Vintage Photos of Steam Traction Engines

From Gary Yaeger's photo collection

| May/June 2000

  • Horse powered threshing
    Horse powered threshing rig near Highwood, Montana. The lady at the right with the light colored apron and the man holding a child are the great-grandparents of 76-year old Carl Mehmke. The child shown may have been Walter, Carl's father?
  • Threshing and engine crew
    A typical threshing and engine crew. I always enjoy crew pictures, especially when the engine is the background. McDonald's Nichols & Shepard is a 20-70 side mounted, double cylinder engine, just like the one I cut my teeth on.
  • 32 HP J. I. Case
    The late Walter Mehmke is shown in the cab of his 1907 32 HP J. I. Case. He bought the engine used in 1920 at Briggs Implement in Great Falls, Montana, and broke his farm and many other farms in the Belt-High wood area of Montana.
  • Avery return flue engine
    The barefooted boy on the water wagon is believed to be young Walter Mehmke. Carl says his dad owned and operated this Avery return flue engine at age 13 and was its licensed engineer. The picture was taken in the Belt-Highwood, Montana, area circa 1905.
  • 32 HP Case
    Walter Mehmke had quite an operation going when this 1922 threshing scene was taken. He did custom threshing with two outfits and this 32 HP Case powered one thresher.
  • Nichols & Shepard
    This 35-120 Nichols & Shepard is hauling 768 bushels of threshed, sacked wheat to market, somewhere in Montana's Judith Basin.
  • 30 HP under-mounted Avery
    Walt Mehmke was an early pioneer of the modern threshing bee. This 1953 picture shows his newly acquired 30 HP under-mounted Avery turning a steel separator while another engine behind the Avery's pop valve plume of steam turns a wooden separator.
  • 75 HP Case
    Walter Mehmke's other threshing outfit was this 75 HP Case shown here turning a 30-60 Rumely, on its first season out. They were using sixteen bundle wagons. 
  • Nichols & Shepard
    This postcard shows a 35-120 Nichols & Shepard pulling an eight-bottom Reeves steam lift plow in South Dakota.
  • 35 HP Nichols & Shepard
    A 35 HP Nichols & Shepard is pulling a 10 bottom breaking plow and a tandem disk

  • Horse powered threshing
  • Threshing and engine crew
  • 32 HP J. I. Case
  • Avery return flue engine
  • 32 HP Case
  • Nichols & Shepard
  • 30 HP under-mounted Avery
  • 75 HP Case
  • Nichols & Shepard
  • 35 HP Nichols & Shepard

Gary Yaeger, frequent contributor of fine historical photos, sent us a treasure trove this month. Specific pictures were selected with other readers in mind, as Gary explains:

"Alan Derting said in the Jan-Feb 2000 issue, 'Pictures like those that Larry Creed and Gary Yaeger send in are the best ones in the magazine.' I don't like to blow my own horn, but I do love the old original pictures of the engines in their original element. Larry has been as faithful as any, providing your readers with material. Thank you for providing material for us, Larry. I found a few combined harvesters being pulled by steam in the Judith Basin of Montana for you.

"I wove in some Nichols & Shepard photos for Kevin Small. That was the first type of engine I ever ran.

"It is always fun to include pictures and material from the late Walter Mehmke."



We were unable to include all of Gary's photographs in one issue, so stay tuned for more!