Tractor Page


| July/August 1956



Steam tractor.

Front and rear view of Mr. Perrill's idea of a steam tractor.

Rt. 2, Box 87, Rochester, Michigan

I came on your fine magazine through Robert Nelson of Lapeer, whom I met at the State Fair last fall, where he was displaying his working model Case. He was kind enough to give me a ride on it. I can still hear the whistle as it reminded me of the ones used on the engines that ran on the Denver & Southern Railroad when it was a narrow gauge.

At one time I was sure I was off my trolley at least my friends did, for collecting of all things, old wagons and fly wheel engines. Now I know there are many steam men who think fly wheel engines aren't cricket. But like steam, they came in the horse age, and where the use of the horse has died, so has the use of steam and the flywheel.

I came to live on the farm 14 years ago, then though the area was dotted with them, there was but one fly wheel engine in use. There was one new John Deere 'A'. Everyone had and used horses and wooden wagons. During World War II I saw the change it came slowly. First, the high wooden wagons were converted to low rubber tired jobs, then, it seemed everyone had a John Deere, and in less than five years one by one the horses had gone. I could have had all the engines just for the asking. At the close of the war, the engines were all scrapped, and all that remained was a memory.

So, I was delighted to see in a Washington, Michigan, junk yard, in the winter of '52 one last reminder of the golden age. It was a typical one-cylinder, overhead valve, horizontal hopper cooled open crank case fly wheel portable engine, and it set me back $50.00. It had at one time been green, which I later found to be an almost standard color with the fly wheel's, striped in red and yellow trade marks on each side of the hopper. The engine ran as was though. Why, I now can't say the spark was so advanced. Anyway, I got busy and cleaned off some six bushel baskets full of oil-soaked dirt and repainted and striped my find. I guess the shock must have been too great for the old engine, as all I could get out of it was a couple of backfires thereafter.

To my horror I found nobody knew anything about these old timers, even the people who were using one didn't know, their's had been a hand-me-down from ages long forgot.