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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tired Iron

I traveled with our good old Mom east of Columbus, Ohio through Franklin County, past signs to all the little places around which Dad and Uncle were born and raised – Reynoldsburg, Etna, Wagram, Pataskala. Then into Muskingum County where the land begins to lift and roll and hardwood forest closes in on the highway. Outside of New Concord live longtime family friends George and Helen. George and Dad met at Muskingum College in about 1947 and only later realized that their grandmothers were sisters.

George collects, restores, displays, and operates antique traction engines, the early versions of which were essentially railroad locomotives without the rails and which eventually became the modern farm tractor. Most of his collection is steam powered – external combustion.

From the operator's station.

Power take-off has always been an important feature of traction engines. On modern tractors, a PTO implement is connected with a steel shaft. These old engines powered belt-driven implements of all sorts from a rotating drum PTO.

The boxes behind the rear wheels hold water for the boiler and wood for the firebox. These engines typically were rated in the 10-40 horsepower range.

A belt driven sawmill. The red section houses a flywheel.

This is just a portion of the belt drive mechanism for a threshing machine that separates grain, chaff, and straw.

Another threshing machine.

 This Aultman-Taylor has an early gasoline engine – internal combustion.

An early portable gasoline powered engine.

A little later gasoline powered garden tractor, with a cultivator attachment.

The steam engines are really beautiful examples of 19th century manufacturing.

Whistle and steam vent.


One of George's everyday tractors.

Back home, everything is growing big and fast.


  1. Gadzooks. that big 'ol tractor looks like more trouble and work than just hooking up a trusty team of horses. Its a wonder they caught on!

  2. We see a lot of the steam railroad in literature and the movies but almost nothing of the contemporaneous use of steam on the farm. It must have been amazing to witness. It was common practice to use two traction engines, one on each side of a large field, and with winches pull, say, a man riding a plow, back and forth on a cable.


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