From Steam Tractor to Gas Tractor

The author describes how his father switched from using a steam tractor to a gas tractor during the second decade of the 20th century.

Horsepower Novo

Not a steam tractor, this is a water pumping outfit the author has shown at Steam showsand Parades. It is a 3 horsepower Novo. The pump has a tubunderneath the platform and it recirculates the water. It is quitea novelty.


Content Tools

My father bought his last big steam tractor outfit in the summer of 1911 I believe. It was a thirty horse rear mounted simple Advance engine and a 44 x 64 Advance separator. I was not very old at the time as I was born in Fergus Falls, Minn, in 1904 (Jan.). The steam outfit was unloaded from the flat car at Hereford, Minn, which is no more. We lived at the time about twelve miles west of Elbow Lake, Minn. My dad and three brothers lived on homesteads in west central North Dakota. We moved out there in the spring of 1913. In the summer of 1914 he shipped the steam outfit out there and did a lot of custom threshing. O yes, he built a cook car and a bunk car, each ten by twenty-four feet. These were mounted on separator axles and wheels.

Early in the spring of 1914 my dad bought a La Cross eight bottom independent beam plow and pulled it with the steam engine and did breaking. He said that it was the shortest and quickest way to the poor house.

In the spring of 1915 he bought a Minneapolis 40-80 gas tractor and did custom breaking with that for a few years.

But, in the meantime, which is really the cause of this letter, he had bought a Bull Tractor in the spring of 1913 built by the 'Bull Tractor Company', of Minneapolis, Minn. I had meant to write sooner but never got around to it after reading and seeing the pictures of the 'Whiting Bull Tractor' described by Mr. Michael Carroll on page ten and 38 of the May-June issue of The Iron Men Album.

These two tractors at first glance look alike so closely that one would take them to be the same. It would seem like the same man did the designing of the two machines.

We did quite a bit of work with it. Pulled a sixteen inch breaker bottom plow or a eight foot single disk. Also we did pull a eight foot binder with it. It also was good for grinding feed.

My dad was not satisfied with it so he went to Minneapolis the following winter to see if the Company would take it back. They said no, but would sell him a new one for around half price and was sure he would like that one as it had a governor and a force feed lubricator, which was quite an improvement

That tractor hauled the coal out from town for the steamer while doing breaking. That steam engine pulled the eight breaker bottoms, a heavy packer and a drill seeding flax.

When he got the tractor, that pulled the same load.

But as the years went on the threshing runs got cut up by these small outfits (Coffee grinders we used to call them.) Then in 1924 the combines started to come. We bought ours in 1928—a Minneapolis 16 foot cut. The last we threshed with the steam outfit was 1924. In 1926 my dad bought a 28 x 46 Minneapolis steel separator. A year or two before he had bought a 17-30 Minneapolis tractor. Our homestead was in the western end of Mclean County, North Dakota. The old homestead was, or I should say is, next to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. My dad and mother have gone to Glory a long time ago. When I got back from the war we guys could not get any land or machinery as these draft dodgers had every thing and would not let go so I went to working for wages. I landed here in a ship yard, building mine sweepers and gun boats for the Navy.