Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ottawa Log Saw

“I saw any size logs, have made good money.”  So said A.G. Drace of  Fenton, Michigan. Mr. Drace didn’t elaborate on how much money, but presumably he had become a wealthy man thanks to his Ottawa log saw.

An advertisement that appeared in the September, 1921 issue of Popular Science Magazine had lots of good things to say, ( no surprise here ) about the Ottawa saws. It was a “One man log saw”, “Easy to move from cut to cut”, “Wheels like a barrow”, “ You start and stop saw blade without stopping motor by simply pulling out the friction clutch.” It was, “Magneto equipped: oscillating magneto ignition. No batteries are ever needed.”  “ Easily operated by man or boy.”

Another ad claimed that you could, “Saw 10 to 20 cords a day.” “Does more than 10 men.” One satisfied customer claimed,”I cut 3 cords an hour with my Ottawa log saw.” It was versatile too. You could use it to run your feed grinder or power your washing machine. Best of all you could own this amazing machine for the low, low price of $39.00 

Ottawa Manufacturing Co. was a division of Warner Manufacturing Company that was formed in 1904 as the result of an offer presented the previous year. A group of businessmen from Ottawa, Kansas approached Warner management about relocating to Ottawa and offered $3000 as an incentive. It seems you could build a new factory for a lot less back in the day, and Warner took them up on the offer.

Warner had been making wire fencing materials since the mid 1800’s but the new factory offered an opportunity to expand the product line. New products would eventually include: mowers, post hole diggers, windmills, gasoline engines and power saws. By 1917 both water and air cooled engines were offered, that ranged from 1 ½ to 22 horsepower. Around 1913 Warner began developing a small engine powered crosscut saw that would become one of their most successful products. 

By the1920’s, Ottawa was a leading manufacturer of power saw products. The drag saw was designed to imitate two men pushing and pulling a saw blade. Powered by a hit and miss engine, the blade could cut at up to 170 strokes per minute. The saw shown here is powered by a 5 hp. Unit that turns over at 550 rpm. 

There is quite a bit of information available online about Ottawa and their products. One of the most interesting that I found is an instruction book for engines and buzz saw rigs from 1918, 1919 and 1920. This manual covers a wide range of topics that are sure to interest collectors and definately owners of an Ottawa saw. Subjects covered include: setting up saw for operation, starting the engine, adjusting the fuel & air mix, setting up the tree saw, how to start a kerosene engine equipped with a magneto without cranking and by cranking, troubleshooting problems and timing the valves. Of special interest to owners would be an exploded diagram and parts list. You can find this interesting document at: 

I photographed # TE 2718E at the Richland Creek Antique Fall Festival at Ward, South Carolina. It is part of the Berry family collection that is on display at the yearly show. For information about the 2019 event visit: .

Sources: The August Reddeman cross cut saw by Brian Wayne Wells , Belt Pulley Magazine Popular Science Sept. 1921 p. 103 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Frick 50 - 65 hp Portable Steam Engine

This engine was a late bloomer in the age of steam. I have not been able to pin down the exact dates of manufacture but it was among the last portable steam engines that Frick Manufacturing produced. It is not listed in a 1907 Frick catalog that is available online. In his Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines, Jack Norbeck credits a 1925 Frick catalog for an illustration of this portable engine. That’s as close as I have been able to determine when production began.

Production appears to have continued long after Frick abandoned traction engines. An article in the Nov. / Dec. 2003  issue of Farm Collector magazine states that traction engine production ended in 1936 but portable engines like the 50 -65 hp. Continued to be built until 1938. Other sources say that portable engine production ended in 1932 or simply,during the 1930’s. 

Frick described it as a 50-65 brake horsepower, improved center crank engine mounted on a slab burning return flue boiler that produced 150 psi working pressure steam. The fire box was a cylinder that was 24 inches in diameter that extended the length of the boiler. At the opposite end flue gases entered a smoke box that connected to 2 inch return flue pipes that carried the hot flue gas back through the water jacket again before exiting up the stack. This resulted in a much more efficient heat transfer and higher pressure steam to power the engine. 

The boiler design that it was an improvement on, is often referred to as a “Cornish” type boiler, a design that would span the age of steam. It dates back at least to 1812 when one of the original Steam Punks, Richard Trevithick, no less, installed one at the Dolcoath Mine. If you didn’t sleep through your history classes, you might remember that Trevithick is better known for having built the first successful working steam locomotive. The early boilers lacked the return flues and had only the single horizontal tube that was slightly larger than half the diameter  of the water jacket that surrounded it. They were easy to build and maintain but limited in pressure and steam production.

The design of this engine was perfect for sawmill work in remote locations and that’s the reason that production continued, long after the internal combustion engine replaced steam for most other applications. Even after internal combustion engines could have easily replaced it, it’s hard to beat free fuel, and every sawmill produced that in abundance. 

In the years that Frick was manufacturing steam products they built around 4,500  traction engines. Portable engines cost a lot less and outsold traction engines almost three to one. Around 13,000 portable engines were built before production ended in 1938. 

These engines remained on the job for many years after Frick stopped building them. In fact, the one shown here occasionally still powers a sawmill. It is part of the collection that the Cumming Antique Power Association maintains and they have been known to fire it up to run their demonstration sawmill during the annual show. Of course it’s much easier to back a tractor into the belt than fire up a steam engine and keep it running all day, so don’t be surprised if that’s what you see. You can find more information about the 2019 show by visiting: .

Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

1925 Spoker D

The legendary plow smith was long since departed when management at Deere & Co. decided that they needed to be in the tractor business. R & D work began in 1912 and continued until 1921. With thousands of hours of labor and truckloads of cash expended and nothing that was marketable to show for it, they concluded that the best way to get a tractor they could sell was to buy one. In 1918 Deere bought out the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company and acquired the rights to the already popular Waterloo Boy tractor for a cool two million dollars. Deere marketed the Waterloo Boy Model N until 1924.

In 1924 Deere introduced the first John Deere tractor, the Model D. It would prove to be one of the most successful and longest production runs of any tractor ever  built. Apparently they learned a thing or two from the Waterloo Boy.  Production began in 1923 with the earliest tractors sold as 1924 model year tractors. A total of 160,000 units were manufactured before the D tractors were superseded in July 1953. With a price tag of $1000 in 1924, they were not cheap tractors, especially during the lean years of the Great Depression. 

Serial numbers began at 30401 for 1924 and ran to 31280 at the start of 1925. 1925 tractors included those numbered up to 35309 when 1926 production began. Unstyled model Ds were built up until 1938 with serial number 138413 being the first tractor built that year. 1939 saw the introduction of the styled tractors with the streamlined look. Styled Ds run from 1939 to 1953, 143,800 in in 1939 to 1953 when 191,439 began that year.

There were other variations besides the styled vs. unstyled. Solid flywheels are quite common but you seldom see a spoked flywheel. One source I consulted claimed that only the first production year tractors had spoked flywheels. There were also three separate stack versions, no stack, ( like the one shown here ) , one stack and two stack models. The no stack version was the early one with serial numbers ranging from 30400 to 53387. Listening to the bark of the exhaust no doubt made for a long day on the driver’s seat, so by SN: 53388 the first stack had been added. At number 109944 the second stack made its debut.  One final note about serial numbers. Tractor numbers 31321 to 31412 are not model Ds at all, according to These were Waterloo Boy Model N tractors that were built after the Model D production had begun. 

Some have said that the early model D’s were just rebadged Waterloo Boy tractors. That position is given support by the Nebraska Tractor Test report number 102 from April 1924.  On that report the manufacturer is listed as Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. of Waterloo, Iowa. That’s not too surprising since that is what is cast in iron on the tractor, right in front of the operator’s position.  

The two cylinder, horizontal, valve in head engine, was similar to those powering the earlier Waterloo tractors. With a bore of 6 ½” X 7” stroke they displaced 465 cubic inches making them slightly larger and more powerful than the Waterloo engines. The fly-ball governor kept engine speed at the rated 800 rpm. Drawbar pull was rated at 16.75 hp. Belt power was recorded at 27.11 hp. The enclosed, chain drive transmitted power through a disc clutch to produce two forward speeds; low - 2.45 mph. High - 3.27  mph. 

The Spoker D shown here is part of the Berry Family collection. I photographed it at the Richland Creek Antique Fall Festival held annually in early November at Ward, South Carolina. To learn more about upcoming events visit: . 

Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors by C. H. Wendel 
Steiner Tractor Parts Catalog 2017 ed. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Shaw Du-All Model N 8 Garden Tractor

What did Elgin watches  and this Du-All tractor have in common? Answer: Stanley Wilbur Shaw.

Shaw was another of those talented tinkerers that seemed to be everywhere in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Legend has it that he built his first steam engine at an early age, but said legend doesn’t elaborate on how successful or practical that engine turned out to be. By the dawn of the Twentieth Century he was operating a watchmaker’s  shop in Galesburg, Kansas where he sold Elgin watches and a couple of other brands. In 1902 he developed a gasoline engine and by 1903 he had established Shaw Manufacturing Company to build them. In 1905 he patented a small gas engine to convert a bicycle into a motorbike. The conversion kit met with a degree of success and he sold 13,000 of them. 

Stanley plowed much of the profit back into his company and expanded the engine line to include air and water cooled stationary and marine engines. In 1908 the Shawmobile entered the  rapidly expanding automobile marketplace. 1923 saw the introduction of a conversion kit to turn the farmer’s Model T Ford into a tractor. Conversion kits were still being offered in an ad placed in Popular Mechanics magazine in February 1932. The ad copy read in part, “Make a tractor from your old car.” and “Anyone can attach Shaw equipment quickly and easily using only a monkey wrench and a screwdriver. You don’t have to be a mechanic.”

Now we get to the meat and gravy part of the story. In 1928 Shaw Manufacturing offered a motorized lawn mower. Sometime around 1932 or 33 a walk behind cultivator and a garden tractor version called “The Happy Gardener Du-All” was introduced. This developed into the walk-behind D series that was available in five horsepower ratings; D2, D3, D4, D5 and 2D5, the number corresponding to the horsepower. Briggs & Stratton provided the motive power for all models which proved to be a good thing for Briggs because Shaw Mfg. was ordering a boxcar load of engines per week. 

1938 saw the introduction of the riding tractor version with the RD model available in 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 horsepower options, designated as RD3 etc. The Du-All tractor line lived up to its name with a full line of accessories being available. Attachments included: sprayers, a 12” moldboard plow, 20” disc plow, 10” X 16” disc harrow, cultivators, 5 ft. cutter bar, 6 ft. cutter bar, 10’ hay rake, bulldozer blade, trailers, potato diggers, hydraulics for attachments like loaders and power saws. There is even a photo in the 1953 catalogue of a Du-All pulling an  8’ International Harvester Combine. 

So where does the Model N 8 fit in this picture? The short answer is,  I don’t have a clue. The only reference to it that I could find was a very brief comment on that the original power source was a Briggs 23 8 hp. Engine. There is no mention of an N model in the 1953 Du-All  catalog provided courtesy of oldirongardentractors which by the way, is a site worth visiting by anyone interested in these tractors. 

According to David Beattie in his Gas Engine Magazine article, Shaw sold the company to Bush Hog in 1962 and Bush Hog discarded a large portion of the information that was then available  about Du-All products. N 8 documents may well have been among the victims of this purge.  If anyone can provide more information, your comments would be welcome.

The N 8 shown here was exhibited at the 2018 Steam Expo in Cumming, Ga. No information was displayed about this tractor. To learn more about the show that will be held on Nov. 8, 2019 visit : . 

Sources:  Shaw Manufacturing Company History by David Beattie , Aug / Sept. 1997 Popular Mechanics Feb. 1932 P. 141 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

1957 Minneapolis-Moline 335

There are automotive aficionados who will say that 1957 was a banner year for car design. I don’t know about that but looking at this Minneapolis - Moline I’d have to say it was a good year for tractor styling. Machen Clark’s 335 looks like it’s eager to pounce on that field that lies ahead.

Minneapolis - Moline developed the powerline series to replace the ageing R, Z and U models. The 335 filled the lower to mid power slot at 33.5 belt horsepower while the 445 provided a power boost to the 40’s range and the Five Star models occupied the top tier at 54 PTO horsepower. These models were in production from 1956 to 1961.

The 335 was built in three variants: Industrial from 1957 to 1960, Universal from 1957 to 1959 and Utility from 1956 to 1961. A total of 334 industrial, 750 universal and 2500 utility tractors were manufactured. Serial numbers were stamped on the right side frame. You can find a list of the begining serial numbers for each year of production in the Steiner Tractor Parts Catalogs. 

The 335 was evaluated at the University of Nebraska in Test No. 624 from June 7 1957 to June 17 of that year where the following information was noted. Observed maximum horsepower on the drawbar 29.84, belt hp 33.5. 

The four cylinder vertical I head gasoline engine was built in-house by Minneapolis-Moline. With a bore of 3 ⅝ “ X 4” it displaced 165 cubic inches turning at 1600 rpm. 

Power was transmitted through a dry disc clutch to a five forward speed transmission. Advertised speeds were: 1st. 2.72 mph, 2nd 4.17 mph, 3rd 6.36 mph, 4th 7.94 mph, and 5th 9.85mph. Reverse claimed 2.19 mph. 

The 335 in these photos was exhibited at the 2018 Power from the Past Show presented by the Foothills Antique Power Association near Greer, SC. For information about the 2019 show on May 18, visit 


Friday, March 1, 2019

P & N Boxcab Locomotive # 5103

I wonder how many residents of the Carolinas today know that the Piedmont of NC and the Upstate of SC had high speed electric rail service by the second decade of the Twentieth Century? Not many I’ll bet. Some railfans here and there and an old timer or two. The high speed part needs to be qualified as high speed relative to the other option of a horse and buggy on the washboard dirt roads of the day, but clean and quiet electric locomotives hauled passengers and freight across the region. In North Carolina tracks ran North to Terrell, NC and West to Gastonia, from Charlotte. In South Carolina the Piedmont and Northern Railway connected Greenwood and Anderson to Greenville and on to Spartanburg with dozens of towns, villages and whistle stops in between.

James B. Duke was a visionary entrepreneur with an eye on the future. He was also a sharp businessman who kept the other eye focused on the bottom line. During the 1890’s electric trolly lines were popular in many cities and interurban rail lines were being built, but very few of these were in the southern states. Duke was already heavily invested in electric power utilities so expansion into electric railroad ownership was a natural choice. He would be paying a company that he owned to haul coal to his power generating plants that supplied the electricity to run the locomotives. Along the way these rail lines could carry passengers and pick up additional freight revenue at industrial parks he was developing along the right of way. It was a sweetheart deal made in heaven. In 1909 he directed a team of his employees to investigate the construction of an interurban railroad system. 

In January of 1910 The Piedmont Traction Company was chartered to operate in North Carolina and the Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railway Company was chartered in South Carolina. While most interurbans were light rail that primarily carried passengers, Duke’s system was designed from the railbed up as a full service, standard railroad. Power would be supplied from an overhead catenary wire system at 1,500 volts, more than twice the voltage used by most interurban systems.  

Construction began in North Carolina in April of 1911 and in South Carolina two months later. By 1912 24 miles of mainline between Charlotte and Gastonia opened for business, in November of that year tracks from Greenwood to Greenville were hauling passengers and freight. In April of 1914 the section from Greenville to Spartanburg was in operation for a total of eighty-nine miles. The two separate companies were merged in 1914 and operated under the Piedmont and Northern name but there was no connecting track between the two states. 

Duke had always intended to extend his rail line from Spartanburg to Gastonia but events like World War 1 kept getting in the way. In 1924 Duke instructed his staff to finalize plans for the fifty mile connecting link but in October 1925 Duke passed away unexpectedly and the project suffered another setback while his estate was in probate. In March of 1927 P&N’s management was finally able to present their proposal to the Interstate Commerce Commission for review. The P & N wasn’t the only railroad serving the region  and bitter rivalries had developed, especially with the Southern Rail lines whose tracks ran parallel for most of the way from Greenville to Charlotte.    Southern was a much bigger rail road and owned more swamp critters and in the end the Interstate Commerce Commission denied the P&N’s request. The ICC’s decision effectively ended expansion ambitions but the volume of freight in the areas it already served continued to grow. 

Passenger revenue had steadily declined as the automobile’s popularity grew and by 1951 the P&N was ready to discontinue passenger service.  James B. Duke’s foresight continued to pay dividends, literally, and the railroad turned a profit as it always had, even in the depths of the Great Depression. The early fifties also saw a change in motive power. The overhead power supply lines were showing their age and P&N’s management decided that switching to diesel power would be cheaper and more practical than replacing it. By May of 1954 the last of the electric locomotives were retired from mainline service. The transition to diesel carried the the P&N into the 1960’s as a money making railroad but in 1965 the Duke heirs decided that they wanted to sell their holdings which amounted to 40% of the company’s stock. After years of legal wrangling a merger agreement with the Seaboard Coast Line was approved in 1969 and the Piedmont and Northern Railroad ceased to exist. Today, much of the railbed constructed by the P&N is still being used by the CSX railroad, like the section that runs past the old station in Greer, SC., but CSX doesn’t stop here to pick up passengers. 

The 5103 is the only surviving example of the six boxcab electric locomotives that the P&N ordered from the General Electric Co. in 1912.  Numbered from 5100 to 5105 they were delivered to the South Carolina operation during the fall and winter of 1913 to 1914 and used for long distance, heavy freight hauling. These locomotives were powered by four GE 250 horsepower motors that could pull a train of 30 loaded freight cars. Engines # 5101 and 5103 served the P&N well for 44 years and were to be the last two electric engines in operation on the line. After mainline electric power was turned off in South Carolina in 1954 they were transferred to Charlotte, NC. where they worked in a freight yard as switch engines until 1958. In 1962 the Southeastern Railway Museum asked the P&N to donate one of the two engines for display at their Atlanta, Ga. museum. 1963 would mark the 50th anniversary of the road’s completion, so the P&N’s management decided to do it right. The 5103 was hauled to the main repair shop at River Junction in Greenville, SC., where it was completely restored, inside and out before being presented to the museum. It was later purchased and moved to the North Carolina Transportation Museum at Spencer where it is currently displayed.    


Piedmont and Northern, The Great Electric System of the South  by Thomas T. Fetters and Peter W. Swanson Jr.      

Thursday, February 14, 2019

N.M.P. Co. Hurricane Jr. Lawnmower

The business card he handed me read, Kirk Kahler, “Vintage Garden Tractor & Horse-drawn Farm Equipment Collector”. Fair enough, he does own some interesting collectables, like this Snappin Turtle , the mower that asks the question, “ Why don’t they put hood ornaments on lawn mowers any more?” We took a look at the Turtle back on 2/15/17. This post is about the mower you see in the background behind it, the N.M.P. Co. Hurricane Jr.

Kirk tells me he’s not been able to learn much about this mower. I’m inclined to agree. A search for “hurricane lawn mower” turns up results like, “Dad attacks son with chainsaw, son runs over dad with lawn mower.” I like this kind of post. We’re in uncharted territory here. Let’s get started with what little I have been able to glean. 

The most striking feature is the mow deck with N.M.P. Co. Hurricane Jr. boldly cast across the front. The fact that its aluminum is interesting and makes you wonder why? Not nearly as durable as steel and any savings of weight would be negligible. 

Next take a look at the friction wheel blade drive. No belt to replace but you have to wonder how well it would work when the grass gets tall and thick. In the original photo file size you can make out just to the left of the blade drive wheels, “National Metal Products Co. , K.C. Mo.” . Who were they? What did they do? Did they operate a foundry? I’ve found zero information about this company online.  

Power is supplied by a Clinton model B 700 - 22 four stroke gas engine. Not the ubiquitous Briggs & Stratton, but not completely unknown either. The data plate reads, “ Clinton Machine Company Inc. Clinton Michigan. According to Wikipedia, Clinton moved to Maquoketa, Iowa around 1950 , so it might be fair to  speculate that the engine and mower predate the move, sometime in the mid-to-late 40’s. The serial number of this motor is 97832A. If you had access to a list of Clinton serial numbers you might be able to approximate the date of the mower’s manufacture that way. 

There are at least two other surviving examples of this mower, judging by comments posted on You can read the brief thread and see a couple of photos of one of them by paying a visit to that website.

Well that’s about all I’ve found on the Hurricane Jr. Maybe there’s someone out there in Muleland who’s sitting on a treasure trove of catalogs, owner’s manuals and other assorted goodies they would be willing to share. If so, I’d love to hear from you. Add a comment below or  send an email and I’ll add an update to this post. On the subject of comments, don’t expect to see them appear immediately. The internet being what it is, I have to screen them first, but anything that’s of value or fit to print will get there eventually. In the meantime enjoy these photos or pay a visit to the Steam Expo. 2019  at Cumming, Ga. Most likely Kirk will be there again with his collection.