The Reflector Stands Corrected on the Titan


Courtesy of Haston L. St. Clair, R.R. 1 Box 140A, Holden Missouri 64040

Haston L.

Content Tools

625 Secor Ave., Forest City, Iowa 50436

(From I & T, May 21, 1963)

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM IMPLEMENT & TRACTOR. COPY RIGHT 1968 IMPLEMENT & TRACTOR PUBLICATIONS, INC. (Rodney Hill thought this column called' 'Reflections' written by the late Elmer J. Baker, Jr., would be of interest to the GEM readers and wrote the Implement & Tractor company and asked for permission to reprint. We hope you enjoy it -- Anna Mae)

In the Feb. 7 issue, the Reflector uttered some admiring remarks about the Titan 10-20 and its contribution to power fanning history. But a faltering memory led us to say that the Titan had no carburetor or spark plugs. We were correct about the former and in error about the latter, and we stand corrected by W. R. Peterson, who writes on the letterhead of the Peter son Mfg. Co., Plainfield, Ill. To quote the appropriate portion of his Titan recollections:

I am impelled to challenge your statement that the Titan 10-20 had no spark plugs or carburetor. True, it had no carburetor, but it did have spark plugs; big outsize critters of a size that I have seen nowhere else, but spark plugs nonetheless. It also had a good high tension magneto, KW by name, with an impulse coupling for easy starting and safety. This impulse coupling worked with marvelous efficiency until the magneto became saturated with lube oil that worked up through the joints in the crankcase. When this happened the magneto armature would drag so that the impulse coupling spring could no longer drive the armature in its properly timed orientation. Faced with this condition, there were but two choices open. One could either disassemble the mag and wash it out or build a fire under it to make the oil let go of the armature. The Stanolind lube oil that we used in those days was only a few SAE numbers (unheard of in those days) below that of light axle grease. In cold weather we had to store a supply of the oil in the house so we could pour it into the Madison-Kipp lubricator.

It was easy to become a tractor ex pert in those days, since no one else knew anything about tractors either. I had the opportunity to drive a Mogul 8-16 a few hours on a road oiling job; at night when no one else wanted to work. Based on this 'experience,' I went out and got a job from a farmer who had just bought a new Titan 10-20 (with spark plugs). He started the Titan for me and showed me how to adjust the mixing valves for kerosene and water and sent me to the field in high gear to plow clover sod, with the suggestion that I should shift into low gear when I got to the field, since the tractor would not be able to pull the plow in high gear. When I got to the field I did not have the courage to ship out of high gear for fear I would be unable to find low gear, so I proceeded to plow in high gear until noon. When I returned to the house at noon the boss was so impressed with my skill that he gave me a raise right then. And so are experts made.

Cutting wheat on the H. L. St. Clair, farm on June 20 1966. Jason Cline on binder, Edith St. Clair with bonnet on, Anne Wager and father. Less Wager, on tractor.

In dredging up memories of strange tractors, I must mention one that probably had the shortest life of any that I know of. This was the Titan 15-30, a four cylinder big brother of the 10-20. It was a ghastly collection of mixing valves such as I had never seen be fore or since. There was a mixing valve for each cylinder. How one was supposed to get a uniform mixture to each cylinder I will never know. I guess you were supposed to have a stroboscopic ear.

I have also had the dubious honor of piloting a Bates Steel Mule with the single track that the operator wore between his legs, in a manner of speaking. We were trying to make it run on kerosene, which it was most reluctant to do. We kept running it faster and faster in this effort until in its despair it finally blew up in my lap, upon which we towed it back into the weed patch from which we had dragged it a few hours earlier.

We, too, had one of those Voss washing machines for which I became the engineer because I was the only one in the family with the necessary curiosity to unravel the ignition mysteries of the Olds (one cylinder, stationary) engine with which we powered it.

Ah me! I consider it one of the great ironies of fate that our enlightened modern generation will, for the most part, never learn what goes on inside a gas engine, because they are now so confounded efficient and durable that there is no longer any need to look inside their hermetically sealed, chrome plate coverings.

I trust you have not been too much distressed by these meanderings of a kindred spirit. Please carry on with your Reflections. I enjoy them, no end.

(Signed) W. R. Peterson

The Reflector is not going to argue with Mr. Peterson about the Titan ignition, for he's an expert. He even tells how he received the rating, which is more than most experts will confess. So we looked back in the records of the old Tractor Field Books and found that the Titan was factory equipped with ?-in. spark plugs, probably made by the Kingston Ignition Co., as they were once listed as sup pliers for IHC. My memory is that those used to be described as ?-inch pipe thread. Users were not called upon to change them twice a year, and likely they would not have been able to afford to if they had been so admonished by Kingston or K-W Ignition or M &W.

IHC used to be choosey about its electrical sources of supply, and in the farm engine trade they were the lone Irishman who was in step when all the rest of the company were marching out of step. By that is meant that IHC made and pushed volume-governed farm engines when almost every one else who didn't make industrial engines, like the Charter folk at Sterling, Ill., made hit-and-miss governed engines. The volume-governed engine ignited at every other revolution, if 4-cycle, while the hit-and-miss engine fired only when the reduction of speed showed that another explosion was needed to rev the engine up to governed speed.

The by-product effect was that the volume-governed engine (the IHC) remained hot enough to burn kerosene --cheaper per explosion, because coal oil was cheaper than gasoline--but the hit-and-miss skipped enough explosions on all except capacity full loads to elide explosions, and the intake charges for them, and thus ran cheaper on light farm loads such as Voss washing machines and windmill pump-jacks which had to operate during the dog days when the stock was thirstiest and the wind did not blow enough to creak a sail, let alone work the cylinder at the bottom of the well and raise some water. (Wow! What a sentence.)

1927 Eagle 45 Hp. 2 cyl. 8?-10. Only 6 manufactured this model. Won trophy as best restored at Cambellford, Ontario on June 18. Also exhibited at Steam-Era. Owner is John A. Howe, R.R. 5, Trenton, Ontario, Canada.

A Case Gas Tractor. I think this is really something but don't know the man. I saw it at Rollag, Minnesota and I think the man is from Wisconsin. That Rollag sure is growing fast and Elemr Larson is still fixing. Saw his patterns for a model Hart-Parr. The little Oil Pull runs nice yet.

Hit-and-miss engines, even big ones used for town waterworks, were equipped with a make-and-break ignitor and got their spark from a No. 6 dry cell, or two, and a coil with a brass buzzer blade, I think. Then a long for gotten prophet invented the Webster tri-polar oscillator magneto, the most perfect conglommeration of electrical and mechanical devices ever hashed together into big, and admired, business. The Webster Electric Co. was organized to make the tri-polar oscillators at Tiffin, Ohio, but the Racine Chamber of Commerce sent an emissary to Tiffin and lured the Websters to Racine, where they domiciled for all time.

The Webster Electric Co. at Racine was managed by one of the world's finest gentlemen--a man named Arthur Loeb. Every time that Elliot B. Perkins of the FIN ad staff got to Racine in the Sahara days, Mr. Loeb would invite Perk out to the Elk's Club for lunch and forget all about the business he had to run making tri-polar oscillators and the two of them would stay at the club until the waning light startled Mr. Loeb into a realization that he had a loving family at home waiting for him, so he and Perk would have to part company, until the next time.

Back to Chicago would come Perk with a much bigger order for advertising of Webster tripolar oscillators than the company really needed. They had all the business except the IHC, and the only thing that would have switched that would have been to fire all the McCormicks and install the Deerings and turn over a new leaf.

IHC used to buy their tractor rotary magnetos from K-W, as Mr. Peterson recalled. One year the company set out to meet hit-and-miss governed pumping engine competition with a new model of their own. It did not have the tri-polar. It had, if memory serves, an oscillator made by a little company on the West Side of Chicago set up by Ed Johnston, manager of the Experimental Department. He put a big fellow in charge who used to design grain binders.

On the Webster oscillator, as I heard it explained by an inquiring dealer expert at Rochelle, I think, one big spring pulled back the shaft that, when released, actuated the make-and-break, causing the spark at the break of the electrodes, while another and smaller spring pulled in the opposite way to insure the opening of the electrode contacts, if they were sticky and reluctant. This double opposing spring business may have been patented, with Webster holding the patent. Anyway, the IHC oscillator depended upon inertia to make the 'break' for the spark, instead of the secondary opposing spring used on the Webster. So when the IHC engine got nice and dusty and oily, the resistance set up cancelled out the inertia, and there was no 'break' for the spark. That dealer had spent the better part of two days just to find out what the trouble was and what caused it.

But IHC never pursued the hit-and-miss pumping engine much further. It went the way of the single flywheel model developed late in the feud between Fairbanks-Morse and IHC on engines. They took turns cutting each other's throats, price-wise.

For their small rotary magnetos, IHC turned to the Wico Electric Co. of Springfield, Mass. At that period there were about eight or ten companies making small mags for farm engines, and every foundry in every county-seat town in the whole US seemed to make farm engines. The Reflector once counted some 200 names in one issue of the Buyer's Guide.

Just to tie up the frayed ends of the story, Ed Johnston sold his Accurate Engineering Co. to Harvester, his boss. At that time Harvester had never done any precision manufacturing in any of their plants, just as other farm implement people hadn't. The nearest thing to precision work was in the knotter department.

The Accurate plant on the West Side was abandoned and the operations were transferred to the large Piano Works, out around Pullman, a suburb south of Chicago, T. G. Sewell, a quiet and quite efficient engineer in the experimental department, was sent to the Piano Works to manage the new venture.

Taken on our vacation in 1967 at Rock Rapids, Iowa

Not only did it take charge of any magneto experimental work the company needed, but Piano started to make ball bearings, and they did so well that the bearing makers started almost giving away their bearings to Harvester to compete. It was the old Wisconsin Steel story all over again. 'Get the price right or we'll make it ourselves.' Harvester never liked to be long-priced on materials it had to use and sell in a competitive market like farm machinery. In this attitude Harvester has been perfectly right and proper. Farmers were almost ruined in the old days when they had to buy in a protected market and sell their products in a competitive world market.

We wonder how IHC came out in their diesel pump and injector pro-gram. We once went through that air-conditioned Milwaukee production department not long after it was established, when the only other place in the world air conditioned was Mr. Bosch's factory at Stuttgart, and we don't mean Arkansaw.

It's time to ring off before I&T runs out of paper stock and patience, and Harvester starts considering putting the Reflector on the payroll for gratuitous public relations.