Box 241, Bird City, Kansas 67731.
I have been a reader of I.M.A. Magazine for many years and when a new issue comes, all other activity ceases until I have read all of it, including the want ads. Also enjoy the articles and pictures of the old engines rescued from the junk piles which will soon be restored to near new condition.
I have a story about a Junker being restored at a time when a good used engine could be bought quite cheap. Better start with the beginning of our threshing business. When I was nearly 19 my brother, S. V., who was 2 years older, and I, bought our first threshing rig. A 16 HP Russell #11182 and an Advance separator. The price was $600.00. It had been badly used but with a lot of work, we had the rig in fair shape and had a well paying run the first year, 1910.
About 1912 we had a blacksmith shop, also a garage in south central Nebraska with the shop fairly well equipped. Sort of a one horse place, the same as most shops at that time. The local Case dealer came in the garage one day and asked if we had a pair of tires that would fit his car. (We were selling a few tires which were not the best grade.) We found the tires and he said he had an 18 HP Gaar-Scott engine northwest of town that he would trade for the tires. We traded and some time later steamed the Russell and pulled our prize to the shop.
We knew that it had been badly wrecked and soon found that the cylinder head was blown out, piston rod broken, cross shaft bent, connecting rod bent and the front end broken, throttle gone and no injectors; also a few minor parts gone. We did not know the cause of the wreck but knowing the reputation of the former owners thought there may have been alcohol involved. They had run it only a few days after buying it from the man who bought it new in the early 1890's. We knew this man and he was a good operator.
We did have some experience working on steamers, but more ambition than know-how.
The boiler appeared to be in good shape, crown sheet perfect, no sign of a leaky stay bolt or flue, but the sides of the firebox were warped in just above the grates on each side. We straightened the bulges and put a new stay bolt in each, 22 in all. When drilling holes for the stay bolts we found no thin pieces neither did the metal paper to be burned. Can anyone tell me what caused this defect? It was a full water bottom boiler and had always been run in an area where the water is extremely soft. Never had a leaky stay bolt or flue as long as we had it. Working in our spare time and with some expense, we did a good job of restoring it. Made new stirrup for connecting rod, forge welded it, straightened connecting rod and cross shaft. We had a lathe and made a new piston rod made new coal bunkers, canopy and new head tank. Two new injectors as it had no crosshead pump. Injectors at that time cost about $15.00 each. Desmond injectors, good as any we ever used. Cleaned and painted it and it was a first class engine. It had a link reverse, the best I ever ran except for the Russell, but I doubt if the Russell would be satisfactory on much of anything except a balanced valve.
We ran this engine on a 36 x 58 Case separator a year or two in Nebraska and in 1915 shipped the rig to Bird City, Kansas where about 90% of the grain was headed and stacked. All grain in Nebraska was bound, with much of it threshed from the shock, but some stack threshing. This engine was hard to fire, but my brother (S.V.) or I, could always keep it hot. Had the boiler been completely jacketed it would have fired easier. Some time in the 1920's two men came in the shop and asked if we would sell the Gaar-Scott and Case separator. S.V. was not there so I contacted him and as we could see that combines would soon take over we decided to price it. Thinking they would want us to cut our price, we made it plenty high. When I told them our price and they said they would take it, but we would have to wait for our money two or three weeks. (Didn't ask for a price cut.) In about three weeks we had their check. Had other deals that did not turn out so well.
I am in no way an authority on steamers but do have my own opinion of different makes I have run including Russell, Case, Nichols & Shepard, Advance and Huber. All had their good features, with the Russell being my favorite belt engine. The Huber the most economical on fuel and the most powerful, the 25 x 75 Case.
I was talking to our local wheat king one day, Mr. A. Weaver, and he said he had a few fields that they had failed to get on the regular run. Took more than 3 weeks, as he found more than he had expected. Had his 25-75 Case on a 40-62 Case with long extension feeder. With 8 pitchers that thing would eat a lot of hay. Have no idea how many bushels we threshed, but it looked like a lot.
I ran the Huber for an uncle of mine late one fall to finish his run near Clayton, Kansas. Being late in the fall it was not a belly burner. A nice engine to run and the only one I ever ran with a crosshead pump that always worked. The slow RPM of course accounts for the good operation of the pump. Never had much luck with a crosshead pump on a Russell, too high speed.
I've read that it takes a long time to steam a cold Huber. Not if one knows how and my uncle knew the trick. Leave the fire door open enough to get a good draft and a Huber will steam about as quick as most engines.
I also ran the Advance on a fodder shredder one winter. Some days the temperature was never above zero. S.V. and I operated a lot of machinery during our fifty year partnership and always had a profit from threshing.
Our last year of threshing we used a 40-70 Flour City Gas Tractor on a Case separator. A nice tractor to handle and plenty of power. We owned many gas tractors with our farming operations. Most of them were good tractors at their time which included Flour City, Hart Paar, Emerson, Wallis, John Deere and I.H.C. most of which became obsolete many years ago. At the time of my brother's death in 1964 we were using 7 I.H.C. W9 tractors.
We had our ups and downs, but always came out on top. Never a serious accident but came close at times. A few fires with only one grain stack burned, but several straw piles went up in smoke.
What an interesting life I have had from horse and buggy to space age. Now Father Time is breathing down my back. Spend most of my time in bed or a wheel chair. Can take a few steps with the aid of two canes, but STILL A STEAM BUFF!