Restoration Of A Wheat Threshing Rig

The engine/wagon

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Greensboro, NC 27406

The engine/wagon assembly was restored over a period of 1 years of part-time effort. The equipment, when obtained, had been sitting outdoors for approximately 40 years since it was discarded for more modern machinery. The wagon was badly deteriorated and the engine was rusty except for areas covered by grease and dirt. The engine was mounted on this wagon for its working life; however, this probably was not a factory arrangement.

The wagon has been identified (by one of the 'experts' who came by at an engine show) as a J. I. Nissen type which was manufactured in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This particular Nissen wagon is known as a 'Linch-Pin' type. A Linch-Pin wagon is one in which the wheels are assembled by use of pins through the axles by access of a mortised hole through the wheel hubs. These wagons were built before the type that has threaded spindles and nuts to retain the wheels. Using this as a guage, it is guessed that this particular wagon was manufactured in the late 1800's or around the turn of the century.

Another engine show 'expert' has identified this Galloway engine as a 1912 manufacture due to certain characteristics like the shape of the water hopper, the ignitor, the Lukenheimer carburetor, and a solid brass connecting rod bearing box similar to the construction used in steam engine bearing assemblies.

For these reasons it is believed the engine was mounted onto the wagon for convenience of mobility.

From 1912 until 1930-31 this engine was used in conjunction with a threshing machine to thresh grain in the Tabernacle Church Community of Guilford County in North Carolina. In those days, threshing of grain was accomplished by caravans of volunteer farmers going from farm to farm to thresh wheat, oats, and barley. The engine was owned by Mr. John Henry Fields along with the thresher. Mr. Fields had a large family of boys and all power, except for the engine, was furnished by mules and horses. My grandfather, Mr. Sam Bowman, also with a large family of boys and girls, had teams of horses to furnish for these caravans. Mr. Fields, Mr. Bowman and their boys would travel from farm to farm to accomplish the threshing. Mr. Bowman would always furnish an extra wagon to haul the 'talley'. In those days money was very scarce, so payment was made in terms of a 'talley' of the threshed product for payment.

When the caravan would come to a farm, the person receiving the benefit of the threshing would furnish food for everyone and the men were allowed to spend the night in the barn on the hay. When the job was completed the percentage of grain agreed upon (the 'talley') was loaded on the 'talley' wagon. In talking with the older folk of the community, these threshing times were regarded as the good days of farming. People had a chance to visit together, the women could demonstrate their cooking abilities and the young men had an opportunity to show off their prize teams of horses.

Restoration of the Wagon

Negotiations had been in process with Mr. John Henry Fields' son, Mr. Marvin Fields, for about 6 years to get this rig. Probably wouldn't have it yet except for the fact that Mr. Fields became sick and thought he would not have the strength to restore it himself. After the initial thrill of obtaining a treasure such as this and getting it home, you begin to review the situation to see what is really ahead. The years in the weather had taken their toll so the only parts that could be salvaged were those made of metal and three of the four wheel hubs. Everything else was too badly rotted for use. By observing what had been done approximately 75 years earlier, a new wheel hub was hand-carved from a white-oak log. This took quite a time since there were rectangular sockets for the spokes and one side of the socket shape was at an angle to produce the 'dish' in the wheel. Also a large tapered hole was required in the axial direction to receive the hub sleeve. A special boring bit, similar to the flat wood bits, was made from scrap metal and sharpened on a grinder. Using a 1-inch pilot hole as a guide, this sleeve opening was produced developing lots of shavings. After reading the chapter in Foxfire Vol. II on Wagon Construction, the task was begun of hand forming spokes and felloes. Hand forming means each part is made by hand using tools such as a bench saw, band saw, jointer, spoke shave, wood rasp, hand plane, etc. Such special tools as a spoke puller, a rim puller (used when you shrink the tire) and forming tools for producing wagon tire bolts were made. All of the wheel parts were constructed of well-seasoned white-oak and red-oak material.

By using the original wooden parts as patterns, all other parts of the wagon were reconstructed using lumber from old buildings being dismantled. The remainder of the construction was from red oak, yellow locust, and a tongue constructed from heart pine (lighter-wood). Just couldn't pass up the opportunity to make the brake blocks of solid black-walnut.

The wagon was promptly painted using three coats of red enamel and trimmed in black. The striping was done using a creme color paint. All of the paint used is IHC type, right out of the can, and applied with a brush.

Now with a substantial mounting for the engine and with the help of a 'come-along', some pipe rollers and a pry bar, the engine was pulled into place on those yellow-locust supports and bolted solid.

Restoration of the Engine

It was now time to make a survey of the engine. For the most part the major components were still on the engine. The igniter was a complete disaster. The casting was solid but all of the other parts would require remake. The cylinder bore was pretty fair except for carbon and rust. A turned cylindrical block with sandpaper fastened to the periphery and powered by a ' chuck electric drill made a dandy hone.

Just a little sideline note about the cylinder. The cylinder bore is  63/ inches in diameter and the HP rating shown on the nameplate is 7. Mr. Marvin Fields tells that he can remember riding in the wagon beside his father about 1915 when they transported the cylinder to Greensboro to the Newman Machine Co. to have the cylinder re-bored and a new piston fitted. The piston is still good; the ring seats are good and although there is no knowledge of the changes of piston rings, use is being made of the ones that were on the piston when restoration was started.

Most of the bolts and nuts were rusted away or stripped and some tapped holes were stripped. Some threaded rod, inserts, and new nuts and washers fixed these areas. The bearings, as might be expected, were worn but the babbitt was still very good. Some hand finishing and new cut copper shims solved those problems. New gaskets were cut from 1/16 thickness asbestos sheet.

The valves were in bad shape but each of the original valves were salvaged. These valves had cast iron valve heads and were riveted to a steel valve stem. Sometime during the years of use the rocker arm had been broken and was replaced by a forged bar made in a blacksmith's shop. This part was left as it was found. Just goes to show that people made the best of what they had in the past years also.

All of the original brass parts were retained, hand filed, smoothed, and buffed. Thee included the Lukenheimer carburetor, the connecting rod, bearing box, and the cylinder oiler. A brass priming cup and piping, and a brass inlet pipe to the carburetor were also added.

The original gas tank was constructed in two sections: one for gasoline for starting and a second for kerosene for running. A new one-section tank was constructed to hold gasoline only and piped with copper tubing and brass fittings. To drain the water jacket, a new brass gate valve was purchased and polished to match the other brass.

The original seat for this engine wagon was a sack filled with straw. The straw sack is effective but not very pretty. The spare parts produced one wagon seat spring, obtained at an estate sale, and a second was located so the pair made a dandy addition to this restoration. The buckboard seat along with a foot rest, constructed from brackets from a discarded electrical distribution tower, completed the seating arrangement. The doubletree and the tongue-breast-tree were again purchased at two separate sales.

After applying paint to one's individual liking, the restored equipment is ready for display. Now it is true that the creme color is not the color used by the original manufacturer, which was probably red, but isn't the color beautiful on a red wagon background?

Showtime Arrives

During the 1981 season this restoration was shown in North Carolina at the Annual Fly-In and Threshers Reunion at Denton and at the Antique Machinery Show at Silk Hope. The restoration was also shown at the Blueridge Folk Festival at Ferrum, Virginia, and the Apple Festival at North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. It is hoped there will be many happy show days in the seasons to come.

The Beautiful Horses

In regard to this beautiful team of horses, they are owned by Mr. Calvin Ross of Pleasant Garden, North Carolina. Mr. Ross has a large dairy operation and uses the horses around the farm. For the purpose of this picture, Mr. Ross has harnessed his horses with his finest harness and then added the fly screens to complete the dressing. The picture was made on a very hot July Saturday afternoon, year 1981.

About the Wico magneto shown in the photograph: this was borrowed from a Fuller & Johnson engine as a substitute ignition system until the ignitor could be rebuilt.

The ignitor has now been completely restored and installed in its rightful place on the side of the engine. New mica washers, contact points, a conical spring (lathe-wound from .062 diameter spring temper wire), and a lot of effort put the old ignitor back in working order. The rotating arm was thoroughly lubricated using electrically conductive molybdenum Disulphide paste. This improved the arcing at the contact points. This ignitor, along with an ignition coil and a modern-day 12-volt motorcycle, rechargeable, lead-acid battery, completed the electrical requirements.