Steam Engine Oilers — John Wiegman — Albert City’s Threshermen Show (Aug. 12-14, 2011)


Last weekend Bill and I stopped in Alta, Iowa. There we saw this steam engine (at the bottom of this post) that, in its day, powered a threshing machine.

This was one of my Great-Uncle Art Gunderson's steam engine oilers. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

In a previous post, I told about the two steam engine crankshaft oilers that my dad, Deane Gunderson, gave to me. These oilers are from the steam engine owned* in the early 1900s by my Great-Uncle Art Gunderson (who, by the way, was a captain of the University of Iowa football team). One of those oilers is pictured at left.

In the foreground of the first photo (below), a brass and glass steam engine crankshaft oiler (similar to mine) is visible. Just behind it, you can see the top of another oiler on the other side of the engine. Silly me always thought there was just one oiler per steam engine. Now I realize there was more than one area on a steam engine that needed to be oiled; therefore the steam engines had multiple oilers.

John Wiegman, a friendly Rolfe native born in 1928, wrote the following in his book titled Three to the Hill: Growing up in Iowa 1928-1946. This excerpt is from his two-page chapter titled “The Threshing Run.”

Late July and early August—the very hottest time of the Iowa summer—was oat harvesting time. The reaping, threshing, and hay-stacking operation during an oats harvest was extremely labor intensive. The threshing machine itself was a shared piece of equipment, fired with wood and coal—a noisy, hot steam-breathing beast of a machine that required constant oil injections to keep it running.

Two paragraphs later John wrote, “But labor and machinery weren’t the only things that were shared on the threshing run.” Click here to read the two pages of John’s memories regarding threshing. At the same link is the cover of Three to the Hill as well as John’s foreword.**

I hope to have more to report about threshing after I go to Albert City’s August 12-14, 2011,  Threshermen and Collectors Show.


At least two of the steam engine oilers are seen here. One is in the foreground and is made of brass and glass. Just the brass top of another oiler is seen in the background. (Click on photo to enlarge.)


(Click on photo to enlarge.)


This is where the operator would stand to put wood or coal into the steam engine receptacle. The steam subsequently produced would drive the piston which would, in turn, drive the pulley which was connected via a belt to the thresher. The belt transferred the power from the steam engine to the thresher. Drats that I didn't get a photo of the pulley. Maybe this weekend... (Click on photo to enlarge.)


(Click on photo to enlarge.)



*I recently read the transcript of my Great-Aunt Martha’s early-1980s oral history. She said the “threshing machine” was owned by C.L. Gunderson (my great-grandfather) and that C.L.’s son (Martha’s brother), Arthur, “ran it” and “was given the profits earned from the threshing machine.”

**Posted with permission from John Wiegman.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s home page.)


One Response to “Steam Engine Oilers — John Wiegman — Albert City’s Threshermen Show (Aug. 12-14, 2011)”

  1. Marti Carlson Says:

    I’m so glad you posted this article with the information and photos. Even though I’ve known a lot of this sort of thing, I forget about the history and the details. The photos especially add to being able to visualize it all.

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