WE CAN’T LICK THEM

Bismark, Mo. 63624

It was not long before my husband’s retirement from the
newspaper publishing business that he amazed me by announcing that
he planned to buy a steam traction engine after he retired. Why in
the world he would want one of those big black, smoke belching,
steam spewing, greasy monsters, was more than I could see.

It was in August of 1966 that I accompanied him to the Old
Threshermen’s meet at Pinckneyville, Illinois, and all day long
I listened to his descriptions of ‘Single Simples’,
‘Double Cylinders’, ‘Cross Compounds’ ‘Lap
Seams’, ‘Butt Straps’ and dozens of other terms that
meant absolutely nothing to me. However, I met a lot of interesting
people, all of whom had one thing in common-an interest in steam
engines. When we left the show grounds that evening, I had to admit
to myself that there was a certain unexplained fascination about
steam engines.

A few months later, a big truck pulled into our front yard and
proceeded to unload a 20-hp, ‘Single Simple’ Robinson
engine, and by no stretch of the imagination could it have been
described as a thing of beauty; it was covered, for the greater
part by thick encrusted grease, and an accumulation of dirt and
grime. The remains of the cab, consisted of one lone roof rib; the
rear platform, coal bunkers, and whatever else is supposed to be on
the back end of an engine was missing. But, my husband said the
boiler, gears, and other mechanical parts were in good
condition.

Much to my amazement, I learned that taking a wood chisel and
hammer, chipping off grease and grime from a casting or bracket,
and later seeing that casting or bracket receive a bright red coat
of enamel, could be a lot of satisfaction. It was not too long
before we had a new cab on the engine, along with a new rear
platform, coal bunkers, and tool boxes. We are still in the process
of cleaning and painting, but in the meantime we have had several
days of enjoyment steaming up and traveling over a large field near
the house.

I have learned (through listening to long after supper lectures)
about injectors and inspirators, lubricators and oil pumps, pop
valves and fusible plugs, stay bolts and shaker grates, as well as
the flue swabs and beading tools, to say nothing of steam guages
and the tensile strength of different grades of boiler plate.

So I have learned that the fun of riding around on ‘Old
Robinson’, seeing the fly wheel roll smoothly and silently as
the engine sits idling in the shade of the trees, more than makes
up for the piles of greasy clothes I have to wash each week.

May I offer this work of advice to all those ladies whose
husbands have been bitten by the steam engine bug– We can’t
lick ’em, so we might as well join ’em.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment