The A-B-C's of my Steam Experiences (Avery---Birdsall---Case)

| July/August 1974

  • Swell running engine
    A no-name engine, built by several men in the Maryville and St. Joe, Mo. area about 60 years ago. It is a prototype and never got into production. It is a swell running engine and now owned by a man in Maryville, Missouri. Courtesy of Roger L. Eshelman, B
    Roger L. Eshelman
  • 3 HP American Sawmill engine
    3 HP American Sawmill engine running at our show. This is a 2 cycle engine and is a very fine running engine. This one belongs to A.C. Eshelman. Courtesy of Rogert L. Eshelman, Box 63, College Springs, Iowa 51637 GN-73
    Rogert L. Eshelman

  • Swell running engine
  • 3 HP American Sawmill engine

R. D. 2, West Winfield, New York 13491

In almost ten years of subscribing to the Iron-Men Album I have never before written up any of my experiences with steam, so better late than never. I first became interested in steam engines at the age of fourteen when I saw my first traction engine at the New York State Fair at Syracuse. Right away the bug bit me and I have been an avid steam enthusiast ever since. For two years afterwards my burning desire was to own an engine of my own. I wrote letters, answered ads and went on many wild good chases. It is unbelievable what some peoples' idea is of a steam engine. I went to look at everything from diesel road rollers to ditching machines.


One of these trips turned out all right as the 'steam engine' turned out to be an 8-16 Avery tractor which had been sitting in a manure pile since 1939, and what a mess it was! The two brothers that owned the tractor had tried to repair the tractor and had given up and as the tractor happened to be sitting behind the barn next to the manure pile, it soon became covered with manure. After a few years the pile rotted down and exposed the tractor again, which is the point where I entered the scene and bought the tractor. I got a friend and our John Deere 730 and went to get the tractor and tow it home on the shoulder of the road. Much to our surprise the old Avery came right out on the first pull, but only one wheel would turn, a front one. Also the steering wheel was rusted tight. A few days later after the generous use of oil and kerosene the wheels were turning on the way home. I spent about a year afterwards getting the old Avery in good shape, although far from being what we would call restored, it was ten times better than when I had found it.


Now all this time I was still dreaming of a steam engine, so at one show I became acquainted with George VanAtta of Barton, N.Y. who had a 1918 Birdsall traction engine which was for sale. I was able to make a deal by trading in the old Avery towards the Birdsall. As the engine was to be trucked home after the show anyways, they hauled it to my place and at last I had an engine. It was up to me to transport the Avery to Mr. VanAtta after I had finished it up, which took another year.

The years following were filled with experiences both good and bad, in which I learned a great deal about engines. Now, take into consideration that I was only 16 when I bought the Birdsall and had never so much as thrown a shovel of coal in an engine. Eventually, I did learn how to run and care for an engine. I think I was the world's champion fire puller, from having to dump the fire during some of the mishaps I had. I believe that these experiences were the best teacher, as I will never forget them.

Two of the more pleasant memories I had of the years I had the engine are the threshing show I had and the one steam show I exhibited. In 1965 I showed this engine at the N.Y.S. Pageant of Steam at Canandaigua, N.Y. for four straight days, all alone. There I met a man who was running a roller of Mr. Marshall's. His name was Stu and his last name I have forgotten. I wish all young engineers could meet him. Although he already had plenty to do, he was more or less always watching over me, giving good advice and lending me a hand when ever I needed help. The other engineers were too busy with their own engines. He alone had the kind heart to give a hand.


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