Farm Collector

Threshing with An Indiana Special

Rt. 1, Box 1501 Jennings, Oklahoma 74038

This article is a follow up to one I sent in a few months ago.
In that article I told about my 20 HP double Keck steam engine,
#1636. This article is about my 36′ x 60′ Keck- Gonnerman
Indiana Special wooden separator #2359.

Thanks to the fact that the engine and separator records of the
Keck-Gonnerman Company were saved, I was able to find out the
following about my thresher: It was sold new on September 9th, 1924
and shipped from Mt. Vernon, Indiana, on September 27th. It was
purchased by Joe Asmus, Frank L. Heisser and Vick Brucker at
Perkins, Missouri. It was equipped with a gearless wind stacker
#2249, a K. G. ‘C’ feeder #1613 with 14′ carrier and a
Kay-Gee belt and bucket elevator/weigher #650. This machine was
fitted with S. K. F. bearings on the cylinder and blower shafts. It
also differed from the standard 36′ x 60′ in that it is a
double belted and double crank separator.

The story goes that this machine was last used in the late 50s
or early 60s. I got the thresher from John Hall in 1990. At that
time the machine had been sitting in a barn for several years. John
had partially disassembled it, which made it easier to load when
John Fry and I went to get it in the fall of 1990.I can say that we
got more than a few interesting looks on the road back to Oklahoma.
We also got a lot of questions whenever we stopped to refuel.

Threshing at Pawnee, Oklahoma, July 19, 1992. Keck-Gonnerman
Indiana Special separator owned by Steve Dunn.

From the Fall/Winter of 1990 to the Spring of 1992 I did a lot
of work on the thresher. The frame timbers and most of the wood was
in very good condition, but there was some water damage to the top
of the machine. I ended up replacing the wood on the top.

The only other wooden machines I have ever seen are Joe
Harper’s Aultman-Taylor and his Red River Special. Joe always
does an excellent job of restoration and what really sets off his
machinery is his attention to detail.

I wanted to try to do the same with the Indiana Special. These
machines were rather elaborately painted with striping and
stencils. Well, I had never done this kind of work before, but
there was some of the original stencil lettering visible on the
separator. I made tracings of them and then cut stencils from these

As far as mechanical repairs to the machine were concerned, the
previous owners were very liberal with lubrication and there were
only a few repairs to be made. The feeder required a new deck of
5/8‘ beaded ceiling board. The belt and
canvas web were in pretty sorry shape and I ended up making a new
one from scratch. One or two of the belts that were with the
machine were in useable condition, but the others would have to
replaced. I found a source for new belting and had it on the
separator the Thursday before our show at Pawnee this year.

I wanted to run the machine even though we were not going to
thresh with it at this year’s show. David Bennett and Dale
Wolff helped, and we managed to get the old thresher belted up to
my engine and running slowly. There were some loud rubbing sounds
coming from the rear of the machine. It took a while but we finally
discovered a chunk of wood stuck in the tailings auger. There were
a couple of other minor problems but nothing that couldn’t be

The Oklahoma Steam Threshers Association usually has its annual
election of officers meeting about the middle of July. It was
suggested that we thresh a couple of loads of wheat the morning of
the meeting. Well, I got volunteered to do the job with my
Keck-Gonnerman outfit.

The morning of the threshing I got to Pawnee early to pull the
engine out and get a fire started. A crowd started gathering about
10:00. About 10:30 we started to set up for the threshing. I was
really concerned because we still hadn’t run the separator up
to speed enough to determine if anything adverse would happen. At
11:00 everything was ready and at 11:05 we began.

We had four men pitching and it didn’t take very long to
find out the new belts needed tightening. About 25 minutes of
cutting and splicing, as well as plenty of belt dressing, cured the
slipping belts. Well, after about 15 minutes of work we managed to
slug the cylinder, too. I had put the feeder /band cutter back
together just as I had taken it apart. It seems I didn’t have
the thing adjusted right, as it allowed more than one bundle to
enter the cylinder at a time. I spent about ten minutes digging
straw out of the concaves. I recently got some material from my
friend, Rick Apple in Tennessee, on how to set the feeder up
correctly. There shouldn’t be any more stuck cylinders. As you
can see, just about everything that could have gone wrong, did!

1923 model AB Mack truck with Indiana Special separator, 20 HP
double Keck-Gonnerman traction engine. Left to right: sitting on
truck, Paul Martins, Daniel Roberts; on engine, Dale Wolff, George
Hockmyer and Ed Sheiver.

Well, we decided to break for lunch. After lunch we were to have
our election of officers, but Dale Wolff and I went back up to
check on the engine and separator. While Dale looked over the
separator I opened up the throttle on the engine. At this time Dale
came back to the engine and I climbed up on the half empty bundle
wagon and began to pitch bundles into the machine. It seemed that
all of the problems of the morning had been solved and the thresher
never missed a beat. In no time, we were through.

I want to thank a number of my friends for their help that
Sunday morning: Chaddy Atteberry, Henry Martens, Ivan Burns, John
Fry, Louis Woods, Dale Wolff, Ed Sheiver and Nat Archer.

I’ll say one final thing in closing. This is probably the
closest I’ll ever come to threshing with a brand new machine.
By that I mean, with all of the new belts and adjustments that had
to be made, for me it was like threshing with a new separator.

  • Published on May 1, 1993
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