2274 W. Leland Avenue #3W, Chicago, Illinois 60625
Restored to its 1920 appearance, the Beckman Mill operates as a functioning mill museum near Beloit, Wisconsin. The Titan engine is housed in the shed addition behind the larges sliding door.
What are you going to do with that rusty old thing?
Many visitors to the Beckman Mill near Beloit, Wisconsin, looking at the hulk of a 1920 International Harvester Titan 10-20 tractor hardly believed it was even worth its weight as scrap. However, in keeping with the tradition of rebuilding things that 'can't be rebuilt,' the restoration crew of the Friends of Beckman Mill has returned the engine to fine running condition.
William How built his mill west of Beloit in 1868 to grind grain for area farmers. In 1882 German-born August Beckman became the miller, followed by his sons Henry and Charlie Beckman. The mill operated until Charlie closed it down in 1954- Rock County purchased the property in 1978 for use as a park with the intent of restoring the mill, but no funds were available. Alarmed at the building's deteriorating condition, a group of local residents, history buffs, and Beckman family members formed the Friends of Beckman Mill, Inc. as a non-profit group in 1990. They set to work returning the mill to its 1920s condition, the era when the Beckmans' business was at its peak. A dedicated crew of volunteers did much of the restoration work themselves. Today the group operates the mill as a working museum, grinding with the same stones used since 1868. Interestingly, those French buhr stones were imported by the Edward P. Allis Company of Milwaukee-the forerunner to Allis Chalmers.
Turbines originally powered the millstones and machinery. By the 1920s, though, the Beckman Mill installed a one cylinder Fairbanks-Morse 'N' stationary engine to supply auxiliary power for grinding. It was needed in times of drought or flood, when there wasn't enough head of water to run the turbines. When the 'N' wore out, it was replaced with an engine removed from a Titan 10-20.
International Harvester produced over 78,000 of these tractors between 1915 and 1922. The two cylinder, 530 cubic inch engine had a 6? inch bore and an 8-inch stroke, with ten horsepower at the drawbar and twenty at the belt pulley. The list price for a new Titan in 1920 was $900.
From the beginning, the Friends of Beckman Mill planned to operate with waterpower using the rebuilt turbines once a new dam was in place (reconstruction of the dam began in the fall of 1999). However, they were keeping an eye out for an authentic auxiliary power source to run the millstones in the meantime. The Friends then got a lead on an old Titan 10-20-the same model the Beckmans had used decades earlier-at the annual Rock River Thresheree near Janesville, Wisconsin, held every Labor Day weekend. Restoration crew chief Bob Fosler relates, 'When we told a guy what kind of engine the mill used to have, he said, 'I know where you can find one of those. Tractor collectors have been after him for years, but he doesn't want to sell to a private individual. Your group just might have a shot at it, though.' We decided to give it a try.'
The group was able to acquire the 'new' tractor for $700 from a farmer near Mount Carroll, Illinois, in April, 1996. Built in 1920, its serial number is TV48173. It sat rusting in the field where it had broken down years before. The water tank was corroding away, the cam gear was missing teeth, and the wheel rims were nearly a foot deep in mud. Nonetheless, it was a thing of beauty to Paul Newton and Dick Alcock, who led the restoration of the engine. After hauling the tractor to the mill and pulling the engine off the frame, work began in 1997. Not a few people expressed skepticism that the engine would ever run again. 'It looked pretty rough,' says Paul, 'but it really wasn't in that bad a shape.' Nevertheless, it needed complete rebuilding. 'You wouldn't believe the muck that came out of that thing!' Paul remembers.
The restoration crew used copies of an original Titan operating manual to aid in the rebuilding and to help in identifying parts. 'When you do this kind of work, you've got to keep everything,' stresses Dick. The engine didn't require any especially major repairs, but a lot of components needed attention. New teeth were brazed to the damaged cam gear, a new water tank was constructed from a pump housing, and new valves were made from scratch. The carburetor, oiler, governor, and fuel pump-'just a chunk of rust' as Paul describes it-all had to be substantially rebuilt.
Painted in its original gray color, with authentic decals, the restored Titan engine rests on a new concrete pad in the engine room of the Beckman Mill. It is connected to a new separate fuel reservoir and runs on gasoline, exhaust fumes are piped outside. The engine sits adjacent to a slot in the floor, which provided room for a belt to connect the pulley to an outside driveshaft. This horizontal shaft re-enters the mill, engages a beveled gear with wooden teeth, and transfers power to a vertical shaft, from which the millstone is run.
The engine was fired up in its new home for the first time on May 7, 1998, amidst much exhaust smoke and many grins. The mill ground again that fall for the first time in forty-four years. The Titan runs smoothly, in fact, a nickel balanced edgewise on the head will remain standing even when the engine is started up. A few items still needed work, though. In 1999, Dick Alcock fabricated a new pair of spark plugs from scratch, modeled after the originals, to help the engine run even better. The clutch drum was removed early this year upon the discovery of a large crack in the casting. Using this as a pattern, the group cast an entirely new part identical to the original (minus the flaw).
The Beckman Mill and its restored Titan 10-20 engine offers visitors a chance to step back into the past and experience the sights and sounds and smells of another time. The hard work put in by the restoration crew is rewarded by the look of fascination on people's faces when the old engine comes to life and once again powers the mill-and it doesn't take much arm twisting to convince the guys to fire her up!