLL, P.O. Box 359-A, Sugar Grove,
North Carolina 28679.
NORMAN W. PAYTON, RR 1, Box 84, Neoga, IL 62447, writes: ‘I
certainly do not want to be without IMA, and if Anna Mae is willing
and her health is not involved, don’t let her quit the Soot in
the Flues. I cannot contribute any material, as I know very little
about engines, but I grew up when they were in their heyday. I like
to hear them in action and I am a collector of whistles.
‘I belong to a group that publishes a magazine called
‘Horn and Whistle,’ which prints technical information on
homs and whistles, with photos. To subscribe, send $18.00 per year
to Horn and Whistle, Richard J. Weisenberger, Publisher, 2655 N.
Friendship, Lot 18, Paducah, KY 42001.’ (Readers, if you have
any whistle stories relevant to engines, etc., please send
‘My dear lady and friend!’ writes HARRY L. SHEARER, RD
#2, Box 70, Mifflintown, PA 17059. (Just a note, Harry, I was born
in Mexico, Pa., near your area, eh?)
He continues, ‘This is my first effort at writing anything
of this sort, so I hope this isn’t too bad. I have enjoyed
reading your column for many years. I pray that you find the
strength to continue. I especially like to hear about your family
and grandchildren, and we shared your grief on the passing of your
husband. We all have our low times, but it is through the
encouragement of others that we are renewed in faith and the will
to continue life’s struggle. I especially look forward to your
personal thoughts at the conclusion of each column.
‘I don’t own a steam engine, however I do have a Red
River Special threshing machine purchased by my father new in 1945
(not for sale), and we also have an operating Frick sawmill. I have
been thinking about writing a story for one of the magazines about
a silo filling experience I had in the ’50s.’ (Please,
Harry, let me encourage you to get that story to us. I’m sure
there will be folks glad to read it; that is what keeps this
magazine interesting and going.)
‘I thought I would send a note to thank you for your
wonderful column and for a magazine that has been a bimonthly
bright spot for the sixteen years I have been a subscriber,’
writes J. SCOTT ALTENBACH, 525 Shirk Lane S.W., Albuquerque, New
He continues, ‘A new issue of IMA takes priority over
everything else from the moment it arrives and isn’t put down
until read cover to cover. As with so many things that are pure
enjoyment, it is easy to sit back and do exactly thatenjoy it, and
not think about a contribution.’ (Maybe sometime,
‘I have been fascinated with steam machinery of any kind for
about as long as I can remember, but became an active participant
with the acquisition of a vertical 5×5 center crank steam engine,
the result of a want ad in IMA just after I started subscribing.
But, just like the magazine, you can’t stop at one.
‘Thanks to friends made along the some way, and some good
fortune, the collection has grown to several stationary engines, a
couple engines off of scrapped steam shovels, a 16 Aultman Taylor,
a 50 Case, several boilers and my latest addition, a beautiful
Lidgerwood steam mine hoist circa 1900.
‘Along with steam, I have long been interested in mining
history, particularly the history of hoisting machinery and
stumbling into the hoist seemed too good a chance to miss. Mine
hoists, sadly, have been heavily victimized by the scrappers
because of odd tax laws pertaining to mining property. As a result,
relatively few survive, and the majority of those that have been
preserved are not in working condition or are run under no load on
compressed air. To set that right and to learn first hand about how
the machines were really used, I am in the process of setting up a
small working shaft sinking operation on our farm. I can’t go
particularly deep, but I can go deep enough to bail water as was
done in a wet sinking operation, and in the process learn what a
steam hoist can do.
Russ Abendroth says, ‘Here is a safety idea I got from going
to engine shows. I’ve seen some engines blow a cloud of steam
horizontally across the crowd or make a cloud under the canopy and
block the operator’s view of what his engine is running. I
think exhausting the steam overhead would be a good all around
‘I would be interested in hearing from anyone out there with
a similar interest in steam mining machinery, as well as those
interested in Aultman Taylor traction engines. I finished the
restoration of my No. 7713 about two years ago, but still want to
accurately reproduce the logo with the picture of C. F. Aultman and
Mary Taylor. If anyone would be willing to share a good photo of an
original, I appreciate hearing from them. Again, thank you for a
wonderful magazine and a job well done.’ (Thanks for the
interesting letter, J. Scott, But I don’t see how you can sit
and enjoy the magazine and not think of contributing. Sounds like
you could write us a letter several times with items of interest.
Please think about it, or I might haunt you!)
An interesting letter with illustrations comes from RUSS
ABENDROTH, Route 1, Greenville, Wisconsin 54942: ‘Enclosed are
two questions and two ideas. Enclosed also is a picture of the late
Rev. Ritzman’s four-wheel-drive steam engine. I have looked at
this often and wondered how the axle pivoted in the drive sprocket,
and the only idea I can come up with is some type of ball gear. I
think it would be interesting if the present owner would supply a
drawing or picture of how this works.
‘Another question I have is about the workings of the Case
compounded cylinders. I understand the steam flow through the
cylinders, but I can’t help but think that with both pistons on
the same rod there is some degree of the pistons working against
each other when, in the little piston even though the little piston
is done expanding the steam is still pushing against it when it
starts pushing against the big piston. My other thought, does this
act like a regenerative system? And why wasn’t this more widely
‘I think the workings of this compound cylinder would make
for an interesting article. I hope my other two ideas are good
Another Abendroth idea, this one for flushing the sediment from
the bottom of the boiler. Put a small pipe on a garden hose, insert
through this valve set-up and nothing will have to be disassembled.
Rotate the pipe 90° to flush out across the front.
‘I also would like to see more articles where someone ran
several different brands of engines and talk about their strong and
‘Enclosed are a couple photos of my grandfather’s
threshing rig. Otto John Fresonke and his neighbor and friend, John
Buck, owned and used this Buffalo Pitts 35 HP engine for several
years. The photo shows John Buck on the engine and my grandfather,
Otto Fresonke, on the ground by the bundle wagon. On the thresher
is my dad, Jack, and uncles Herman, Otto Jr., Henry, and Rudolph.
All lived and died in the New England, North Dakota area.
‘Excerpts from the Hettinger County Herald include March 9,
1911: ‘Otto Fresonke bought two new Peoria drills and intends
to put in a large crop with his steam outfit this spring.’
‘May 11, 1911: The Fresonke-Buck 25 HP Buffalo Pitts outfit
broke 100 acres for Paul Schmidt. The outfit walks off with 8
bottoms and a crusher.’
‘May 15, 1911: ‘Fresonke and Buck traded their 25 HP
Buffalo Pitts steam tractor for a new 35 HP Buffalo Pitts, and in
addition to putting in their own crops, they broke 50 acres for S.
‘October 12, 1911: ‘Fresonke and Buck will start
threshing flax this week, with the Buffalo Pitts outfit. Mr.
Fresonke plowed 190 acres on this farm and a lot of Mr. Buck’s
place. The engine pulls ten plows, a crusher and a drag.’
‘December 1911: ‘Fresonke and Buck have pulled their
threshing outfit in for the winter.’
‘July 4, 1912: ‘Fresonke and Buck broke 50 acres for
Simon Carlson last week, which was seeded to flax. They are now
breaking for H. T. Lackness.’
‘August 29, 1912: ‘Fresonke and Buck started their
threshing outfit Monday and will now be busy until snow
‘As a young boy in the 1930s I used to play on this engine
and another one alongside. I think it was a Case, in Granpa’s
iron boneyard. There were several other tractors there also. I
remember a Gray, a Rumely, a cross motor Case, and Twin City. Seems
they did not trade them in those days. Anyway, they were all cut up
for scrap at the start of World War II. My Uncle Rudolph was doing
his patriotic duty.
‘My father, Jack Fresonke, died when I was six, and Mother
moved us to town. I then lost touch with farm operations, except
helping during harvest for friends while in high school. However,
in the last ten years a renewed interest has led me to get a
Montana steam traction engineer’s license, and I run an engine
whenever I can at steam shows and threshing bees. Some day I hope
to own a steam traction engine. In the meantime, I console myself
restoring and showing gas tractors. I have two Twin Citys and two
‘My note of thanks to my second cousin Robert Leacock for
much of the research of material used here.’ The above letter
is from FREDRICK FRESONKE, 2443 Arnold Lane, Billings, Montana
GEORGE WARE, 1765 Hoover Pike, Nicholasville, Kentucky 40356,
sends this letter: ‘Being crippled up with rheumatoid
arthritis, I also feel like giving up, but don’t you dare! When
I see so many things I would like to do and realize that I
can’t, I get, shall we say, down in the dumps.
‘Like my good friend, Billy Byrd, I came up when steam was
king. I have been around steam power since old enough to go with
the threshing rig and open the gates for the water wagon. You see,
my daddy was a blacksmith, thresherman, and also a sawmill
‘When a man was killed at the mill, he sold the mill and did
not finish the log he was sawing.
‘They were sawing a dead cherry log. The slab was heavy on
each end and thin in the middle, the sap being kinda rotten. When
the off bearer started away with it, to carry it across the track,
it broke in two and one end caught the saw. He was thrown off
balance, fell backwards and sat down on the saw. You can use your
imagination as to what happened then. I will not go any further
into the gory details.
‘When I bought my 80 HP Case engine and a mill in 1943, my
daddy went back to sawing after better than 25 years.
‘I make a plea that the few of us still living who were
operators write their personal experiences, accidents, etc., on the
days ‘when Steam was King.’ It would make interesting
reading to hear of the events they have witnessed or been told
about by friends, relatives or neighbors. Some of their experiences
might possibly prevent an accident from happening, as that could
spell the end of the steam shows.
‘I have a 20 inch cylinder Case threshing machine that I
will give to anyone who wants it. It is rough but could be rebuilt
or used for parts.
‘I am enclosing two poems for the readers to enjoy. The
water is pumped up in the boiler, the fire is banked in the
firebox, and the steam is down to 50 pounds, so I think I will head
for the haymow.’
Here are Mr. Ware’s poems:
Around the Corner
Around the corner, I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end;
Yet days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it a year is gone.
And I never see my old friend’s face,
For life is a swift and terrible race.
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.
And he rang minewe were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired with playing a foolish game,
Tired with trying to make a name.
‘Tomorrow,’ I say, ‘I’ll call on Jim,
Just to show that I’m thinking of him.’
But tomorrow comes, and tomorrow goes,
And the distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner, yet miles away
‘Here’s a telegram, sir, Jim died today.’
And that’s what we get, and deserve in the end.;
Around the corner, a vanished friend.
There is nothing whatever the matter with me.
I’m just as healthy as can be.
I have arthritis in both my knees
And when I talk, I talk with a wheeze.
My pulse is weak and my blood is thin,
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.
I think my liver is out of whack
And a terrible pain is in my back.
My hearing is poor and my sight is dim,
Most every thing seems to be out of trim.
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.
I have arch supports for both my feet,
Or I wouldn’t be able to go on the street.
Sleeplessness I have night after night
And in the morning, I’m just a sight.
My memory is failing, my head’s in a spin,
I’m peacefully living on aspirin.
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.
The moral is, as this tale I unfold
That I’m just plain growing old.
It’s better to say I’m fine’ with a grin,
Than to let anyone know the shape I’m in.
Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.’
A nice letter comes from CLIFF BAUMER, Washington, Missouri
63090 as he says, ‘At 35, I’m one of the younger generation
of engineers, but many of my best friends are in their 80s. My hat
is off to the many fine old gentlemen who over the years have taken
the time to teach and encourage young engineers. They are greatly
appreciated. A special thanks to you, too, Anna Mae, for your
column. Your words are especially encouraging at a time when the
courts and the liberal media are doing their best to remove any
positive references to God from our society. Keep up the good
work!’ (Thanks much, Cliff, for the encouraging note.
Perhaps you have a story, pictures, etc., to enter?)
JODY BAKKEN, 2175 Mangum Rd., Memphis, Tennessee 38134, writes,
‘Two years ago my dad bought a Minneapolis traction engine out
of the Album, serial #6132, 20 HP, supposed to have been built in
1910. I’m not sure whether it is a 20 HP or not, because there
are some very noticeable differences from other Minneapolis engines
I have seen. The most noticeable difference is that the heater is
very short and the front of the cylinder is even with the stack.
Another difference is that the governor is sitting up just as high
as the top of the stack.
‘Is there any possible way that you can tell me exactly what
year this engine was built, and if it is a 20 HP or not? My dad and
I are very curious about the puzzling differences with this
JOHN S. FONTANA, Route 3, Box 193, Pinckneyville, Illinois 62274
sends us this writing concerning the Jeremiah O’Brien; perhaps
some of you have heard of this ship?
‘I had written you some time ago concerning Pinckneyville
show and had my pictures on the back cover. Thanks!
‘I am currently on West Coast, shipping out again, and went
over to San Francisco to see this ship. If anyone is in the Bay
Area, maybe they could visit and see it. Most of the restoring work
was done by volunteers who sailed these ships during WWII. A lot of
these ships ran on commercial runs until the mid-Sixties. The
O’Brien was built in 57 days. Some were built faster than
‘The O’Brien is steaming up one day a month and makes a
trip out under the Golden Gate the third weekend of May; the
steamup is also at that time.’
John had sent a lot of pictures and brochures alongperhaps a
great many of you folks know about this interesting ship. Thanks,
‘Just a note to say Hello,’ writes RAY H. AUSTIN, Box
16, Collingwood, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, Canada BOM 1E0.
‘Please do not ‘hang it up,’ IMA would not be the same
‘For some time now, I have been thinking about getting a bit
of history together as to my Dad’s sawmill, powered by a Robb
steam engine.’ (Please do, Ray. That is what this body of
readers like to hear.)
‘When I was ordering some extra copies of a back issue, I
mentioned that I have one of the steam engines that was in Elmer
Ritzman’s collection,’ writes JAMES G. TUMEL-SON, 620 S.W.
15th Street, Seattle, Washington 98166.
‘Enclosed is a letter from Don Ervin showing a photo of the
engine. I was contacted by Patrick Mullen from whom I purchased the
engine. If anyone has any more information as to where it was built
and the approximate date, also where it was used, etc., I surely
would like to be able to pass it on.
‘I show the models I’ve built, along with others
I’ve acquired, in Washington and Oregon during the summer. I
usually make it to four to six shows a year, and it’s nice to
be able to give the history as accurately as possible, so I would
appreciate all information.’
Following is James’ letter from Don Irvin: ‘This engine
came from the auction of Elmer Ritzman’s Museum, Enola, Pa., in
1975. Elmer, who was the founder and publisher of Iron Men Album
magazine, died in 1971. His museum records indicate this was a
working engine, not a model, and came from a New England garment
factory, where they had their own shops build their own engines to
power the sewing machines with a rope driven belt. These engines
were not sold on the open market.’
The following letter came to us without the address, on purpose.
The man does not want his name printed, as you will read. All we
know is the name is EVERETT.
‘Dear Friends, I am a first time writer to your fine
magazine, and am writing now because every time I open it (and
others) up, I seem to see nothing but Case, Case, Case! I am
ninety-three years old and have owned and run many threshing
engines, and without a doubt, the worst of the lot was Case. Now I
don’t want to knock anyone’s engine, or hurt feelings, but
where are the men to support the real engines, like Advance,
Rumely, Garr-Scott, and Nichols and Shepard? These were smooth
running, reliable engines; also Reeves was a powerhouse we
contracted to do road building work one year with a Reeves engine,
never wanted for power.
‘In 1915 I ran my first rig for a dear old fellow who forgot
more about steam than most engineers ever knew. He taught me a lot,
but one thing I never forgot was him telling me, ‘Boy, most
rigs will run okay if they are well taken care of, but whatever you
do, never, ever buy a Case.’ We had Case engines and separators
in our area and they never lasted. They seemed to be shot in one
season. If a man bought a Case, he never bought another one. And he
could not get much for a trade-in on one either. By us, you
couldn’t give a Case away!
The next several pictures were sent by Bruce McCourtney. Of this
photo, he says, ‘We moved this house out of Reserve, Kansas to
a farm southwest of Falls City, Nebraska in 1950. It made the
little 16 HP Russell a real load in some places, but with 170-175
lbs. pressure made it real stout. Russell engines are tough and
made of real good stuff. I have broken several gears out of
engines, but never on Russells, and we owned seven Russell engines.
We had 23 engines at one time, 43 total.’
‘Southeast Nebraska 1950, McCourtneys moving a house. I
pulled this house with an 18 HP Aultman Taylor Engine No. 8827, 14
miles one day, carried 170 lbs. pressure. There were lots of wires
on the route. We used tandem trucks or dollies in the rear. Some
roads had soft shoulders.’
‘But the boys who had a good Advance Universal, or Nichols
or Garr-Scott rig, why it seemed they lasted for years and years,
and always got a good trade. I had heard lots of times that new
fellows to the threshing business would buy Case because it was
cheap, but they never had repeat business. Like the old saying
goes, you get what you pay for! Many of the old companies had a
reputation for quality in our neighborhood, like Rumely and even
Wood Brothers, but Case was not among them. Could it be they
followed the market like Henry Ford did with his little rattletrap
Model T: something everyone could afford but would not stand up to
other rigs that were a little more expensive but were built to
‘I would like to see letters from you older men who actually
worked with these engines, not just paraded them around once a
year. If I am wrong, I have not meant to hurt anyone’s
feelings. That was the way it was in our neighborhood years ago. I
enjoy seeing any engine work, even Case, but I am speaking of
making a living with them year in and out. Please write in to the
magazine and tell me what you think. I would like to see the
magazines give the great old lines their due and not be so
unbalanced towards Case. Oh, and please do not print my address, I
don’t want a lot of mad Case folks coming after me! Sincerely,
‘Here are some pictures I think you might be able to
use,’ writes BRUCE McCOURTNEY, Syracuse, Nebraska 68446.
‘We McCourtneys moved lots of buildings besides dirt moving,
threshing, baling, corn shelling, pulling stumps, etc. with steam
engines. We worked central Nebraska, southeast Nebraska, northeast
Kansas, southwest Missouri, and western Idaho.
‘My father, Charles McCourtney started house moving in 1895
and again in 1953 because WWII cost us the lives of my two
brothers, three nephews, one cousin and two hired men. I was too
young for WWI and too old for WWII. I asked for the Navy in WWII
but was turned down because I was 36 years old.
‘I’m sending these pictures to you because I know you
better and I’d even trust you with my wife and my car; I’m
not so sure of the rest of your gang. (Come on, Bruce, they are
all great folks!)
‘I’ve been moving in the territory and we have lots of
hills and bluffs and bridges between all hills, so we couldn’t
use just a big engine, so lots of times used two engines.
‘Hope you enjoy the pictures!’
I always try to get some inspirational thoughts in the
November/December issue. I’m sure we all have our own ways to
celebrate a season that makes us think more of the great blessings
we enjoy. The following was suggested as part of a Spiritual
Workshop feature from Guideposts magazine.
‘In addition to your regular Christmas giving plan, or in
place of it, make out a special list solely of gifts of self. It
could include things you make, cook or grow; also visits to the
lonely, gifts of time for babysitting, letters of appreciation. One
of the best gifts could be the simple asking of forgiveness of
someone you have wronged.
‘In preparing a Christmas card list, include people who
would least expect but most appreciate a remembrance from you. What
people have you lost track of? Include them too. Then send one to
the person you most dislike. Use your imagination in creating a
list that you think would please God.
‘In conclusion, remember that gracious giving requires no
special talent, nor large sums of money. It is compounded of the
heart and head acting together toward the perfect expression of the
spirit. It is love sharpened with imagination. The best gift is
always a portion of oneself.’
In closing, may I wish you all a blessed Christmas season and
beautiful new year filled with many of God’s blessings.
At right I’ve included a Christmas puzzle that you might
enjoy. The answers are at the bottomdon’t peek!
I don’t know why I never thought of it before, but you folks
seem so close to me and I’m going to send along this photo shot
(above); this was a fairly good picture of Ed and me a few years
ago. Now you know what we look like; someday I’ll send a snap
of our young’ns. Love you