Wood Brothers Thresher Gets Second Lease on Life

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28'' Wood Brothers separator, work done, heading for home.
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22 HP Keck-Gonnerman steam traction engine owned by Claude Troyer, of Minier, Illinois.
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Loading bundles with old-fashioned horsepower.

RR #2, Box 30 Tremont, Illinois 61568

For the last couple of years our club, the Tazewell County Olde
Thresher’s Association, had done its threshing with a good,
solid Case 28′ separator. Problem was, it was being graciously
hauled some 50 miles to the show site by a nearby John Deere
dealer. As President, I started looking around for a good, reliable
machine that we could keep on the grounds. This turned out to be no
easy task.

After looking at several threshers which were either too far
gone for my mechanical abilities, or not worth the price tag, I
finally located one near the small Central Illinois town of Anchor,
some 70 miles away. I met the fellow who owned the machine and
followed him to a ramshackle corn crib where the machine sat.

It was dark as pitch and a tight squeeze, but I could see enough
to tell that it was a Wood Brothers ‘Hummingbird’ thresher,
and in good shape too. After a quick inspection to make sure there
were no major problems we struck a deal and I returned in a few
weeks to pick her up.

I found out that the original owner had bought her new in the
early 30s (the service man’s name from the Peoria Branch was
still scrawled on the blower door) and threshed with it right up to
1963, using a John Deere D for power. After the final season she
was pulled into the corn crib. A couple of years ago a tornado tore
the roof off the crib, so they were anxious to get it to a good
home.

As we pulled it out with a J.D. 70, I was surprised to see the
old separator was in terrific shape! A good cleaning and a few
minor repairs and she’d be ready to thresh! We hauled her home
on the back roads with no problems (except for holding our breath
going under low-hanging light wires) to the Al Beutel farm where we
hold our show. I rented a steam jenny and cleaned off 23 years
worth of dirt, grease and raccoon droppings, and with Al’s
help, got her all set up.

I was anxious to limber her up so we belted her to an F-20
tractor. Problem was, the belt I had was short and there was less
than an inch clearance between the feeder and the tractor grill! We
threw some straw in, which shot out the blower pipe, everything
running smooth. After threshing a rack-load of oats using an MM
‘G’ tractor (and longer belt) a week before the show, we
were ready.

Claude Troyer’s 22 horse Keck-Gonnerman steamer was belted
up to her. Claude opened the throttle, the belts slapped, and soon
that familiar whirr filled the air. Teams of draft horses pulled
the rack wagons up to the old girl all day long, and the old
thresher hardly missed a lick. The straw was a little wet, and once
I was called on to clean out the clogged wind stacker. (It’s
your machine!) The oscillating blower made a beautiful, tall straw
stack, and at times it was hard to believe you were still in
1986.

This was our most successful show. We nearly doubled our number
of tractors and gas engines, kept several teams of horses busy
plowing and harrowing, along with a dozen other activities that
make up a good steam show. Next year we hope to have a
Keck-Gonnerman 36′ thresher on hand, to better match the old
steamer both in heritage and horse-power. My smaller Wood Brothers
28′ machine will pull duty with the antique tractors.

So here’s an open invitation to come pitch a few bundles
with us, August 1, 1987!

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