That wonderful steam!

| September/October 1977

Box 278, Faribault, Minnesota 55021

As soon as the smoke rises above the buildings, a group of old timers gather around. When I blow the whistle, the crowd doubles. When I threshed some bundles on my street I had no problem with help. The old timers from the 'Good Old Days' were on hand to tend the separator, pitch bundles and bale the straw. 'I ran one of these engines in 1919'.-'My granddad owned an Advance'.-'Steam is the smoothest power'. You could detect a trace of mist in their eyes as they spoke of the Good Old Days.

But these iron men do not speak entirely from sentiment. Steam is a wonderful, wonderful power. Let us compare steam with the modern gas engine. An automobile engine is a four cycle engine. For each power stroke the piston must travel the entire distance of the cylinder four times. The outboard boat motor is a two cycle engine and the piston travels the entire distance of the cylinder twice for each power stroke. In this respect we may say that the steam engine is a one cycle engine since there is a power pulse for each direction of the piston, both forward and back. Small wonder that steam engineers loved them.

On a gas engine, a fixed amount of fuel is admitted to the cylinder and the valve is closed. No more fuel can be added. As the piston moves forward, pushed by the pressure of the burning fuel, the pressures on the piston gradually diminishes. But the valve of a steam engine can be set so as to supply a constant pressure throughout its stroke. This applies to each and every stroke in either direction. There's no doubt heat is the destroyer of valves, rings, and pistons in engines. A steam engine, operating at 150 PSI, develops a temperature of about 365°, while gas engines temperatures are much higher. In gas engines, carbon and other deposits can create a variety of problems. But steam, the energy that is fed to the cylinder and valves, is pure. All the impurities in the feed water settle to the bottom of the boiler where they may be blown out. Only pure steam can reach the cylinder and valves of a steam engine. Lubrication of the piston and valves in a steam engine is thorough. I wonder if those parts ever wear out. My Case 50 is 60 years old. I entered the Rice County Fair Tractor Pulling Contest and the load that stopped all entries did not even slow us down.

The governors of a steam engine maintain a steady and constant RPM; steam is not wasted since pressure is automatically reduced when the load is reduced. As a further saving on water and fuel, the intake valve of a steam engine may be set to close off steam to the cylinder after a very short movement of the piston when the load is light. The expansive power of the remaining steam completes the work. The intake valve of the steam engine may be set so as to eliminate a great deal of the shock from the pillow bearings and crank pin. This is done by admitting steam to the piston a moment before the piston completes its full stroke. The shock of the reciprocating parts will then be cushioned by steam. This prolongs the life of the pillow bearings and should reduce the rocking of the engine to a minimum. When an automobile climbs a mountain it runs out of breath and loses power. Not so the steam engine! It delivers the same brake HP at 30,000 feet as at sea level. AND MORE!. Our traction engines, being noncondensing, have less back pressure due to the diminished resistance to the exhaust. Have I missed anything?

They say that love is blind. If there are any objections to a steam engine, I do not see them. The pleasure I have had with mine cannot be told. If bundles were available I would give my time and the use of my machines for an entire season without financial remuneration. However, one of the by-products I expect to receive would be some of the cooking as supplied in the 'Good Old Days'. The hungriest men on earth are threshers. The best cooks on earth are threshermen's wives. And the best music is the throbbing of a steam engine. TOOT! Coffee time! Fred, Smokey and I will be talking about plans for threshing those 80 acres of oats next Summer.


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