Tuesday, January 15, 2019

1 1/4 HP Type VJ Monitor Engine

What was to become Baker Manufacturing Co. dates back to 1872 when Allen S. Baker and Levi Shaw began to develop a rotary steam engine. In 1873 four local merchants signed onto the venture with Baker and Shaw with each of the partners pledging to contribute $1,000 to the enterprise. The company was named A.S. Baker Co. and a machine shop was opened in Evansville, Wisconsin in July of 1873 where work began on the steam engine. Several examples were built but the engine didn’t live up to expectations and the steam engine project was soon abandoned.

The machine shop remained in business doing repair work and making iron well pumps and wooden windmills which sold well and the company continued to grow. Incorporation as the Baker Manufacturing Company with working capital of $20,000 followed in 1879. By 1882 forty employees were on the payroll, building and shipping seventy windmills per month which were marketed under the Monitor trade name. 1910 saw windmills and pumps marketed worldwide and new products including gasoline engines being built by a workforce of 150 employees.  

Baker continued to expand their gasoline engine line with a range of horsepower to meet just about any demand. Windmills, pumps and water supply products remained the company’s mainstays, but a variety of farm implements like feed grinders and powered saws that could be run by the Monitor gas engines were also marketed.

No one could ever accuse the Baker firm of being afraid of innovation. The line of products they manufactured ranged from the eminently practical to downright bizarre. Windmill towers led to radio beacon towers for early twentieth century aviators. Steel flag poles were marketed. In the years prior to World War 2 they got into the toy business with mechanically animated toys sold as “Live Toys”. Su Panda and Annie Elephant production reached 9,000 copies. A hydrofoil sailboat was developed. Contributions to the war effort ranged from a sight for anti aircraft guns to a combat vehicle that could leap over four foot obstacles and bound 47 feet horizontally. 

The Little Monitor gasoline engines like the 1 ¼ hp example shown here were one of Baker’s best selling products. Used primarily for pumping wells, they came with a pump jack and belt pulley included. They could also be used to power washing machines, corn shellers, butter churns, buzz saws, cement mixers, and about anything that could be powered by a belt drive. 

The 1 ¼ hp Monitor engine was a four cycle with jump spark ignition and a hit and miss governor. It had a dust sealed, closed crankcase with hand-hole access for connecting rod adjustments. Moving parts were splash lubricated from an oil settling chamber. 

The engine shown here was displayed at the WNC Fall Harvest Days Show in 2018. The data plate identifies it as a Monitor type VJ 1 ¼ hp , # 41099 . No further information was supplied. My guess would be that it was built sometime between 1910 and 1930 but without a list of serial numbers, that is just speculation. 

Baker Manufacturing Company is still very much in business today. You can find a detailed history of the company at their website: www.bakermonitor.com/content/about-us/company-history 

Additional Resources:

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

1936 Massey-Harris Challenger

Massey-Harris introduced the Challenger model in 1936 in a bid to break into the lucrative row crop tractor market that had been dominated by International Harvester with the hugely popular Farmall line since 1924. While the Challenger was their first real row crop, it wasn’t the the first tricycle design they had marketed. Way back in 1917 when M-H was a farm implement manufacturer, the first tractor in their product line was the Big Bull Tractor, built by a company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While the Bull couldn’t be called a real row crop, it was a three wheeler. The Bull, however, turned out to be a disaster for Massey-Harris. 

The Challenger had what farmers wanted in a tractor and was well received during its short production run from 1936 through 1937. It was succeeded by the Twin Power Challenger in 1938 to 1939. A total of 14,000 Challenger tractors were built at the Racine Wisconsin factory. Massey -Harris serial numbers for the Challenger began at 130001 in 1936. Serial numbers can be found stamped on the oval plate attached to the left side of the main frame and stamped into the metal above the plate on the frame. The number of the tractor shown here is 130576. 

The Challenger was available in  a distillate version and as a gasoline powered tractor. The distillate model was evaluated at the University of Nebraska in test number 265 from August 10th to the 18th 1936 and recorded a maximum drawbar horsepower of 20.03 and 28.58 hp on the belt. The following year Massey-Harris sent a gasoline model for testing in October of 1937. As you might expect, it recorded increased performance with 29.8 hp on the drawbar and 34.9 hp on the belt in test number 293. 

Massey designed and built their own engine, a four cylinder with a bore of 3 7/8 “ and 5 ¼” stroke that displaced 247 cu. In. and turned at 1200 rpm. Speeds recorded at the test were: 1st 2.4 mph, 2nd 3.3 mph, 3rd 4.1 mph, 4th 8.5mph and 3 mph in reverse. 

The 1936 test tractor was equipped with an American Bosch model U4ED4V1 magneto, a 1 ¼” Kingston carburetor and a Handy No. RD2231 centrifugal governor. The clutch was a hand operated, twin disc single plate dry type. Belt power was supplied by a 12 inch diameter pulley with a 6 ¼” face turning at 831 rpm. 

Steel wheels were standard equipment on the 1936 model, drive wheels measured 52” in diameter with a face of 8” that mounted 28 2 ½” X 5” spade lugs per wheel. Rubber tired wheels were available as an extra cost option. The rubber tired version also measured 52” giving the tractor 25” of crop clearance. The rear tread stance was adjustable from 52 to 80 inches. The Challenger was provided with a rear PTO and a PTO driven powered implement lift was available as an extra cost option. Individual rear wheel brakes were standard and gave the Challenger the ability to turn on a dime.

The beautifully restored Challenger shown here is owned by Fran Manchik and was exhibited at the WNC Fall Harvest Days Antique Engine and Tractor Show hosting the Massey Expo of North America at Asheville, NC.   October 26 to 28th 2017. 

University of Nebraska Tractor Test results published in the Cooperative Tractor Catalog, 22nd edition 1937 - 1938  page 166, available at https://books.google.com 

The Big Book of Massey Tractors by Robert N. Pripps ; available at https://books.google.com 

The Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors by C.H. Wendel 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The first ever Golden Mule Award

Well here we are, the last post of 2018, where did the year go? This seems like a good time to look back at the events I visited and choose an exhibit that best represents the spirit of innovation that made the Industrial Revolution possible. With that in mind, I’m pleased to present the winner of the first ever Golden Mule Award for Innovative Excellence.

You can do a lot of things with steam. You can heat your home most effectively with it, you can cross oceans and continents with its power, you can make things in factories with machines that run on steam, you can even press your trousers with it. Of all the things steam can do, perhaps the most useful is generate electricity.

Unless you live in an area with abundant hydro, wind or solar, chances are the electricity powering your home is generated by steam. More electricity is probably generated by steam than by all the other methods combined. Nothing unusual about it. Gregory Deal’s “Portable Historical Display” however, is the first self contained steam powered electric generating plant mounted on a trailer, that I have ever seen.

The two key historical elements are a 1957 vintage Lookout boiler and a Engberg’s vertical steam engine. The boiler is a vertical fire tube type that has a maximum rated working pressure of 100 psi. If you’ve been visiting this site for a while, you might remember seeing the Lookout Boiler in an earlier post. The steam engine was built by Engberg’s Electric and Mechanical Works, located in St. Joseph, Michigan, most likely sometime from the early 1900’s to 1921. The data plate mounted on the mechanical oiler offers that it is machine number 5842, frame: C, with a bore of 5”  and stroke of 5” turning at 500 rpm. No date of manufacture given.

One of the very few tidbits of information I’ve been able to glean about Engberg’s came by way of a small classified ad in a publication called “Power: Devoted to the generation and transmission of power.” Vol. 28 issue 17, April 28, 1908 available courtesy of books.google.com . On page 107 there is an advertisement for an Engberg’s generating set with an illustration of one of their steam engines connected to a dynamo. The ad copy reads, “ Will maintain with perfect steadiness, from 30 to 500 lights, requiring very little steam and less of your attention.”  

Mr. Deal’s generator seems to be having no difficulty maintaining the lights strung around his trailer. Note also the box fan that’s available for use on hot summer days. 
What else he could power up is limited only by your imagination. So there you have it the winner of The Golden Mule Award for 2018. Look for his trailer at the Western North Carolina Fall Harvest Days next year to see what he’s come up with for 2019. 


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Collings Foundation Tour 2018

On Thursday, October 25th I was working in my yard, cleaning up the debris from the latest storm when an unusual sound grabbed my attention. Nothing else sounds like a radial aircraft engine, especially a lot of them. Passing by not far to the North was a B 24 Liberator and a B 17 Flying Fortress, headed Southwest toward Greenville, South Carolina. It was two of the four vintage aircraft that make up the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour. They weren’t due to arrive until Friday but bad weather was on the way so I guess they decided to fly in in front of it.

If you have any interest at all in historic machinery, this is an event you won’t want to miss. Accompanying the two bombers mentioned above are a B 25 Mitchell medium bomber and a TF 51D , a two seat trainer version of the Mustang. Where else can you see these famous aircraft together at the same time?

Rides are available on all four aircraft and walk through tours are offered between flights on the B-17 and B-24. You can find information about the aircraft and prices by visiting www.collingsfoundation.org. 

If you have deep pockets, the Mustang is the obvious first choice for anyone considering going for a ride. The Packard-Merlin V-12 engine turns out 1,450 horsepower that moves the Mustang at a maximum air speed of 440 miles per hour. Since this is a trainer version, the passenger seat has full instrumentation and functional controls. Once airborne, you can actually fly this iconic World War Two fighter. 

For a more modest fee, you can catch a ride on the Mitchell. Not a fighter like the P-51, but still an impressive performance aircraft. Powered by two Wright R2600-92 Cyclone radial engines it has a top speed of 272 miles per hour. Best known for its role in the Doolittle Raid, it was able to launch with a full load of fuel and bombs from the deck of the USS Hornet , and that was before the day of steam catapult assisted launch. During WW-2 it saw service as a Medium Bomber and in the Ground Attack role. In the Pacific Theater it was used extensively to attack Japanese shipping.  

The Collings Foundation has painted their B-17 in the war time markings of a plane that flew 140 combat missions as part of the 91st Bomb Group, 323rd squadron that the crew named “Nine O Nine”.  That aircraft survived those missions and brought all of its crew home safely, only to be scrapped after the war ended. This aircraft, affectionately known as serial # 44-83575 rolled off the assembly line at the Douglas plant at Long Beach , CA. in April 1945, too late to see combat in WW 2.  It may have missed the war, but it has a story of its own that’s every bit as interesting as the Nine-O-Nine. Lets’ climb inside and look around while I recap that tale. 

The Air Corp accepted delivery that same month and assigned it to the Air / Sea 1st. Rescue Squadron where it was used for long range search missions. Following that tour of duty it was transferred to the Military Air Transport Service where it hauled cargo until 1952 when it was assigned to participate in one of the strangest chapters in American history, Operation Tumbler - Snapper. 

From 1945 until 1962 the Atomic Energy Commision and the Defense Nuclear Agency were lighting off atomic weapons like some overgrown kid with a box of cherry bombs on the Fourth of July. A total of 235 above ground, or atmospheric, tests were conducted during this period. Tumbler - Snapper was a series of tests or shots as they were called, that were conducted at Yucca Flats in the Nevada desert in April, 1952. One of the many experiments was designed to measure the effects of nuclear blasts on parked aircraft. To that end a total of 28 aircraft were parked at various ranges from ground zero and nuked three times. This B-17 was one of them. 

I won’t go into all the high strangeness that went on out there in the desert. That would take several books to cover. If you are interested visit  www.dtra.mil and search Operation Tumbler - Snapper, enough documents will pop up to keep you busy for quite a while, many of them available in PDF for download. Makes for some very interesting reading.

After the tests, this B-17 sat in the desert, glowing in the dark at night for 13 years until it had “cooled down” enough to be sold as scrap.  It takes a lot to stop a B-17 and this one wasn’t about to quit yet. It was purchased by a firm called Aircraft Specialties Co. and incredibly, restored to flying condition. It spent the next 20 years fighting forest fires as a fire bomber.  The Collings Foundation bought it in 1986 and returned it to it’s wartime design. With the exception of down time for another rebuild, It has been touring the country with the other Wings of Freedom aircraft ever since.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Gibson Garden Tractors

In 1945 Soldiers by the thousands suddenly found themselves civilians again, and like troops headed home throughout history, they had only one thing on their mind, “Get out there and mow the grass, or better yet, plant a garden.” The Gibson Manufacturing Corporation was one of dozens of companies that were eager to help them realize their ambition.

Gibson was around before they got into the garden tractor business. Harry Gibson opened a shop in Seattle, Washington that built railroad cars. Early in 1946 the decision was made to jump on the tractor bandwagon by opening a plant in Longmont, Colorado under the direction of Wilbur Gibson that was dedicated to the production of small tractors. According to a local newspaper article that was dated March 2, 1946, the 70 newly hired employees at the Gibson plant had just completed the first 52 Gibson tractors ever produced. Serial numbered tractors 1 to 16 had already been shipped to dealers in Denver. 

Gibson designated their first design the model A which was rapidly followed by the D,  SD and Super D versions.  All were powered by a six hp Wisconsin AEH engine, although some early D’s reportedly were equipped with a 9 hp AHH mill. Three forward speeds plus reverse were provided. Gibson ads claimed it could pull a trailer at 12 mph and plow with 10 or 12 inch bottoms. 

An astute observer has probably already been wondering, “what happened to the steering wheel? “  Short answer, there isn’t one. The tall lever on the right side was used to guide the tractor. Push forward to turn left, pull back to turn right. The reason Gibson chose this method is one of those mysteries lost to time. More than one potential customer found the method too awkward to buy the tractor. The A, D and SD models were fitted with the lever. By the time the Super D rolled off the assembly line it had been replaced by a conventional steering wheel.

With the introduction of the Super D, Gibson attempted to address their customers complaints about other shortcomings. A hood and grill were added to protect the engine plus fenders to protect the operator. An electrical system and hydraulics were offered as optional equipment.  

A pricelist from 1949 had the Model D selling for $545 and the Model SD at $580. Gibson also offered a line of implements made especially for their tractors. One source that I found placed the total production run for Gibson’s small engine tractors, the models A, D, SD and Super D, at 60,000 units  sold in the United States and globally. Gibson also built a Model EF tractor that had a 2 cylinder Wisconsin TF motor. In the early Fifties Gibson made a brief foray into production of full sized farm tractors with the Models H and I, but very few of these were sold. 

In the early 50’s Gibson tried it’s hand in other markets beside the tractors. At one point they had a contract to build forklifts for the Navy. They also made a golf cart that they named the Country Clubber. It was also during this period that financial problems began to develop. For a three week period in 1952, workers were laid off and the factory shut down. In August 1954 a company called Western American Industries assumed control of Gibson’s operations. Accounts vary according to the source, but as many as 1000 more model D’s SD’s and Super D’s may have been produced by Western before operations were shut down permanently in 1958 but Gibson Manufacturing ceased to be in 1954.

The Gibson shown in these photos was offered for sale at the Western North Carolina Fall Harvest Days show in 2018. No information about it was displayed. Gibson serial numbers are supposed to be stamped into the frame rail on the right side. I looked this one over carefully but could not find any markings that would help to identify it. My best guess is that it is a model D but as for the year of production, I don’t have a clue.


www.oldirongardentractors.com  offers a collection of original source material consisting of Gibson advertising, letters from the manufacturers agent to retailers, and newspaper clippings from the period. 

www.gasenginemagazine.com  A History of the Gibson Manufacturing Company by Dave Baas published July / August 1985 

www.hemmings.com  1947 - ‘52 Gibson Model D  by Mike McNessor ,  published July, 2007 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

H. K. Porter Fireless Steam Storage Locomotive

Snugged into stall number 13 in the Robert Julian Roundhouse at the NC Transportation Museum is a real Thomas the Tank. Looking at it from the front it's easy to imagine that it might have been the inspiration for the cartoon character. While Thomas is a side tank, this engine really is just a big insulated tank.

H.K. Porter Locomotive Company was an innovative leader in the specialty small locomotive marketplace. Able to assemble engines quickly from off the shelf components to meet customer needs, they built engines that were used by construction contractors on large projects like road and railroad construction and industrial switching engines. An example of their saddle tank switching engines was featured in the Nov. 1 2017 post, E & M Number 5 Turns 100. 

As versatile as their small locomotives were, there were situations where they just wouldn’t do. Coal mines, factories producing hazardous and flammable materials and confined spaces where the byproducts of  combustion would be unacceptable needed motive power that didn’t spew smoke and sparks. In 1890 Porter made a bid to capture this market by introducing a two stage compressed air locomotive. By 1930 400 copies had been sold. The compressed air engines filled the need,but they had extremely limited range and endurance. 

In 1915 Porter developed a steam storage locomotive that offered significant advantages over compressed air engines. This design consisted of a large capacity insulated tank that was filled with superheated water and steam supplied by any existing stationary industrial boiler. Steam from the tank was tapped from the steam domes and piped to a standard piston engine that turned the driving wheels. This siphoning off of steam reduced the pressure in the tank, allowing more steam to boil off from the water. Applying this well known principle of physics, greatly increased the amount of steam available for work above what could be obtained if the tank was filled with steam alone. Once the tank was filled, the engine could operate from 2 to 5 hours, depending on the load. 

There were many appealing advantages to this system. Since most factories and other industrial sites already had a ready supply of steam available, eliminating the cost of the firebox and boiler on the locomotive represented a significant savings. Add to that the savings on fuel and the cost of labor of a fireman on the locomotive since the engineer could operate the locomotive by himself. It takes a considerable amount of time and fuel to bring a locomotive boiler up to operating temperature and this requires the attention of the engine’s crew. The steam storage engine on the other hand could be charged in a few minutes. When the locomotive was not moving freight it could be parked and the operator could perform other tasks. There were also savings in maintenance cost.  

 Shortline railroads operated by a variety of business ventures put these fireless locomotives to good use. I found a photo at www.over-land.com of a Porter fireless engine being used at the Apache Powder Co. plant near Benson Arizona. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see the advantage it would have, working in a dynamite factory. Power plants were another natural application since they already possessed an abundant supply of steam and that is where  the locomotive shown here spent it’s working years. 

H.K. Porter built this 0-4-0 switch engine in 1937. It was operated by Carolina Power and Light Co. at the Lumberton, North Carolina generating plant where it hauled car loads of coal, cinders and ash until it was retired in 1980. It was donated to the state of North Carolina in August of that year and later moved to the Transportation Museum where it is currently on display. 


Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice Vol. 6  at https://books.google.com 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Desjardin 5 /6 HP Engine

Charles-Alfred Roy Desjardins began his business career as a shipbuilder. About 1865 he founded La Compagnie Desjardins at St. Andre - de - Kamouraska, Quebec in Canada and began producing  a variety of farm implements. His product line continued to expand and by 1911 it included gasoline engines and a small threshing machine that could be powered by an engine as small as one rated for four horsepower. These small threshing outfits held a lot of appeal for small farm operators because it freed them from depending on contract thresher men.

Around the turn of the last century Arthur Stanley Jones emigrated to the western provinces of Canada from England and established himself as a farmer. A farmer who lived nearby owned one of the Desjardins threshers and when Jones saw it, he realized the potential it held as a business opportunity. By 1912 Jones had become the agent for Desjardins in a territory that included Ontario, the western provinces and the northern states that bordered Canada. He sold Desjardin products in this area that were rebranded Call of the West. He was so successful in this enterprise that these engines are better known today than those that carry the Desjardins name.

By 1919 Jones had expanded his operation in Saskatoon to include offices, warehouses and a factory that made assorted farm implements and a blower for the threshing machines that Jones had deigned. An economic downturn in the early twenties hit the area hard and Jones was unable to meet the debt obligations his expansions had incurred. He sold his interest in the operation to Desjardins at what he claimed was a great loss. A few weeks later the factory mysteriously burned to the ground. Disputes soon arose over the insurance settlement, among other things, and both parties lawyered up. By the time the torts had settled, both sides were the worse for wear, but Jones seemed to have come out on top. He received a settlement from Desjardins and packed up and moved to California, never to be heard from in the manufacturing business again. Desjardins plodded on into the Great Depression and filed for bankruptcy in 1930.

You don’t see many Desjardins engines in my neck of the woods. In fact, this 5 or 6 horsepower 1918 example that Dennis Lamb brought to the 2016 Steam Expo at Cumming, Ga. is the only one I’ve seen.  There are a few photos posted online including one that Aumann Auctions sold for $971.25 back in 2016. Add a few video clips and that’s about it. They may be more common in Canada or out west where Jones sold them as Call of the West Engines. 

www.gasenginemagazine.com  Nov / Dec. 1987 article on A. Stanley Jones by Markham W. Hislop