Threshing Steam To Gas

Albert Stodden of R.R. 3

Courtesy of Ed Jansen, 106 Water Street, Teutopolis, Illinois 62427

Ed Jansen

Content Tools

102 Britannia Street, Stratford, Ontario, Canada

Conditions in this area would be similar to the Eastern rather than the Western parts of the United States. However, conditions did vary from one community to another here in Ontario. The steam engine was used for barn threshing, silo filling, and as a stationary or portable sawmill. Threshing machines with a 36 inch cylinder were used with the steam engine and an 18 horsepower boiler would be about the minimum size. Due to the need of crop and pasture rotation, the popular size of fields was about 10 acres measuring 40 rods by 40 rods. A steam engine or large tractor was too clumsy to be used for field work in fields of this size, so horses were used until the small tractors came upon the scene in the 1920's and later.

One exception to this was Mr. Frank Robinson of Carlingford, who had a threshing route and who divided his one hundred acre farm into two fields of fifty acres each. These fields would measure 200 rods in length by 40 rods in width.

Some ladies who take their place as engineers at the steam shows may wonder if they have had any predecessors. I have heard that Mrs. Frank Robinson of Carlingford plowed with the steam engine. I would imagine it would keep Mr. Robinson and his hired man busy supplying the engine with fuel and water, and making the finishes with team and walking plow. Plowing the huge headlands with horses after being packed down with the steam engine would certainly not be any picnic. No wonder this method did not become popular in this area.

When tractors began to replace the steam engine on threshing routes in the 1920's, the separators used were either 28 inch or 32 inch cylinder. The thresher charged in the neighborhood of two dollars an hour with the farmer furnishing the fuel. The fuel used was either distillate or fuel oil as kerosene was an expensive as gasoline - less the Provincial tax in this area. A tractor had to thresh on three imperial gallons per hour or the farmer would be protesting. Distillate cost 13c per gallon.

One thresherman used a 16-30 Rumely, later a 2040 Rumely. His last tractor a 30-50 Rumely was reported to thresh on two gallons of fuel per hour. These tractors were used to grade township roads in the off season. I have heard of a Rumely being used for field work, but have never seen one used in this area. The Eagle model H 22-45 was also reliable and successful at threshing and silo filling.

Albert Stodden of R.R. 3, Effingham, Illinois with one his 50 engines.

A tractor with enough power for a threshing route would pull three 12 inch plows in heavy clay soil. To find one light enough in weight and a short turning radius so it could be used for field work limited one's choice. The ones that worked out in this respect were of more use to the owner. The successful ones in this category were Hart-Parr 30, 1920 model followed by the 18-36 1929 model, McCormick Deering 15-30 followed by McCormick Deering 22-36, John Deere Model D 1934 model and later.

In the 1920s and 1930s the engines in the popular automobiles were too small and of not sufficient durability for tractor work. The year of equalization came in 1938 when Massey Harris made the 101 Senior with Chrysler motor. This tractor would drive a 28' or 32' thresher, pull a three 12' bottom plow in heavy soil on three Imperial gallons of gasoline per hour. At the present time, a comparatively small engine will pull a three bottom plow while some automobile engines are heavier and larger in displacement than the old three plow tractor. True, they are capable of doing 120 miles per hour plus, but which one can do it on three gallons of fuel per hour.