The Story of a Large Engine and an Iron-Man

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Mr. B. C. Beall, second owner of Aultman-Taylortaken at sawmill. Courtesy of William E. Hall, 15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.
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Courtesy of William E. Hall, 15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.
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Courtesy of William E. Hall, 15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.
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Courtesy of William E. Hall, 15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.

15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.

This is the story of an Aultman-Taylor traction engine built in
1912, serial No. 8306. It is a 20 hp. with a bore and stroke of
9′ x 11′, built to carry 130 lb. boiler pressure. This
engine was built by the Aultman-Taylor Machinery Co. of Mansfield,
Ohio, during the winter of 1911-1912. Mr. Joseph D. Miller went to
the factory to inspect the erection of the outfit while it was
being built, as there were some special items on it which was not
standard. A special size thresher was also built to go with it, a
32 x 56, instead of the standard 32 x 50. It is impossible to tell
when he was gone to Mansfield, from his home at White Oak (no
plural, please), Silver Spring, Md., as the original papers have
been lost.

Mr. Miller, who was a highly skilled operator and repairman of
all types of equipment, is supposed to have paid cash at the
factory for the engine and thresher. This was probably done by
borrowing the money on a note drawn on a local bank, as this was
the local custom here in this area. It probably was in the
neighborhood of $2,500 to $3,000 dollars, which was a lot of money
in those days.

Mr. Miller was a well-to-do person in the community, and was
known to one and all as just ‘Joe’, even his own family
friends, fellow-workers, bankers, neighbors, children and
grandchildren. Joe made his living with one hand as he had lost his
right hand in a corn shredder at the age of 20. He had an hammer
made with a hollow wooden handle which was tied onto his wrist with
leather thongs, and later a piece of belt with a buckle. He was
truly an Iron-Man and it was a pleasure to have known him. He was
born in 1877 and worked with machinery until his health failed in
1949, and passed away in 1957. It was necessary for his children to
knit him special mittens with round ends so they would not pucker
up on the ends, and put elastic bands in them to keep them on. On
one occasion he worked most of the day on a well pump in. a well
pit and you can guess the surprise of the pump owner when he
discovered Joe had been working alone with only one hand.

It was traditional that as he left the yard to start his
threshing runs, he would blow the whistle and people on farms 5 to
8 miles away would know that Joe was on the way, and they could
start to get ready for him. Many times the trips meant detours of 5
or 6 miles to avoid weak bridges, so the engine was equipped with
an extra water tank as some of his runs between jobs was also 5-8
miles between water stops. The close maneuvering in some locations
would not allow the use of a four-wheel water tank or a tender. The
thresher and baler were enough to have to handle in a tight barn
yard, especially with one hand. I might add that most of our
threshing was done out of the barn loft.

He invented and installed a special straw rack and connected the
blower so it ran very slowly and blew out only the chaff, and only
clean straw fell on the feeder table or the baler, as they threshed
in one operation. He was assisted in this by Mr. Walter
‘Stump’ Miller, who also ran the engine on some of its
threshing runs.

The thresher was popularly known in my area as the ‘BIG RED
BOX’. He threshed for many people for 25 years has never been
paid for it by them. He would sometimes write the bill down on the
side of the thresher and then that winter paint right over the
records. He carried a bicycle on the top of the thresher and
sometimes would ride the bike home, getting home at two or three in
the morning. He rode the bike from 1912 to 1918, when he bought his
first car, a 1918 Dodge Town Sedan. This car sat in the barn in
good shape until about 1941. It was also traditional for Joe to
blow the whistle when he got home after the threshing run to let
everyone know he was thru for the year.

By the way, here is the story of the Aultman-Taylor starved

‘This is the cock that crowed in the morn

Mr. Joe Miller, original owner of Aultman-Taylor No. 8306.
(Obtained through kindness of Miller family).

With feathers deranged and look forlorn
For scratch where he might and look where he may
He found not a grain his labors to pay
Aultman -Taylors thresher had been this way’
(taken from a 1897 catalog)

This story may sound as if I am writing a story as much about
Joe, the thresher, etc. as the engine and this is true as they all
are inseparable.

Now we will get down to the engine itself. This engine was used
for about everything a modern tractor was used for, such as road
construction, saw-milling, threshing, stump pulling, and many more
jobs. As far as I know no plowing was done here in this area as the
fields were too small, but some freighting was done, but not with
this engine, except pulling the thresher and baler from farm to

This engine has many unique features that keep us young
engineers on our toes, as we frequently find things that should not
be there but are, and things that should be there but are not.

The wheels were specially built to Joe’s order with riveted
cleats instead of being cast into the rim as on the standard
Aultman-Taylor Wheel. It is the only Aultman-Taylor I know of that
has them this way. The second set was specially designed and
installed by Joe himself, after being cut and bent by J. B. Kendell
Iron Works, of Washington, D. C. This is only one of the many
special items Joe had on this engine. We have not figured some of
them out yet. If anyone does not think that this engine did not see
too much workit has its second set of cleats and second set of
gears and third set of bull pinions. The last set of gears that
were installed were road, or freighting gears, and they really make
a difference in the draw bar pull, as I have demonstrated to myself
and several doubting Thomas types. They were installed just before
Aultman-Taylor went out of business in 1926.

The engine made its last threshing run in 1932 or 1934, when it
was placed in storage in favor of a Hart-Parr gas tractor. It was
next used about 1939-1940 to clear land for Stump Miller’s new
house, and then was parked again.

Joe could not part with the engine, and no one had started to
collect engines in this area at the time.

Side view of Aultman-Taylor No. 8306 after restoration. Photo by
Ray Brubacher.

There are many stories to be told about the engine and I will
repeat a couple of them.

One is the story of the day my grandfather, Mr. B. C. Beall, of
nearby Burtonsville, Md. who had worked together with Joe all their
lives, paid Joe a surprise visit. As he pulled up in the yard at
Joe’s house, he found much to his horror the engine completely
dismantled and laying about in pieces. After my grandfather leaped
out of the old Model ‘A’ we used for a tool wagon and found
Joe he yelled ‘My gosh, Joe what happened’. Joe calmly
replied, ‘Nothing Bun, I just wanted to look at it.’ This
is the way Joe took care of his machinery and is one reason my
engine is in as good a shape today as it is.

Another is the story of the time one of the spring-loaded grease
cups on one of the front wheels became plugged up, and before Joe
realized it the front wheel locked up on the axle and wrung the
axle off right in the middle of the road. It was necessary to drill
the broken piece of axle out of the wheel hub and order a new axle
for it.

Many people did not approve of putting motor oil in the boiler
every winter, but this was almost a religious procedure with Joe.
He would fill the boiler almost to the top and then add about five
gallons of oil, and warm the boiler up and slowly drain it down.
Between 1912 and 1963 only one new tube had to be put in the
boiler. This tube had a pin hole in it right in line with the feed
water inlet from the cross-head pump, which Joe used at all times,
seldom using the injector. In fact the engine still has the
original U. S. injector on it and it is in perfect working
condition, but the seats in the pump are almost worn out.

Mr. B. C. Beall, who was my grandfather, and I were the only
ones still using steam but Joe would not sell us the engine. One
day my grandfather, who had been a life-long friend of Joe’s
kept asking Joe about it, and Joe finally said, ‘Alright Bun I
will sell you the engine for $500 dollars.’ My grandfather
said, ‘No, Joe I won’t give you but $300 dollars.’ Joe
said, ‘NO’ and that was the end of that for the day. My
grandfather finally bought the engine from Joe’s family after
Joe’s health became real critical. This was about 1955.

My grandfather had been with such machinery for over 50 years
and I had been with him since I was 5, as I was raised by them from
5 weeks old due to the death of my mother. My grandfather and I
replaced our 16 hp. Frick with the Aultman-Taylor on our sawmill in
1956 and sold the Frick, which was in bad condition. My grandfather
suffered a heart attack in 1957, and I closed the mill soon after
due to this and a shortage of timber.

After my grandfather’s death in 1960, I took the engine
home, as like JoeI could not part with it.

In 1963 I began the restoration of the engine to factory-new
condition including all new tubes. With the help of a friend, Mr.
William Waters, of Damascus, Md. the work was completed in 1964. It
has been kept this way with help from him, Eddie Adams, currently
in the U. S. Navy and several more, including Stump Miller. I must
also remember the Burtonsville Fire Dept. for the occasional
‘loan’ of a load of water.

Aultman-Taylor No. 8306. Left to right:-Eddie Adams, U. S. N.
engineer; 7-11 store manager; William Hall, owner; Jody Barger,
shotgun guard. Photo by Ray Brubacher. C

I might mention that this is the same Aultman-Taylor that has
been in the Iron-Men Album in two other stories, one of the rides
Eddie and I took on New Year’s Eve to the New Year’s Eve
party at twelve midnight, (Mar.-Apr. 1970 mag.) the other a
five-mile trip down paved highways, including a stretch of 70 mph.
expressway, back to the farm site where it was when it was new
(Sept.-Oct. 1971 issue). Both trips were photographed by Mr. Ray
Brubacher all of the way. The only one who knew we were coming was
Joe’s grandson, who tried to stay home from school, but went to
school rather than give the secret away. Mrs. Miller, Joe’s
daughter was surprised while working in the yard, Stump, who ran
the engine on threshing runs was called home from work, and Doug,
Joe’s grandson, who occasionally gets a chance to play with the
engine, the third generation of the family to do so, was soon on
the scene.

This engine has frequently been exhibited at the Maryland Steam
Historical Society show at Arcadia, Md. and at the Shenandoah
Valley Steam and Gas Engine Assoc. Show at Berryville, Va. It was
also operated at the Knights of Pythias picnic at Laurel, Md. and
The National Capitol Trolly Museum near Silver Spring, Md. It is
frequently fired up at my place on Saturdays and Sundays as I have
a one mile gravel road I can run it on for fun. I also pull pine
trees on my place to clear more ground.

While doing so I encourage young people to care for it and learn
to run it. I repeat again that only with the help of the young will
we keep our engines running.

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