TITAN RESCUED FROM A WATERY GRAVE

Two-cylinder Titan tractor

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R.I Box 204, Marthasville, Missouri 63357 (From an interview with E. Leim kuehler)

I am sure that most of you fellows out in engine land have dreamed at one time or another of finding a rare or unusual engine or tractor somewhere. This is an unusual but true story of the locating and restoration of a 1917 two-cylinder Titan tractor that should stimulate your imagination a bit.

This story about the tractor in question begins some 60 or more years ago when the original owner took delivery of the then-new Titan from a railroad car at Bay, Missouri. He then used it several years for farm work, primarily for plowing and running a separator. Later it was needed to run a pump in a Tiff or Barite open-pit mine in extreme southern Cole County. It was lowered along side of a vertical step-off by means of a cable anchored to a large oak tree. It did its duty of pumping rain and seep water out of the mine for a number of years until the great depression came along in 1929 and it became unprofitable to mine and sell the Barite. Tiff or Barite is used primarily as a white pigment in paint but has many other uses.

When the mine was abandoned the Titan was left at the bottom of the pit and forgotten. The hole gradually filled with water until the old tractor was covered by about 65 feet of water. Two of the more shallow mines were re-opened after the depression but the deeper pit with the Titan in it was left undisturbed.

Now some 40 years later Emil Leimkuehler of Mount Sterling, Missouri enters the picture. He attended an engine and tractor show near Jefferson City and was given a lead by an old timer there who told a fanciful story of an old Titan tractor which was supposed to be located in the general area of the abandoned mine. Tracing down the lead failed to locate the tractor in question and Leimkuehler was about to give up and return home but just an impulse stopped at a home along the way. An elderly man answered the door and when asked if he knew of an old Titan said 'Yes, I know where there is an old Titan in a mine.' Emil did not know it when he stopped at this house that he was going to talk to the original owner of the tractor.

It took a bit of effort to locate the present owner or owners of the property, but Leimkuehler finally tracked them down and arranged the purchase of the tractor. He hired two scuba-divers to locate the tractor but neither of the two were successful and one remarked 'I think you must have bought an empty hole.' A third diver was hired and was only down a few minutes before coming to the surface. Emil's heart sank, thinking that this was another unsuccessful attempt, but was told by the diver, 'I found it.' Leimkuehler had made arrangements for a crane to lift out the old tractor but had to wait a couple of hours for the crane to arrive. While they were waiting the diver went down again and attached cables to the tractor using an inflated inner-tube to hold the cables in place. When the crane came to the site the cables were attached to the lifting boom, but it was found that even with boom fully extended it was necessary for the crane to approach all the way to the edge of the pit to avoid dragging the antique tractor along the rocky bottom. The crane began lifting its weight and the old tractor finally broke the surface and came to light after nearly 40 years under water. It was safely deposited on its new owner's truck and began its trip to his farm without incident.

After getting it home he began to examine it to see about its condition and was amazed to find that all the moving parts were free to turn. There was still heavy oil in the transmission, and in fact when he had it loaded he wanted to block it from rollong on the truck and casually pushed the shift lever and was surprised to find that the gears would still engage. Needless to say that solved the problem! Further examination revealed that after removing a brown scum which covered all of it that red paint with black striping was still visible on the wheels. Brass nameplate with original serial number on it was still attached to the frame and the name 'Titan' painted thereon was still showing. All the rollers of the drive chain were free to turn--none were rusted tight. All bolts holding the lugs on the wheels came loose by first loosening with a wrench and then unscrewing them with fingers. Leimkuehler thinks that something in the makeup of the water that covered the tractor for 40 years helped preserve and prevent the parts from rusting.

Emil Leimkuehler, Mt. Sterling, brushes some of the sediment off a 1915 Titan tractor recovered from an abandoned tiff mine.

Then began the job of restoring the antique tractor. Magneto, carburetor, lubricator and miscellaneous items had been removed years ago and a search was then begun to find the missing parts. Leimkuehler had located a junk Titan on a farm near Washington, Missouri, arranged for its purchase and hauled it home. It had been dismantled by some idle farm hands on orders from its owner to give them some work to do between jobs. It had stood in a feed lot for about 30 years and some of the parts had been trampled into the dirt by the animals. He and his wife went back with a metal detector and recovered the carburetor and other parts from the soil. Then began travels to other states to replace other missing parts. He and his wife went to Wisconsin to get a lubricator. Other parts came from Kansas and Nebraska. An original water tank which had never been used and still had the original sales tag attached, was found in Iowa. He left the original boards on the platform after allowing them to dry out, replacing only the rear-most one that was broken. A furrow-guide was found in a junkyard near his home which had been discarded by its owner who had never used it. An interesting sidelight about our hobby is the fact that the general public does not understand it. Both the crane operator and the scuba diver asked 'Do you think you will be able to salvage enough iron and parts to pay for this operation?'

Emil Leimkuehler and his wife, Nancy, and daughter, Susan, operate a 200-acre farm on the Gasconade River north of Mt. Sterling, Missouri. This farm was once owned by his grandfather and has good rich river bottom soil. Leimkuehler has been buying and restoring old farm tractors for five or six years including a 1925 Hart Parr 12-24; 1925 John Deere D (spoked flywheel); 1929 Hart Parr; and a 1936 Hart Parr Oliver. He has constructed with hand tools and an electric welder a beautiful 2/3 size replica of the 1925 Hart Parr and is contemplating the construction of a 2/3 scale replica of the 1917 Titan.

I first met Emil last year at a meeting of the Warren County Antique Farm Machinery and Engine Restorers Club in Warrenton, Missouri. Later, in the latter part of August of this year he exhibited and ran the tractor at our show at the Warren County Fairgrounds. Needless to say, he has done an excellent restoration on this as well as the other tractors in his collection. The old Titan purrs along and runs like a new tractor in spite of being under water for so many years. When I talked to him at our show in Warrenton, I asked if the story had been written up in any of the collector magazines. He agreed that it should be written, but being the modest man that he is, said that it would be too much like bragging on his part if he wrote it and sent it in himself. He said 'Why don't you write it up and send it in to Gas Engine Magazine?' So this is what I am doing as I feel that it is an unusual story that should be told.