| January/February 1966

  • Minneapolis separator

  • Minneapolis separator

Box 76, Devils Lake, North Dakota 58301

Two years ago I visited the office of the Engineers & Engines in Joliet and met Mrs. Mary Louise Smith, a charming lady. Last summer I stopped in Davis California and met Mr. F. Hal Higgins and found him to be the most accommodating host in his office and large collection of data on about all makes of steam engines and other agricultural machinery. Have stopped twice at Mr. Walter Mehmkes beautiful farm place in Montana where he gave me, a complete stranger, the free run of his place to look over the large collection of his fine machinery and although he is a busy man he would stop to talk with me in a very friendly way and invited me to stop in again when in that territory. This year on my way through Pennsylvania I stopped in Enola to get acquainted with Mr. Ritzman of the Iron-Men Album and see his new shop where he showed me his collection of data also his engines and many other things of interest to a machine man. He is a man generous with his time and hospitality with a stranger. Now all these people that I have mentioned have personalities of the highest class with honest and friendly and true sociability starting from the first introduction and handshake. I can never forget them. Really and truly fine people. I am thankful to all of you.

I was raised here where we plow the long straight furrows and before the combine era used to thrash a quarter section field in a day setting in the morning, moving at noon to set for the afternoon run and if the crop was heavy it sometimes took long after dark to finish up the field although the machines hummed steady all day stopping only for noon.

Enclosed is a picture of a Minneapolis 44 x 72 inch separator powered with a Reeves 32 h.p. cross compound steam engine that I ran in 1914 '15 & '16 for Mr. Herman Kalliokoski who was one of the best thresher men in the great northwest where wheat is king. That Reeves cross-compound would just whisper with the toughest jobs. We fired with straw and you can tell that the fireman knew his job as there is no smoke showing with the exhaust. We kept the machines in the best of condition so there was very seldom any delay in the field except some belt might slip off on the separator when extremely crowded with heavy grain. We kept two sets of belts in case of breakage. In threshing oats the weigher could not begin to measure the bushels but had to be tied open so the grain could run out continually. After a half days run the straw pile would be crowding against the back of the separator. At times a rain was appreciated so we could sleep longer in the hayloft of a barn and listen to the patter of the rain on the roof. Some call this the 'big red barn district' of the Red River Valley. All threshing was done from the shocks which were sometimes so thick that I had to run over them while driving the outfit into the field. Every outfit here had a cook car along on the run set in the farmers yard. The regular crew consisted of 12 bundle haulers, 4 field pitchers, 3 side pitchers, separator man with helper-oiler, fireman, engineer, night watchman who filled grease cups, fixed belts and kept steam up for the morning, two girls in the cook car and the boss. The fall run was about 45 days work.

I told Mr. Ritzman that I would like to see a good picture of the Minneapolis 45 h.p. double tandem compound steam engine. There were only a few of these powerful engines made. I have seen only one which I ran in 1919 after coming back from the army. It is listed in F. Hal Higgins' books but there was no picture of it. The Minneapolis were not listed brake h.p. like the Case was listing theirs which listing was used in gasoline tractors when they started taking over.

I took a course in the Clarke School of Steam Traction Engineering and overhauled engines, refluing boilers and ran engines when in my 'teens.


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