| March/April 1972

  • Visitor with Engine
    The picture was taken about five years ago at the Pontiac, Illinois Thresherman's Reunion. The man on the left is my father, Verne Harms of Colfax, Illinois. The man on the right is unknown to me, but I believe he was a visitor who wanted his picture take
    David Harms

  • Visitor with Engine

57 Pinewood Pk., Chillicothe, Illinois 61523

I. INTRODUCTION The following is a collection of history and memories concerning the ownership, use and restoration of Russell engine, serial number 16533. The engine is rated at 20 drawbar horsepower and 60 belt horsepower. The boiler is of the Universal type with double butt-strap seam and 36, 2 inch diameter flues. The boiler is unusual in that a steel arch splits the firebox. This arch allows a combustion space above the fire for more efficient use of fuel. One of the features about the engine which makes it outstanding is the double ported valve which allows more horsepower on less steam pressure than any engine I have observed. The excellent steaming ability due to the boiler design and the lack of any tendency to prime, due to insufficient steam space in the dome, add to efficient operation. Enough of the sales pitch; on to the history.

II. OWNERSHIP Some time during 1916, as near as can be determined, the engine was shipped to Bloomington, Illinois to be-come the power for a threshing rig owned by a company engaged in that business. Unfortunately, the name of the company has passed from memory.

In the early twenties, the engine was purchased from the company by a farmer named Bob Burns and moved to his farm near Wapella. Mr. Burns also purchased a 32' Huber steel separator and used the engine to power the separator and a corn sheller. (The separator is now owned by Verne Harms of Colfax, Illinois.)

Mr. Burns sold the engine to Walter Armstrong of Lane, Illinois in the mid-thirties. Here the engine saw its hardest use, pulling hedge and providing the power for a saw mill. When the condition of the boiler was no longer serviceable, Mr. Armstrong parked the engine in his front yard where it rested until found in the summer of 1956.

III. RESTORATION For my father and me, Russell engine number 16533 was the culmination of a two-year search for a restorable traction engine. I remember many trips to look at engines everywhere in the state of Illinois. We looked at engines that were missing too many parts to be restored, engines whose owners wouldn't sell even though they would never be fired again, and engines that were priced too high for their condition. (And ours) We located this engine the same way we had found so many others. Someone who knew we were looking for an engine had seen 'an old steam engine sitting in a barnyard' and thought we might be interested. One weekend we traveled to Lane, Illinois to check on this particular lead.  


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