RR3 Shawville, Quebec J0X 2Y0
Since we'd set the date for the 22nd of August and the summer so far had been one of the driest in recent memory, we expected the grain should be good and ready. But then, nature has a sweet way to let us know who's in control and we were glad that it did rain. Since the gang of men were on their way, and my wife along with the ladies had food prepared from the day before, I had to think fast. So I went to the other farm at 6 a.m. and lit the fire in the engine.
We had planned to saw lumber later in the day following the threshing, but the rain changed the order of things for awhile. A good skid way of logs cut a month before was just the thing the gang needed to make them enjoy their lunch. Steam was up in the 45 Case portable built in 1911. This was the first time we belted this engine to my portable sawmill. She had been a sawmill engine before retirement, twenty years ago. News came around that an engine might be for sale, but that it needed some work and even then, quite a few steam buffs suspected it could not be restored.
This is when experience comes in. I had had a boiler repaired before; my Sawyer-Massey needed some tube sheet work and this was the same situation. So, I acquired the Case in the fall of 1990, restored it last winter and now, here we were belted to a 36 inch mill with an 18 inch top mill just take the slabs from one end of the mill to the other into the firebox door. Now show me some cheaper way to saw lumber!
With 120 pounds pressure and between the downpours, a couple of fine meals and not enough pie, we managed 3000 feet of lumber. The men sawed 'til dark, while I milked my cows. And when the harvest moon came up, a flat hay wagon with a good floor was hastily drawn into place, a couple of jacks to steady it and the fiddlers, and the step dancers jumped on to stomp until midnight.
Everyone said they'd come back for the threshing once the weather agreed. We went ahead on the 26th of August. Not a cloud in the sky and you could tell it was going to be hot at 6 in the morning. This time it was the Sawyer-Massey we belted up. A 17 HP portable you could bring up to steam with a handful of wood chips. It's an 1896 tandem compound with no steam dome, serial no. 2104. Now if anyone could make boilers, it was Sawyer-Massey. They used a mud ring instead of the more common knife edge joint of the firebox as in the Case engine. My question is, how do you clean them out well enough to avoid corrosion? In fact, I'm convinced this Sawyer engine and boiler would not have lasted so long, if it weren't for this mud ring. Just consider that this engine built in 1896 worked 'til 1941 and had been sitting since then until the summer of 1988. Merely a week's worth of labor, and we had the pop valve blowing off at 120 lbs. The barrel is 26' in diameter with 36 2' tubes one inch short of 6 feet. Dry wood, 1 inches of water in the glass, the damper shut and the injector taking on water; two men forking in sheaves, I walked over to Keith Miller, our engineer for the day. He says with the water going in, she's sizzling at the pop set at 120 lbs.
Boy, is this engine easy to fire, and running a 22' McCormick-Deering separator is hard to drive for its size. In fact, I believe the 28' McCormick is easier to drive. Earl Kelly of Gatineau was with this engine back before 1941, working at threshing and filling silos with corn. The threshing mill used was a 36-50 Sawyer-Massey hand feed with a gang of 18 to 20 men. He also says during the days of barn threshing this engine carried 135 lbs.
That day we threshed 788 bushels of oats from 9:30 in the morning to 4:30 that afternoon with a crew of 16 and having lots of fun. The sheaves were big and the half-bushel dump on the mill was going steady.
They talk of the Case engines being good hill climbers-well, this one is not too good at this. A 45 portable fitted with 6' tires, she must have been quite a draw for a team of horses and possibly four. And even at that she sure would tighten the skin on their foreheads going up hills. And going down must have been quite a trick without brakes! Now I'm sure some were ordered with brakes but this 45 never had any.
I'd like to comment on the quality of the Iron Man Album, simply the best magazine about steam that's printed. Threshing stories from different parts of the country often turn out to be the same, the only difference is the number of bushels threshed.
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Arlo Jurney of Calgary, Alberta. He sure sent in a lot of fine photos over the years and kept steam alive by his contributions to what built our two countries. And by the way, to help the young engineers out there, some inspector fellows out there should send in some stories about boiler repairs. Our welding is done by ticketed welders, but we need pointers and experiences from more steam men.
Well, as I close: a funny thing happened to me cutting grain with the binder one year not too long ago. I first went to help an old neighbor stook or shook. He had the field about half cut, but he had the slowest team I had ever seen.
I said to him, 'Why don't you put that young team of colts (about three years old) on the binder?'
He said, 'Every time I hitch them up they just run away with the whole blasted thing!'
Then I suggested, 'I've driven a lot of horses in my time and I wouldn't mind giving them a try. This way we might get the field done today.
So away we went and hitched them up and headed down to the field next to the lake. Wouldn't you know it (and I can just hear you horsemen out there) they started to run. I thought I'd stay with them but the next thing I knew we were headed for the lake and I couldn't stop them, though I was doing the best I knew how. Well, I let them go and in the lake we went: horses and binder, with the old farmer running and yelling after me thinking I'm going to drown his horses. We came out on the other shore and there were what amounted to three bundles of catfish on the sheaf carrier!
Steam's up boys, let's get at it!