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Earl J. Robinson
Courtesy of Earl J. Robinson, Collins, Iowa 13 HP Gaar-Scott - see letter

Collins, Iowa

Dear Elmer,

After reading in one your magazines that we should send more
articles, I have thought for a good while of writing you-so here

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

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

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

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

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

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.’

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