Once again, we're pleased that we're getting letters from readers who want to share opinions or seek information from others. And we encourage each of you to drop us a line whenever you think of something YOU would like to share with your fellow readers of IMA, or whenever you come across a question you can't answer.
As we work on this issue, fall is upon us. There are fewer shows
to attend in the coming months, and many engines will be moved
indoors for restoration work over the winter ahead. This is always
a good time to write a story about YOUR steam traction engine, or
about your group's show that was held last summer. We want to
hear from you!
And now, on to the letters:
EDWIN H. BREDEMEIER, Rt. 1, Box 13, Steinauer, Nebraska 68442 writes: 'The article 'Why All Pitchforks Are Not Alike' by Dr. Robert T. Rhode got my attention because I have spent many hours using many pitchforks.
'The best wood handles that I ever came across were made by Union Fork and Hoe Company.
'I never experienced using a two-tine fork but the three-tines, commonly referred to by Dr. Rhode, had three lengths, 4 ft., 5 ft. and six ft., used mainly for handling grain bundles, oats, rye, barley and wheat.
'The four-tine was used for hay, manure and general clean up. The early ones I have seen are designed like this rather than like this.
'There was a four-tine fork the same width as the three-tine bundle fork. My father always referred to it as a bundle stacking fork. It had a long handle. Father also had a four-tine fork the same width as a three-tine bundle fork with 6-6 ft. pipe handle of approximately inch pipe. He called it a straw fork, for firing a steam engine. There was a four-tine fork approximately 16 to 18 inches wide, referred to as a straw stacker fork. Then there were also five and six-tine forks about 12 to 13 inches wide referred to as manure forks.
'There were tined shovels, 12-16 tines, shaped like a scoop shovel used to clean up manure, and also tined tools like the above mentioned with a metal strip at the points, referred to as potato scoops.
'They always said in this area that scoopers and forks should be equipped with a seat and sun shade!
RANDY SCHWERIN, 3040 160th St., Sumner, Iowa 50674 writes: 'As I sit at my kitchen table and pen this, it's two weeks to our little local show at the end of August. By the time this comes out in print, most of the shows for the '96 season will be history. Where did the summer months go?!
'I've been busy here on the farm working on a couple of projects. One of these I plan on writing a story about, this winter as time permits, as I think it will be of interest to your readers.
'But now to the main motivation behind writing this letter: In your last issue you had a little niche in the column that concerned me more than just a little. It mentioned a reader who had called in to comment on the incident that took place at Gettysburg Railroad in your state of Pennsylvania some time ago. I personally have heard very little about this and am truly interested in learning what did happen. I, for one, surely don't advocate burying our heads in the sand on this issue of boiler safety as it is a true concern and, as the years go by, gets more important to everyone.
'I would personally like to send out a plea to the proper people there that have the facts on this accident to sit down and write an article and explain what did happen. Through bits and pieces I've gathered, whatever happened was due to low water because of a blocked or shutoff water gauge. If this were the case, this is a very basic thing as far as boiler operation and maintenance is concerned, and shows lack of knowledge on the part of the operators. As they say, accidents don't just happen, people make them happen.
'The second issue here is the unnamed reader who tries to interweave this incident into the traction engine side of the issue. I thought this was a very slanderous comment, particularly coming from someone who doesn't wish to have his name in print. As I've stated before, I think our track record over the past 50-some years will speak for itself and I personally don't like comments like this one that drags our good reputation through the mud.
'In the last issue, Larry Creed used the word diligent to describe our care for our boilers. For me, this hit the whole issue dead center. Know your boilers, their appliances and all the piping and fittings intimately, and care for them as though they were members of your own family. Our hobby's future depends on everyone of us to do our part in this important issue.'
At Randy's suggestion, we're going to see what kind of a response we can get from the folks at the Gettysburg Railroad, since this incident occurred there.
STEVE DUNN, PO Box 112, Cleveland, Oklahoma 74020-0112, says, 'I have enclosed a few photos of threshing at Pawnee, Oklahoma, this spring. This is the first time since 1992 we had dry weather. The photos were taken Sunday, May 5,1996 and show my Keck-Gonnerman threshing outfit. We did use different engines at other times such as Wood Brothers, Greyhound, and 50 and 65 HP Case. This year's show was one of the best in recent years. I found a set of IMA/Farm Albums 1947-1985, at this year's show and have been reading up on the early days of the hobby. Many fascinating articles by men who ran these machines for a living.'
A request from RICKY RITCHIE, Rt. 1, Box 228-D, Linville, Virginia 22834: 'I am seeking information from anyone who might be able to identify the manufacturer of a ground hog thresher. There are no casting numbers, paint or decals anywhere on the machine. It has two pulleys 6 inches and 8 inches with cast iron sides and cylinder, the rest is wooden. If anyone could help I can send pictures or measurements. I corresponded with Harry Cline several years ago, and he was certain it wasn't a Case. I would also appreciate any information concerning the Novelty Iron Works of Dubuque, Iowa. I have one of their shingle mills and would like to know how long they were in business. And lastly, I've been reading Iron Men Album for 10 years and have often wondered what the initials J.S.K. on the front cover stand for.'
Threshing at Pawnee, May 5,1996. Engine: Keck-Gonnerman 20 HP double No. 1636, owned by Steve Dunn. Thresher 36 x 60 Keck-Gonnerman 'Indiana Special,' No. 2359. Shane Fry and Bob Lynch pitching bundles. Tom Hall on separator, Steve Dunn on engine.
Another view of threshing at Pawnee by Steve Dunn, who is on the engine. Joe Graziana has the scoop shovel, Shane Fry and Bob Lynch are pitching bundles and Tom Hall is separator man.
Well, here's a good question, and fortunately one to which we have found the answer! The wheat border on the cover of IMA made its first appearance (in its present form) on the July/August 1953 issue, volume 7, number 6. Credit was given to John S. Kauffman then of R.D. 2, Mt. Joy, PA, in the January/February 1954 issue. Since Mr. Kauffman is not one of our current subscribers, we theorize that he may be deceased.
Apparently Mr. Kauffman was a talented artist, and we are reprinting one of his cartoons (see page 13), which appeared in the Spring 1948 issue of The Farm Album, forerunner of IMA.
Threshing, with Tom Hall on the separator checking grain as it is being weighed, and below, with Tom Hall of Newburg, Indiana standing in front.
Says KEN HOUGH, 809 Oak Street, Valparaiso, Indiana 46383: 'As the 1996 steam season draws to a close in the Midwest, I would like to thank all the associations my son and I visited, for putting on great shows.
'Each group excelled in many display areas except one. Photogenic threshing scenes. I mention this because I have been a professional photographer for many years, and I would like to take a photograph of a steam powered threshing scene without a 1996 model pickup truck or some other modern item in the background. This also brings me to the clothes that we wear at our shows. General manager, John P. Erdis, of the LaPorte County Historical Society, the museum where I volunteer, has for years complained about the 'uniform of the day.' I finally agree with him. It looks bad to see a steam tractor and a guy in a 1996 Tee shirt and ball cap advertising Bubba's Auction Service firing and running the old antique. I KNOW there are exceptions; when it's oppressively hot, oppressively cold, or just plain oppressive! What I'm trying to say, watch your sight lines on the camera so wherever a visitor or guest stands, you see the early days of powered farming. Keep the modern vehicles out and dress the part. After all, we are not that much different from Civil War reenactors. Viewers will remember the scene both in their minds and in their photos that will be passed on in future years. My apologies to Bubba's Auction Service, wherever you are!'
This is a viewpoint we haven't heard expressed in these pages before. We feel fairly certain that there are some pros and cons here, and maybe some others would care to comment on how they feel.
GARY YAEGER, 146 Reimer Lane, Whitefish, Montana 59937, says: 'Here are two pictures of J.I. Case 20 HP engines. Number one is of an engine my wife Sharon's grandfather, Jefferson Davis Simpson, (a relative of Ulysses Simpson Grant and Jefferson Davis) owned with four other neighbors. The photo was taken about one mile southeast of Moore, Montana, in the 1920s, threshing on his grain farm. Fritz Johnson was the engineer. Note the manure spreader used for the engine's coal.
'Number two is not too great a picture. Joe Yaeger, my dad, ran this Case on the Missouri River near the confluence of the Musselshell River in northeast Fergus County, Montana. It was owned by Fred and Mike Machler. They are threshing alfalfa seed in the late 1920s.
'Dad started going down on the Big Muddy in the late teens. The Machler Brothers had an old steamboat that had washed up onto a sandbar next to their property. They rigged the sternwheeler with boards to elevate water to irrigate their alfalfa. Dad, a licensed engineer, would fire the boiler during irrigation for them.
'Mike Machler located this 20 HP Case on the north side of the river for, as I remember, $50.00. There were no bridges in the area, so he and Dad went over, fired the engine up, ran it down to the river's edge and drained it. The next winter after a long cold snap, Dad went to the Machlers' place the day it warmed up. They took a tank pump, cut a hole in the ice, filled the boiler with water and built a fire in it. When they got up enough pressure, they drove it across the river on the ice, then drained it.
'The next spring, the Machlers got a centrifugal pump. Dad ran the Case up near the river bank where they dug up a notch in the bank and took off the right front wheel so the belt could reach the pump for irrigation. Dad removed the whistle from the steamboat and installed it on the Case. It can be seen as the tall, skinny piece above the steam dome.
'They used the Case to irrigate and thresh for many years. As a matter of fact, it was used right up to the time Fort Peck Reservoir was completed, about 1937, I think. I remember Dad saying they would get three or four sacks of alfalfa seed per day and it sold for $50.00 per sack. Not too bad an income for the depression period.
'As the water was rising in the river, Mike saw Dad in Lewistown one summer day and told him if there was anything on the old Case he'd like to have, he'd better get down there and get it. Dad and his brothers had a pasture near there on Crooked Creek, so he took a pipe wrench the next time he went to check fences, walked down to the engine and removed the steamboat whistle. He put it on their 32 HP Reeves Canadian Special Cross-Compound engine at home. I have it on my 15 HP Case at this very moment.
'The Case went underwater in the reservoir. Old timers claimed for years that they could see the smokestack sticking out of the water in the fall of a dry year. I flew the river about twenty years ago when the river was low. I didn't see the stack, so I would bet the ice broke it off during a spring ice break-up. I'd asked Dad why no one tried to remove the engine rather than let it go underwater. He said it would have taken a D-8 Cat to build a road down into the river breaks and pull it out. Nobody had any money then, so nobody tried.
'I used to enjoy listening to Dad tell the many stories about his experiences on the river. Like spike pitchers finding rattlesnakes under the piles of alfalfa. I remember Mike Machler when I was a boy. He was a colorful Swiss immigrant with a heavy brogue who loved to cook. Dad and I compared notes on Mike's sourdough biscuits.
'The story I liked best was the one I got out of Dad many years later. We'd been hauling barley out of our grain bins one spring. We had a terrible blizzard for a few days and when we got back to hauling barley, I remarked that it was too bad we didn't have pigs, as there was a bunch of swollen, wet barley on the ground around the auger. Dad said, 'It's too bad we don't have a still!'
'He proceeded to tell me how distilling whiskey was accomplished and how you used burned sugar to color the clear whiskey. I asked him how he knew so much about running a still. He told me that when he worked for Mike, he helped run the still Mike owned with his silent partner. Others' stills were broken up during prohibition but Mike's never was. His partner was the Sheriff!
'Thanks for letting me run on. Keep up the good work at IMA.'
LARRY G. CREED of RR #13 Box 209, Brazil, IN 47834 wrote to express his disappointment with the photo on our September/October cover. Larry didn't like the fact that the picture was 'fuzzy' nor that the same engine had appeared on a previous cover (January/February 1986).
We appreciate Larry's letter, because it does give us an opportunity to ask our readers to send us pictures that haven't been on our cover that should be! It's especially nice if the picture is a high quality one, and in focus, since reproduction rarely improves upon the original. In fact, Larry himself sent us a nice picture for us to use in a future issue, and we appreciate that, as well! So, if YOU'VE got a good picture of your engine that you'd like to see on our cover, please send it on in!
CHARLES D. MCCARTHY, 2302 Second Street, N.E., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55418, writes: 'As a long time subscriber to IMA I am sending you a picture (left) of an old time threshing scene, taken at the farm of Fred Schultz, in Meeker County, Minnesota, near the county seat of Litchfield.
'The man standing on the engine is Frank Schultz, the owner of the rig. On the ground behind him is his brother, Fred, the fireman.
On the tank wagon is James Brandly with his beautiful team of horses on the grain slacks. The pitchers were Ira Peters, George Wendtroth, Mike Schaltes, and the big man, in the center with the hat on, is Martin Madden, who gave me the picture. Frank had this taken by a professional photographer from Litchfield and gave a copy to all his crew.
'A man also named Wendtroth was his separator man and I was told they had run as long as 45 days without a major breakdown. The separator man and Frank could tell by the sound of the machine if trouble was starting and they would fix it ahead of time. The rigs had a fine work reputation and had a stack run of 45 days or more in Harvey, Manannah and Forest City Townships.
'My father had a farm in Harvey Township, Meeker County, and I grew up there in the early 1920s.'
MIKE MCKNIGHT, 1025 McKnight Loop, Mason, Tennessee 38049 sends us this: 'I am a 21 year old learning steam man. Steam engines, especially traction engines, are few and far between in West Tennessee. I first fell in love with the iron giants at the Pawnee, Oklahoma, Show in 1978, when I was three years old! My parents have a picture of me in my father's arms, riding on a Case engine. Even that young, I was determined I would one day own an engine. We subscribed to IMA in 1980, the next time we went to Pawnee, and have never let our subscription run out!
'This year I finally got to fulfill my lifelong dream of owning a traction engine, when I bought a 13 horse Gaar-Scott, engine number 15818. I would like to find out the age of my engine, if possible, and would appreciate any help I could get. The engine is in very good mechanical condition and steams well, but needs a cosmetic restoration, such as coal bunkers, water tank, original throttle valve, etc. I don't know of any close 13 horse Gaars in my area, so I would appreciate any correspondence from other owners to find out what is original.
'One request I have is for someone to write an article on the construction of boilers for the novice. I did not know the first thing about staybolts, crown-sheets, or anything! Also, the article could include what weak spots a boiler can develop, and what to watch out for. I know all the veteran steam men know, but someone needs to tell us beginners! Thanks to my good friends Joe McCraw, Tony and Jody Bakken, Rick Apple, and Dale Wolff, who told me what to look for, I was able to buy a decent boiler. Tony rode 600 miles with my father and me, to look at a Minneapolis engine, only to tell me in less than a minute the boiler was weak in several spots, and that I DID NOT NEED THE ENGINE! Nothing can beat an experienced steam man to guide you in buying your first engine, but if you can't get one, it would be nice to have SOME kind of guidelines.
'I will close my letter by submitting a photo of my engine. That's me on the engine, and Tony supervising. Also, I'm sending an old postcard I found in an antique store in Oklahoma. I hope you might use it in your fine magazine.
'P.S. I enjoyed seeing the picture of the 18 horse Gaar-Scott on the September/October IMA cover!'
'While on vacation in Michigan, in July,' write JOHN and RUTH DILLMAN, Hamlin, North Carolina, 'we attended the Michigan Steam Engine and Threshers Club Show in Mason, Michigan. This is the first time we have ever been to a steam show of this size. There was something going on at all times.
'One thing I would like to share with your readers is how friendly one of the engineers was. We have a handicapped son. We asked if our son could ride on his steam engine. He got right off and helped our son up on his steam engine and took him on a long ride. Our son even got to blow the whistle. When he got back, the engineer reached into his toolbox and gave our son a button with the picture of a steam engine on it.
'My hat goes off to Larry Mix, the engineer, who made one handicapped boy extremely happy. It is a good feeling that there are good-hearted, Christian engineers at these shows. Our son still speaks of the steam engine ride and he still has his button with the picture of a steam engine on it.'
Well, thank you, dear readers, for sharing your thoughts and your pictures. We look forward to hearing from more of you in time for our next issue. And as you gather with family and friends around the traditional Thanksgiving meal, when perhaps the camera has a new roll of film, go on outside and snap a few of your engines, too, and share them with us!