Farm Collector

The Kitten Engine AND A Kitten Thresherman

North Terre Haute, Indiana

Away back in 1951 Robert sent us this story and somehow it got
sidetracked. As we never destroy anything it turned up after we had
the story of the KITTEN in the ALBUM last issue. This is a very
interesting article and shows some work on the part, of Bob. We
apologize and say thanks to him. – ELMER

I AM WRITING THIS ‘ story as told to me by Joseph F. Lueken
of Ferdinand, Indiana. He (Joseph Lueken) is now only 49 years of
age. He started working in the Kitten Machine Co., in November of
1922 until November 1927 and helped in building the Kitten engine.
Joseph helped to roll the boiler and punch holes. When the engine
was completed he painted and decorated them. The governor had three
colors-red, yellow, green – boiler, black, tank gray, (that is the
water tank in front of the boiler), tool boxes and the platform
red, valves were bronze, some parts of the engine were aluminum,
Pitmans were red with green trimming, the spokes of the fly wheel
were in three colors, red, yellow, green, and the rim was green.
They would give the boilers a cold water test when finished. They
would only give it 5 to 10 pounds more on water than steam as they
said cold water was so hard on a boiler. Sometimes they would run
it up to 40 or 50 lbs more. The weight of the engine entirely
equipped with water, tools, coal and jacks, is 17,025 lbs. All the
patents of the Kitten machinery were those of Joseph Kitten the
founder of the factory. Mr. Kitten started building engines around
1880. He first used an upright boiler then went to the marine type
boiler which was horse drawn. Then his first traction engine was of
high geared road speed. Then the ones that are now in use which
will do about 6 or 7 mph when wide open. There were 246 of these
later type engines built. The last engine was built in 1940 and
sold to Mr. Lueken in June 1942 for $2,550. It is a 25 hp. engine
and he uses it in his sawmill. The Kitten factory also manufactured
complete sawmill outfits and separators. The separators were all
wood, 36 in. cylinder and 60 in. separator belt driven blower. The
separators sold for $1,800 complete with a Ruth feeder and Hart
weigher. The factory still has some repair parts for the engines
and separators. Mr. Kitten died around 1920. The factory now
belongs to Sterling Bros. They used to be at Rockport, I11. They
now make truck beds and do general repair work, plumbing and
heating. I hope to get more information on the factory in time.

Joseph F. Lueken bought his own rig around 1927 when he quit the
Kitten factory. He bought a used outfit from the Herbert Grew and
Co. Threshing and sawmill outfits. It was a 22 hp. Kitten engine
and a 36×60 Kitten separator. This engine No. is either 67 or 76.
It was built in 1904. In 1932 he started threshing about the middle
of June and threshed to Sept. 3rd and lost only about 2 days from
rain. That season he threshed 80,000 bu of grain. Around 1934 he
had his engine rebuilt-new and larger boiler, had the cylinder
rebored, and put in a larger piston. They then called it a 25 hp.
engine. I do believe it as it had more than enough power to pull
the 36×60 separator with 130 lbs. of steam. In 1938 he bought his
second separator, a new Kitten, and he rented an engine from a
neighbor by the bu. threshed until he bought the new Kitten engine
in 1942. I’ll back-track a little-in 1939 with the two outfits
they threshed 120,000 bu. which is the most they ever did in one
season. He used his new engine only three seasons to thresh with as
he couldn’t do without it from the sawmill through the
threshing season. After this he bought an International Diesel
tractor to pull one of the separators. This year 1951 he used the
steam outfit about 10 days and the tractor outfit about 7 or 8
weeks. Mr. Lueken also has a Victor clover huller. It came from
somewhere in Ohio. It has a 36 in. cylinder 12 in. diameter.
That’s all he could tell about it. (Maybe some one in Ohio
could give us some information on the clover huller). He always
does his own repairing, painting and varnishing. And believe me
those separators look as if they just came from the factory. His
first engine is now 47 years old and runs like a top. It has a
musical exhaust all its own, incomparable to that of any other
engine. I have a fine taps recording of this engine threshing,
about 30 min. of it. I sure enjoy playing it to steam lovers.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1958
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