Two Steam Traction Engines Moved To Spokane

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22 HP Advance. Chuck Lyons is on the left, Mac Hatley.
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22 HP Russell loaded for moving on truck.
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Left, 22 HP Advance, Right, 20 HP Russell. At Clarence Harsch Museum.

2301 West Lynn, #204 Seattle, Washington 98199

‘Yes, I do know where there is one.’ he said in answer
to my question. ‘It’s back over in that direction’. He
pointed toward the rear of his place, toward the east, and toward
the lone butte that rises above the Palouse Country northeast of
Colton, Washington. Those who have sought steam tractors in Eastern
Washington are drawn to Colton; it is the home of the vast, if not
restored, Busch collection. I was, of course, one who has made at
least a yearly pilgrimage there, beginning during my first year at
Washington State University. I discovered the Busch collection that
year and, I must admit, I spent hours looking at those engines and
dreaming hours I should have spent studying.

In my wanderings I had located several other engines that were
not part of the Busch collection. One was a 22 HP Minneapolis
belonging to the Druffle family. I tried many times to buy it, but
the limited finances of a college student were inadequate.
Eventually, I accepted the fact that I would not own that engine,
at least until after college. I did return for another purchase
attempt the year following my graduation from college. To my
dismay, the engine had been moved from the cow pasture to the
farmer’s barn lot. I was told it had been sold.

As a consolation I did purchase a 2 HP Galloway gas engine, but
somehow the thrill was not equivalent to buying a steamer. My
companion, Lance Starkey, and I inquired if he, Mr. Druffle, knew
of any other old machinery or engines that might be bought. We were
directed to a second farm that he worked, where we found a quaint
water tank wagon with a Case water pump. Although we did not buy
the tank wagon and pump that day, I returned the following summer
to get it. In the conversation concluding that purchase I again
asked about other machinery or steam engines. Bingo! I had the
lead.

The directions took me over the hills to the east, over roads
that led back to the farmstead where I’d just loaded the water
tank wagon, and then on around the butte. At the end of the road
stood another farmhouse. Up on a slight hill to the east of the
road was this farm’s junk yard. In its center I saw the
unmistakable form of a Russell steamer. Naturally, I beat a path to
ask permission to look at it. Permission received, I headed for the
engine, accompanied by the owner’s teenage son.

Closeup I could see it was a good sized engine. Standing in the
open on a knoll, it looked big; I guessed 20 HP. It looked complete
for an unrestored engine, nothing serious missing. I did notice,
however, that this engine’s gearing had been used pretty hard.
The clutch pinion teeth were, somewhat mushroomed over, indicating
hard use and, quite likely, inadequate lubrication. I looked
further and discovered that seven of the eight torque bosses that
transmit the engine’s power from the bull gears to the rear
wheel rims were broken not an easy condition to repair.

But hope springs eternal in the mind of a steam enthusiast. No
repair is impossible. The remainder of the engine looked pretty
good. My step-father’s family had owned a 20 HP Russell, so I
thought I should own this engine if possible. My inquiry that day
was turned down, as were several made later. For seven years I held
that engine in the back of my mind, hoping that some day I could
buy it and again have a 20 HP Russell in the family.

Last November I decided to try once more. And lo! My mail offer
was accepted. Now I wondered, why? Was the engine in worse
condition than I remembered and was that the reason it was now for
sale? I dug out all the pictures I had of the engine and pored over
them. No, it was as I remembered it. If it just hadn’t been
damaged since. I took consolation in one condition of the sale:
that I must move the engine by the end of the following summer.

My first recent visit to the engine was in April. Upon arrival,
I introduced myself at the house and explained that I was there to
prepare the engine to be moved. The young son who had shown me the
engine on my first trip was quite surprised that his father had
sold the engine; his mother confirmed that he had indeed. The
spring had been wetter than usual, so the area around the engine
was too soft to permit access with a low-bed truck. Because I had
only a short vacation available, I had to forego hauling at that
time. I merely lubricated everything as best I could, determined to
let her rusted and stuck parts soak until my next vacation in
August.

August finally arrived, and after some difficulty, I arranged a
truck to haul the Russell. I visited the engine again and this time
relubricated her. Having seen what can happen when an engine with
frozen traction gear is moved, I was careful to check that all
gears, wheels, and shafts of the gearing were free and lubricated.
I certainly didn’t need more damage to the gearing than had
already occurred. When I finally finished that day, the only frozen
part on her was the reverse shifter, and that would have no effect
on moving her. I carefully cut a wood block to proper length to
place between the cross-head and the cylinder, and then adjusted
the clutch so it could be used as a brake when the crosshead was
blocked.

Finally the big day arrived. I was at the trucker’s yard at
6:30 and we immediately began gathering chain, blocks and other
equipment we’d need for the haul. By 7:00 we were on the
road.

Because I was paying by the mile, the route I chose was the
shortest rather than the easiest, and before we arrived, I almost
regretted my routing. Rain was threatening and the bare clay road
was slippery from a light rain the night before. With relief we
turned sharply onto a better graveled road, dragging the trailer
through the roadside ditch as we made the turn. This gravel road
was solid, at least, but had turns so sharp and hills so steep I
wondered several times if we could get back out again with the
engine aboard.

We arrived at the farm and were greeted by the owner; I had
never met him, only his family, so I introduced myself. I was
pleased that he had been able to take off this time from work
because I was not too sure how we would pull the Russell down from
the hill to a place where we could load it. I knew his assistance
would help.

As it turned out, he had an old, but quite usable, TD-40
International crawler, so after we decided there was really no way
to pull the engine down with the truck-tractor, he got some prime
gas, shoved the crawler off the slope where she’d sat for the
last three months, and away she went. Shortly I was chasing him off
toward the Russell. I got him hooked up and away we went down the
hill; I was glad I’d lubricated the engine well because on that
crawler he didn’t seem to realize how slow a man on a steam
tractor expects to move. Let me say, that is undoubtedly the
fastest I have ever moved on a steamer!

Meanwhile, the trucker had uncoupled his truck tractor from the
lowbed. This was a custom built Ray trailer with a folding
gooseneck. When uncoupled from the truck, the front of the trailer
lowers to the ground and then the gooseneck folds to the ground to
form a loading ramp. Almost no blocking is needed and the chance
(Oh, horrors!) of dropping an engine is almost completely
eliminated. Shortly, we had the engine up on the trailer, the
gooseneck back up in normal position, and the truck connected.
Following a bit of tying down, we stopped for a few pictures, and
just as the rain burst loose, we headed out of the farmyard.

The trip to Spokane was uneventful; we turned the usual number
of heads on the highway and answered a few questions when we
stopped for a quick lunch. We even managed to find a shorter route
home with better roads. In Spokane we unloaded the engine at
Clarence Harsch’s museum on East Trent Avenue where it will
remain for the next year.

But the title of the article promises two engines. So here is
the story of the second, a story a bit intermingled with the first.
About the same time that I found that 22 HP Minnie that got away, I
met Mac Hatley of Pullman, Washington. He was the owner of a 22 HP
Advance Straw Burner that he’d rescued from a sawmill on Moscow
Mountain. When I hinted that I’d like to buy it, he always
firmly let me know that it wasn’t for sale. But he never seemed
to mind talking about the old days in the Palouse Wheat Country and
he never seemed to mind having me look at the engine. So, during my
college years, I made numerous trips to his farm. I enjoyed his
stories and seeing the pictures he has of his family’s
threshing rigs at work.

His brother Ray of Moscow, Idaho had two steam tractors, and
several times he’d hinted that he might consider selling one.
That one was, of course, the worst of the two and was the one which
made me conscious of what damage can be done by pulling a frozen
engine with a big Cat. The countershaft on this engine, being stuck
in the cannon bearing, had broken the cannon bearing loose from its
mountsa messy situation.

But as I said before, hope springs eternal; no repair is
impossible, just expensive and time consuming. So last winter, I
sent Ray a note in care of his brother Mac, offering to buy the
damaged 15 HP Case. Mac replied to me that the engine now belonged
to another brother since Ray’s death and that it was not for
sale. Mac hinted, though, that his 22 HP Advance might be for sale.
We finally settled on a price, still all by mail.

In April I visited Mac, paid for the engine, and then spent
until dark lubricating her. Time ran out before the job was really
complete, and the constant drizzle made the work miserable. I
returned to Spokane having spent a full day, first on the Russell
and then on the Advance. Likewise, in August after my preparation
visit to the Russell, I went to continue my preparation of the
Advance. Now a problem reared its head. The clutch pinion and the
clutch spider sleeve were stuck tight to the crankshaft. The
engine, although not stuck tight, acted as if there were a mouse
nest in the crank-end of the cylinder and so it was almost
impossible to turn the engine over a full turn. With the clutch
frozen as it was, this meant the tractor would be almost impossible
to move. I tapped and I oiled and I tapped some more, but nothing
happened. The metal rang with a solid sound that hinted it might
never come loose. I then tapped and oiled some more. Then I tried
blocking the crosshead and turning the flywheel with a chain and
come-along. Nothing seemed to help. At dark I left for home,
defeated, hoping that when we got there with the truck, somehow
we’d rassle the engine onto the trailer.

The morning after our successful return to Spokane hauling the
20 HP Russell, we headed for the Palouse once more, but this time
the distance was to be some thirty miles less. When we arrived at
Mr. Hatley’s, the trucker moved his trailer as close as
possible to the Advance. I’d explained the frozen clutch
problem to him during the trip. Because there was no large Cat
available at this farm, we planned to pull the steamer slightly
downhill onto the trailer, using the truck tractor as prime
mover.

All set, we hooked the truck to the engine, and gave a pull. The
truck spun on the dew-soaked grass, but the engine didn’t offer
to move. I’d moved the engine a bit before by wrapping a long
cable around the flywheel and driving away with the end, so the
engine no longer sat in the holes she’d sunk into over the
years. But she wouldn’t move from there. We rigged double and
pulled again; nothing. My heart began to sink as I thought of
paying for another trip down later with the truck. The truck just
spun again on the wet grass each time. He tried one last time, and
because the line was not taut, gave a bit of a jerk. Somehow that
jerk did what all my patient tapping, oiling, and prying
couldn’t. The clutch pinion came free of the shaft. The engine
rolled free and after several re-riggings, rolled right up onto the
trailer.

Shortly the time had come for goodbyes. We stopped in front of
Mr. Hatley’s house for a few pictures, and after checking our
tie-down chains, we headed the white Kenworth up the road again. We
ate lunch in the same restaurant and I think turned some of the
same heads as the day before. In Spokane we unloaded in the same
spot at the Harsch Museum. The following day both engines were
pulled to the place . where they will sit in Mr. Harsch’s front
yard for the next year.

I feel fortunate to have had the help of such an understanding
trucker, a friend who will let me store two engines in his front
yard, to have met Mr. Hatley, and to have had that old TD-40 to
load the Russell. Not all my iron-hunting expeditions work out so
well, but I hope yours do.

Chuck Lyons has a degree in mechanical engineering and fell
in love with a 15 HP Case at a county fair when he was ten. He now
owns seven traction engines, several stationary steam engines, a
small donkey engine and a collection of steam and hand
pumps.

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