Courtesy of Earl J. Robinson, Collins, Iowa 13 HP Gaar-Scott - see letter
After reading in one your magazines that we should send more articles, I have thought for a good while of writing you-so here goes.
It's a Monday morning and I usually start off the morning by watching the Today show on TV. I suppose it would be interesting this morning with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meetings and with President Johnson in Honolulu.
I know it takes some doing to get off an article. I would rather start building a model steam engine- -but that too takes SOME doing and I don't even have the tools. To build an engine would first take some drawings and patterns and what-not, or you would have a funny looking engine when you got through. I don't know that I even have a very good chain of thought to start with, though I lay awake in bed a couple of hours this morning thinking back - you said to write anything just as if you were talking.
I might start my letter around a picture of a 13 HP Gaar-Scott which I showed you at Mt. Pleasant in 1962. By its unusual looks you said it might be a good picture to put in magazine and have readers guess about. Well, I am sending another picture of this engine taken later when the engine was being junked. Hope it is good enough!
I have the Jan.-Feb. 1966 magazine at hand and have skanned through it. Some very interesting articles! I think a little article entitled 'Thanks' from a teen-ager at Groveport, Ohio, is a significant one to me, for Elmer, what will you and Earlene and Anna Mae do for continuing the magazine for us of 60 plus, and indeed 80 plus when we are gone unless someone in their youth gets out a continuing magazine of such interest to the growing generation of teen and older readers??
In a way, I think I am as interested in astronauts and their vehicles and in the coming moon flight as I am in the old 13 HP Gaar-Scott. And in answer to my representative in Congress a few years ago when he was feeling around about what people thought of the costs, I wrote him that both my wife and I hoped we would live long enough to know that a man had landed on the moon.
Steam power on the American Farm is now history. I wonder what our fuel will be and the kinds of engines that will be used to farm in the year 2020?? The teen-agers will be the only ones now among us who will know. I would like to see some more articles from these young people and the ideas they are getting in their Science classes. Maybe most of we gray heads couldn't understand much of it, but I think it would be good for us to try.
As good a place as any to start the story of this 13 HP Gaar-Scott would be at the Thresherman's convention in Des Moines, Iowa, in March-I think in 1911. The meeting was trying to establish a firm and fair price for threshing wheat and oats. I was attending the meeting with my father. He wasn't a thresherman yet, but was to be that fall.
He had had a 10 HP Gaar-Scott for a few years but had traded it off the fall before for a two year old colt. He used this engine to drive a large Sandwich Hay Press, a feed grinder silo filler and a little Rosenthaul corn shredder-that name may not be right. The story of this 10 HP will be in a later article.
The Threshers convention being over, without establishing a threshing price however, we began shopping around Des Moines for a used engine. Inquiring at the Reeves and Co. place they said they had a used engine, a 13 HP Gaar-Scott. The name, Gaar-Scott sounded good and the size was just about what we wanted. The price was $210. but the engine was near Rose Hill, Iowa where it had been traded in on a new Reeves.
Father and I set out to see this engine, traveling of course, by rail; but first we wanted to see an engine at Milo, some 20 miles, I suppose, from Des Moines going there by rail also.
We found the engine out always from town. It was a Nichols and Shepard. The owner filled it with water and fired it up for us. When the gauge showed about 60 or 70 lbs. of steam, he tried to drive it around for us, but it wouldn't pull its self out of its tracks. It was settled in the ground - some, but not much. The man asked father what he thought of it. He said he thought he had a pretty good boiler, but that the engine was in bad shape.
Getting back to Milo, our job then was to get to Oskaloosa first, then on to Rose Hill. This wait for a train was one of several hours. Father asked the agent if we couldn't ride a freight train. He said he didn't know what luck we would have but that sometimes people did. A freight was due soon and he said for us to wait till the train started and then to board the caboose. This we did but the conductor wasn't happy about it and asked us where we were going. Father said we were going to -----(he couldn't think of the name) and finished his sentence 'to look at an old steam engine'. The conductor said that wouldn't do and hollered to the brake-man, 'Stop him, Sandy!' where upon the brakeman pulled the brake cord and the train came to a stop all the while my father was pleading with the conductor to let us ride, that we were not bums, etc., all to no avail. Getting off the caboose, we walked some mile back to the station.
After some hours, we arrived at Oskaloosa where we stayed the rest of the night. I remember my father looking at the bed sheets, but saying nothing. The next morning we learned that we had slept in a room where the woman had committed suicide the night before.
As I remember it, we took a livery team to the Harley Rose Farm at Rose Hill and found the 13 HP Gaar-Scott sitting in a pasture lined up to a saw mill. I was disappointed at the looks of it and didn't know that Gaar-Scott made that kind of an engine. We looked in the fire-box and all over the engine - nothing that one of the bull wheels (gear) was broken in two places. We went back to Reeves & Co. at Des Moines and my father told them that the engine wasn't just what we were looking for and that the bull gear was broken. The answer to that was, 'Oh, we'll give you a new gear'. After some dickering my father agreed to pay $200. for it if they would ship it to Monroe, Iowa where we would unload it. It was a deal and my father gave a note (promissory) for $200. I was surprised that strangers to us would take a note.
This being done, we returned via a Chicago Great Western Railroad passenger train to Mingo, where our team of horses had been left at the livery stable and on some 7 miles to our farm house. My mother and sisters had done the chores during our 4 or five days absence.
The engine arrived in due time at Monroe, where we unloaded it and drove it to the country blacksmith shop of Albert Nolin. He was also a good engine man and we wanted him to do some repairing to the engine. This proved to be more than we thought. This being a water-line front boiler, Mr. Nolin, after looking it over said the whole front flue sheet should come out and a new one be put in. This he did, putting in a plain flue sheet with new tubes some 14 or 15 inches longer and putting on air extended smoke box. Close examination of the picture shows a patch where the smoke stack was originally. This was done at a country blacksmith shop, mind you!
I think this is a good place to stop for now. More about this engine and threshing experience will have to come later. And, since I've started this letter I have dried the dishes for the wife, emptied the garbage can, fed the birds and looked up some writing paper.
If the fog lifts so I can drive, I still have time to attend the Annual Iowa Corn Growers' Association meeting at the Iowa State College at Ames.
Here you have it - just as is, first run, without any touching up.
He also got a week with pay for himself and his men by doing a bad job over the main railroad line in uptown Atlanta on top of a building. He finished up in a few hours what the company figured would take 2 weeks to do. He made a bargain with the office to save them a week of time and they took him up and all of the time he already had the job completed, so they always said he pulled a fast one on them over the long-distance telephone (an evil luxury in those days). He never lived this down, but still he got away with it because he was just that good.
The President once jokingly said, 'Homer, that is a mightily nice suit you got up in Montreal, Canada, and I do not see how you can have it figured in on this job as you held the cost way down below what we figured.' Homer answered back in contempt, 'By God, it is in there whether you can find it or not.' Homer usually wore better suits in those days than the President, and the Hickey Freeman was his favorite; $200.00 bucks today.
Homer thinks maybe he has driven two million rivets in his life, lots of them with a six-pound hammer with a partner on the opposite side; sometimes it was on a plank way out and 100 feet in the air. He used to tell the sidewalk superintendents, 'They don't make a habit of falling off.'