Thanks to a Barn, a 20 HP 1904 Advance Eludes the Scrap Drives of WW II

| March/April 2004

Steam traction engines have survived long enough now that most have very interesting histories. Now that this 20 HP Advance steam traction engine has reached its 100-year anniversary milestone, I feel compelled to write what I know about its storied life.


Built in 1904, the engine, serial no. 8138, was shipped to Nauvoo, Ill., although I don't know the original owner's name.

In 1918 Ollie Hays of New Hartford, Mo., bought the engine from its original owner, and had it transported by barge up the muddy Mississippi from Nauvoo to Louisiana, Mo., where the engine was unloaded and driven 25 miles to its new home near New Hartford, Mo.

At its new northern-Missouri home, Ollie used the 20 HP Advance to pull a 30-inch Keck-Gonnerman separator in threshing season and power a sawmill with the engine in the off-season until 1940.

This area of Missouri is rough country with steep, craggy hills and rocks close to the surface. The brutal terrain, combined with a working life, may explain the considerable wear found on the engine's lugs and skid rings.

After Ollie abandoned it, the engine sat idle and unattended in a sawmill site until 1980. Partially hidden by a large barn that still stands today, the sawmill is located off the main road approximately 100 yards away in a low-lying spot between two hills. I believe this contributed to the engine surviving the scrap drives of World War II.