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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

1913 Case Traction Engine

Jerome Increase Case got his start as a businessman selling groundhogs. In 1842 at the age of 23 he bought six of them on credit and headed west from his home in New York for what was then the frontier territory of Wisconsin. His business acumen was quickly vindicated as he sold five of them at a tidy profit before he reached his destination at Rochester.

At this point you're probably thinking; " Why would anyone buy an obese rodent with orthodontic issues?" The answer is that these groundhogs were a primitive threshing machine. You can see how primitive by looking at a picture of one. They appear to be little more than a cylinder with spikes protruding from it that's attached to a couple of gears. That aside, they were a quantum leap ahead of beating the grain out with a flail which hadn't changed much since the dawn of agriculture. Jerome used his remaining groundhog to establish a threshing business and began working on an improved machine of his own design.

It wasn’t long before Case moved again, this time to Racine Wisconsin where he rented a small shop and began producing his improved threshing machine.  Since no one enjoyed slinging a flail all Winter, his threshers found an eager market and his business thrived. His early machines were powered by horses. In 1869 Case expanded it’s product line to include steam engines. The first Case steam traction engines followed in 1876.

The traction engine featured in this post is engine number 29478, a 40 horsepower model built in 1913. It is owned by the Berry Family of Saluda, South Carolina and was exhibited at the Richland Creek Antiques Show in 2016. It is one of the 35,838  steam traction engines that Case built before production ended in 1924.

Per the specifications listed in a Case catalog dated 1916 the boiler barrel measures 28 inches in diameter holding 32 tubes 84 ½ “ long and 2” in diameter, with a heating surface of 144 square feet. The firebox dimensions are 34 ¾ “ long by 25 ¼ “ wide with a height of 30” above the grate.

Steam at 150 pounds per square inch is connected by short pipes from the steam dome to the steam chest. Note the sediment on the canopy roof and the steam whistle.

The 40 hp model has a simple cylinder that measures 8 ¼ “ by 10”. Engine speed is regulated by the flyball governor that opens and closes a valve that admits the steam to the chest.

The steam is then directed alternately to each end of the cylinder by the steam valve thereby pushing the cylinder back and forth to transform heat into mechanical energy that is transmitted to the flywheel through the crosshead and connecting rod.

The contractor's fuel bunkers were available by special order for an additional eighty dollars. According to the Case 1916 catalog they would hold about a half day's supply of fuel. The water tank is located beneath the bunkers and the operator's platform. Another add on option was the canopy, priced at fifty dollars.

Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

1928 Model X Rumely

Last November, as events at the Steam Expo drew to a close, the traction engines began to return to their shed on a back lot of the Cumming, Ga. Fairgrounds so I followed them. I spent the next hour or so inspecting and photographing the amazing collection of steam engines that’s assembled there. In the very last berth I found this nicely restored 1928 Rumely Model X. I was intrigued, not just because it’s a nice Oil Pull , but because all the others I’ve seen have been painted in the usual faded Rumely green.

In response to inquiries I made, John Walls, the tractors owner replied that he had purchased the Rumely from a man who lived in Indiana, not far from the site of the Rumely factory in Laporte. “The blue is correct but the red wheels are not, they should be blue as well. The early Rumelys were green but around 1927 or 28 the color changed to blue. Legend has it that Rumely got a better deal on some blue paint and decided to to change the color of their tractors.”

Well, maybe. While doing some research for this post I found that there was more than one version of the story as is so often the case. It seems that It’s generally agreed that 1928 saw a change in color. What that color was depends on who you ask. In his Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, C. H. Wendel  writes; “ In this last series Rumely changed to a steel gray enamel after using the dark green paint for years. A former Rumely employee relates that the management simply liked the new gray  color and adopted it as standard.”

Browse some photos of the Model X on line and you will find an array of colors from green to gray to powder blue. Probably the only way to get a definitive answer would be to have access to factory records or maybe analyze the paint from a tractor that was known to be factory original. If you look closely at this photo you can make out what appears to  be a layer of green  and one of gray as well as the blue.  

Rumely established it’s reputation as a manufacturer of big heavy and expensive tractors during the period when the open plains were being developed for agriculture. By the 1920’s farmers were looking for smaller, lighter and more affordable equipment to maintain their farms.  In 1924 Rumely obliged with a new line of lightweight Oil Pulls , the smallest being the Model L, rated at 15 - 25. In 1928 they modified their line of tractors again, primarily by increasing engine speed  to gain a boost in horsepower. The Model L got bumped up by 95 rpm and became the W 20 - 30. The Type M got revved up and became the Type X  25 - 40. It is entirely possible that Rumely management decided to change the color as a way to emphasize the difference that the 1928 lineup offered.

The X model was in production from 1928 to 1930 with only 2400 units built. It was powered by a horizontal two cylinder engine that displaced 604 cubic inches. Three forward speeds were available at 2.3, 2.9 and 3.5 miles per hour.

The lightweight series that included the X tractors proved to be among the last that Rumely produced.  1928 also saw a radical redesign of their product with the introduction of the Rumely Do All  that followed the row crop trend. It was followed in 1930 by the Model 6 A. By this time however Rumely was in serious financial difficulty and it was acquired by Allis-Chalmers in 1931.
So here we are at the end of the post with no definitive answer about the color of the Rumely X.  As always, reader comments are welcome.  Bottom line; It’s a good looking Oil Pull and it’s John’s tractor so he can paint it any color he likes. Even pink if he wanted to. What ???? Did I really say that? Perish the thought!

Information provided by John Walls
Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors by C.H. Wendel
Manitoba Agricultural Museum

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Allis-Chalmers W Speed Patrol

Allis-Chalmers was a company that strove to be all things to every market. In the early years of the 20th Century there were many more miles of washboard dirt roads than there were paved ones and consequently there were lots of potential customers who wanted to do something about the teeth rattling experience of motoring the nation's byways. There were already a number of companies with years of experience building road graders so A-C approached Ryan Manufacturing Company with a deal that apparently they couldn't refuse. This gave A-C an intro with a line of pull and motor graders in 1931.

The model W Speed Patrol was introduced in 1940 as a replacement for the WC Speed Maintainer. It was designed to meet the demands of a market that needed a light duty road grader at an affordable price. During a production run that lasted from 1940 to 1950 Allis manufactured 3751 units.

The Speed Patrol was basically a WC farm tractor that had been fitted with a 10 foot blade for road work. A simple machine, it lacked a hydraulics system with all blade adjustments being manual.

Built at the Allis-Chalmers works at LaPorte, Indiana and Springfield, Illinois it was powered by an A-C four cylinder 201 cubic inch gasoline engine that was rated at 32 horsepower at 1300 rpm. A four speed forward plus reverse transmission provided a range of forward speeds from 2.5 to 9.5 mph.

The WC farm version was in production from 1933 to 1948 and proved to be a  popular tractor selling 178,000 units. Designed as a row crop fitted with rubber tires a quoted price for a 1948 model was $825.

The WC was shipped to the University of Nebraska Lincoln for test number 304 in June of 1938. The gasoline version posted a maximum observed rating of 22.29 hp drawbar and 29.93 on the belt. You can  view and download a complete copy of this test report by visiting

The Speed Patrol shown here was exhibited at the 2016 Richland Creek Antique Fall Festival in Saluda, SC. No information was displayed about this machine’s history or the owner's name.

Additional Resources:
The Earthmover Encyclopedia by Keith Haddock

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Jaques Mighty Mite

The late 40’s and the 50’s were a time of unbridled optimism in America. The toxic Tube was still in it’s infancy and the day when it would poison the minds and destroy the health of millions lay far in the future. Much of Europe was in ruin of course and Russia and Eastern Europe had the added curse of Bolshevism to contend with but here in the USA it seemed that anything was possible, not even the sky was the limit.

Whoever wrote the ad copy for the Jaques Mighty Mite brochure was infected with some of that irrational exuberance. Beside farm cropping operations the ad claims the Mighty Mite excelled at: hauling crops and livestock to market, clearing brush and timberland, felling trees and cutting logs and cordwood, grading fire barriers, building and maintaining private roads, and leveling building sites to name but a few and all this from a  six horsepower motor. You can enjoy a Mighty Mite brochure and an ad that appeared in The Progressive Farmer by visiting .

In an article that was published by Farm Collector Magazine in June of 2001 Sam Moore writes that Graham-Paige Frazer Farm Equipment Co. designed the Frazer Model T garden tractor in 1948 and contracted with the Jaques Power Saw Co. of  Dennison Texas to build the Chassis which was shipped to York, Pa. where Frazer installed engines built by Bell Aircraft Co. and hoods that were made from leftover airplane parts. When Frazer was bought out in 1950, Jaques  continued to market the tractor as the Mighty Mite. This may or may not be the case but the dates don’t jibe with those given for the advertisements referenced above.

According to the Mighty Mite brochure the little strongman left the factory with an “ L-head air cooled 4 cycle engine that developed 6.1 hp at 2700 rpm and 6.5 hp at 3200 rpm from a single cylinder that had a bore of 3 1/16 “ and a stroke of 3 ¼ “ inches. Three forward speeds provided a range of 2 ½  to 10 mph plus a reverse.

Stopping short of claiming an evaluation at the Nebraska Tractor Test, the copy reads: “ The following are the drawbar pulls as computed by formulas approved by the University of Nebraska Farm Implement Experiment Station and in accordance with rules accepted by the Society of Automotive Engineers : 655 lbs draw bar pulls at 3000 rpm in low, 369 lbs draw bar pulls at 3000 rpm in second, 217 lbs draw bar pulls at 3000 rpm in high, 715 lbs draw bar pulls at 2200 rpm in low. “ Pretty slick , huh!

“Wherever versatile power is needed, hitch onto the Mighty Mite”. It appears that Jaques did provide a respectable number of accessories for use with their tractor. The brochure shows : a seed planter, mower, cultivator, disc harrow, turning plow and trailer, all presumably designed and built by Jaques expressly for the Mighty Mite.

The 1949 Mighty Mite shown here is owned by Bradley and Candy Richey and was on display at the 2017 Foothills Antique Power Association of NC show at the Hickory Fairgrounds on May 20th. It is just one of a number of interesting garden tractors in their collection so we’ll be looking at some of the others in future posts.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cletrac's M 2 High Speed Tractor

Folks, this is the way to do it! More than just another interesting exhibit, Scott and Lisa Mattison’s  Cletrac M2 Military Tractor provided a history lesson for any visitor at the 2016 Richland Creek Antique Fall Festival who took the time to check it out. If you look behind the tractor’s  radiator guard in this photo you can see the easel supporting one of the best information displays I’ve seen at any show.

During World War Two the Cleveland Tractor Company and John Deere manufactured 8510 units for military service. Although it was tested for use as a tow vehicle for artillery, it was primarily used by the Army Air Corps as an aircraft tug and maintenance vehicle. Weighing around 14,000 pounds and supported by 14” wide rubber tracks it proved ideal for operating at forward air bases because it didn’t dig up the primitive runways found at those locations. It transported a maintenance crew of three men and was equipped with a 5 KW 110 VDC  generator that powered spotlights and was used for starting aircraft engines, a PTO driven air compressor capable of supplying 9cfm @ 2000 psi and a PTO driven 10,000 pound capacity winch enhanced its versatility.  A drawbar pull of 7000 pounds enabled it to tow ordinance and utility trailers anywhere the crawler could go.

Cletrac powered the M 2 with a Hercules WXLC 3 in line six cylinder engine displacing 404 cubic inches that produced 150 brake horsepower. Top speed was 22 mph burning fuel at a rate of 3 miles to the gallon from the 33 gal. tank, the maximum range was around 100 miles.

Steering was accomplished by means of a controlled differential with planetary gear sets that downshifted one track while power was still being applied to both tracks. This proved to be an advantage over locking one track to pivot around it since less damage was done to runway surfaces. The innovative rubber tracks also contributed in this regard.

The M 2 served in both the European and Pacific Theaters and soldered on in Korea and afterward. Most were eventually sold as surplus to buyers in the oil and logging industry.

Additional resources: