Steam tractor

Courtesy of R.F. Somerville, 12498 14th Ave. N., Haney, B.C., Canada

R.F. Somerville

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12498 14th Ave. K, Haney, British Columbia, Canada

Many people think the only tractors made in Canada were Cockshutt or Massey-Harris-this is not so!

One of the first tractors was built about 1910 by Canadian-American Gasoline Engine Co. at Dunville, Ontario. It was a two cylinder horizontal engine, tank cooled. The ignition system was low tension, make and break with the igniters inside the cylinders and the current was by batteries. This tractor had a unique starting system. The left hand flywheel had an internal toothed ring inside the flywheel. A pinion meshed with this and a hand crank was on the end. Lubrication of the cylinders was sight feed, drip cup lubricators. The tractor was rated at 35 brake horsepower.

The Robert Bell Company of Sea-forth, Ontario, a builder of portable and traction steam engines and threshing machinery for many years built two sizes of farm tractors in 1920. One was a 20-35 Hp. and the other 25-45 Hp. Both these tractors were of the same design. The only difference was the size. They had a four cylinder vertical engine and the cylinders were cast in pairs. Magneto ignition was used. They had two speeds ahead and one reverse. Lubrication was pump and splash.

1910 Canadian American Company Gasoline Engine.

Massey-Harris Company of Toronto built a tractor in 1918. It was on extra high front and back wheels which gave it extra clearance. It was rated at 12-25 Hp. It was a four cylinder vertical engine, set crosswise of the frame. A similar tractor was the Parrett and the Clydesdale, both built in U.S.A. This tractor had the belt pulley on the left hand side. It would pull a three furrow fourteen inch bottom plow.

About 1930, this company put out a four wheel drive. It did not last very long as it was too awkward to handle. It had a four cylinder vertical engine bolted to the front of the gear case which stuck out ahead of the front drive wheels. There are one or two in U.S.A. and I think there is one in Pioneer Museum at Wetaskiwin, Alberta. These tractors were discontinued about 1935.

The Sawyer-Massey Company of Hamilton, California made gas tractors from about 1912 until they went out of engine and thresher business in the early 1920's and started to make road machinery.

Massey Harris tractor manufactured by the Massey-Harris Company of Toronto, Ontario. Made in 1918, a 12-25 B. Hp. 4 CV.

This is one of the oldest steam engine and thresher companies in Canada. It was originally the L. D. Sawyer Co. and they made a return flue portable engine as early as 1885. Later on, they made a traction engine and the tractor came later. They were all the same design. The small one was 12-20 Hp. and a big 25-45 Hp. They all had a four cylinder vertical engine with overhead valves, magneto ignition, Madison sight feed pump lubricator. The engine was just ahead of the rear axle. The flywheel and clutch at the front of the engine, were radiator cooled and had a canopy-all except the small one. The drive wheels were flat spoke, cross brace construction and they could burn either gasoline or kerosene. The belt pulley was geared down about 2 to 1, so did not run fast and reduced belt slippage.

Gould-Sharpley and Muir Company of Brantford, Ontario made stationary gasoline engines as early as 1900 and started to make tractors about 1912 or earlier. They were all more or less the same design-two cylinder horizontal opposed with right hand belt pulley and toggle arm clutch in the belt pulley. These tractors had a carburetor and magneto for each cylinder. The small ones were hopper cooled and the larger ones (35-45 Hp. and 40-60 Hp.) were radiator cooled. Some were hopper cooled. They were all gasoline or kerosene burners. There is a 12-25 Hp. hopper cooled Gould Sharpley and Muir in perfect condition in the Pioneer Museum.

About 1918, the horizontal engine was discontinued and a four cylinder vertical engine with a friction drive was brought out. This tractor was called the 'Beaver'. The company went out of business in the 1920's.

The Gibson Mfg. Company of Guelph, Ontario built a standard type tractor in 1918 and 1920. It was the Dixie Ace and had a four cylinder vertical engine, was rated 10-20 Hp. and had a semi eleptic spring under the front axle.

A Robert Bell 20-35 Hp. tractor from the Robert Bell Co., of Seaf orth, Ontario.

McDonald Thresher Company of Stratford, Ontario was a firm that had built steam tractors and threshers for a number of years and went into the building of tractors during 1918. This was a four cylinder vertical engine. The engine was built by Cushman Motors and very little else is known about this tractor.

Waterloo Mfg. Company of Waterloo Ontario, one of the old line of steam engine and thresher companies built a farm tractor in 1912. It was very much like the Sawyer-Massey. It had a four cylinder vertical engine with overhead valves mounted over the back axle. The clutch and gears were ahead of the motor, belt pulley was on the right side and a canopy extended the full length of the tractor. The tractor was tank and pump cooled, had round spokes in the wheels and a high clearance under the axles. They were made for only one or two years and then the company made more steam engines.

One of the lesser known tractors was the Essex, built by Essex Tractor Company of Essex, Ontario. It was the standard four wheel type with four cylinder vertical engine and was rated at 10-20 Hp. and was built in 1920.

The Alberta Foundry of Medicine Hat, Alberta built a kind of tractor. It had four wheels and the drive wheels had wooden spokes. The engine was a two cylinder horizontal and sat on a wooden frame. The front wheels were cast iron. It was radiator cooled. One of these tractors is in the Pioneer Museum at Wetaskiwin.

A 1916 25-45 Hp. 4 cyl. vertical engine of the Sawyer-Massey Company of Hamilton, Ontario.

1918 12-24 Hp. 2 CO. Gould Sharpley and Muir engine - company at Brantford, Ontario.

The 'Dixie Ace' - 1919, 10-20 Hp. 4 C.V. manufactured by the Gilson Mfg. Co. of Guelph, Ont

The Chase tractor was built about 1918. It was unique, in that the engine was not mounted on top of the frame, but was slung under the frame. The engine was a four cylinder vertical one mounted crosswise of the frame. The drive from the engine to the gear box was by chain. Two drive wheels were at the rear and one wheel for steering was at the front and an arrow was mounted above the wheel so the driver could tell which way to go. Only two of these tractors are left. One is at Milton, Ontario and the other at Western Development Museum, Saskatoon.

The Cockshutt Plow Company, Brant-ford, Ontario put out a six cylinder tractor in 1930. This tractor, like most others at that time, was a standard four wheel type. The engine had magneto ignition. It had a generator, battery of six volts and a starting motor. It had three forward speeds and one reverse. The belt pulley was on the right hand side.

Now, there are only the Cockshutt Company and the Massey-Harris Company or as it is now the Massey-Ferguson Company making tractors in Canada. All the others have either gone out of business or gone into making other products.

While on the topic of tractors, very few people know that International Harvester Company of Chicago made a steam tractor. This was in 1920. It never got past the experimental stage, so was never advertized and put on the market.

I have a collection of about twelve engines, all in good shape and running. There are no two alike.

Pictured is my Bull's Eye, 2 Hp. with side shaft. Wonder if there is another one around? I would like to hear if there is one.

It was the standard four wheel tractor with a box type condenser at the front, assisted by a steam driven fan to turn the steam back to water. The water tank was just in front of the boiler which was oil-fired and presumably was a water tube type with a steam pressure of 500 pounds per square inch. The engine was a four cylinder V type uniflow with poppet valves. Steam was taken at one end of the piston with only a piston rod connected to a crosshead while worked in the bottom of the cylinder sleeve. The engine was mounted above the rear axle. The steam from the exhaust port went to the condenser and back to the tank. This tractor would pull a three furrow, fourteen inch plow.

Model L9 Hp. Lister S/N21681 made about 1918 by R.A. Lister & Co. Ltd, Dursley, England. This engine painted its nearly original Bristol Green, mounted on trucks which came from a cement mixer, drove a 10 in. Hammer mill two years ago.

MacDonald tractor manufactured by Cushman Motor Works of Canada. It is a 1918, 12-25 Hp. 4 C.V.

A 4 cyl. V type uniflow steam tractor of 1920 manufactured by the International Harvester Company of Chicago, Illinois.