The task of identifying vintage photos


Hello again steam enthusiasts. Its been too long again since I have done an article, and I guess my excuse is that I have been too busy lately to conjure up much inspiration. So I am just sitting down to push the flush button on my brain and see what comes out.

The search for vintage photographs and information from the past continues. I have a set on my desk with minimal info. The magazines of the hobby are constantly appealing for such material and I am surprised by what turns up month after month. It is not always necessary to have total identification of all the folks in a picture.


One of this latest group has some 13 of 14 men in it, of various ages. The thresherman, Lee Brown is in all of the pictures and so is easy to pick out. Many of his customers have been identified for me, but the farms, houses roads and tree lines have changed so much in the approximately 80 years since the photos were made that the locations are a tough to pick out.

Often there is a barn in the scene but alas many of them have burned or fallen down from neglect. In one photo the farm changed hands soon after the picture was taken and I have known it for years by another family name.

Machinery is a bit easier to recognize when we are familiar with some of it. In several shots Brown is driving a Fordson tractor and pulling a wooden Frick thresher. I was told he had a crossmotor Frick tractor, but no such machine shows up in these pictures. A couple show a crossmotor style tractor, but most likely a Minneapolis, and it is pulling a larger, later all-steel thresher.


The wood thresher shows up in several threshing sets at different barns. I have driven around the area where he threshed but I know that at least two and likely three of the barns no longer stand. The foundation of one is close enough to the road to be obvious and I recall another collapsing some years ago.

Fall fling

Due to the unseasonably warm weather in the first half of October we had two great days for our Fall Fling show and had the best turnout ever. Firing the big Titusville Boiler was quite a job, but we got all 40 bushels of apples cooked down into apple butter and most of it sold, and some 10 boxes of cider apples pressed and every drop of it sold.

The cooking operation is not so much of an attraction for many but the grinding and pressing is in a building with one open side so the whole process is visible. Last year we had a boiler malfunction and didn’t get the last of the apple butter done until Tuesday after the show.

It might be said we are going small at Portersville, while a lot of shows are well known for the huge steamers and gas tractors they have gathered up. For one thing, our mini tractor pulling is gaining in popularity at each recent show. It has several positive aspects, not the least of which is providing activity on our track for the spectators.

Also we are getting a lot of our younger folks interested in our show and its action. It is sort of sad but true that those of us in our 70s and 80s have our best years behind us.


In addition we are working up a collection of miniature, or half size, equipment. We have had two half size traction engines for many years, The Star, built by Mac Halterman, with machine work by Sam D. Brady, of Warren Ohio. And the Bupp family engine, built by Harold Bupp and sons.

The Star has manure spreader rear wheels and built up front wheels and is driven through an Anglia (English Ford Car) rear axle via a roller chain.

The steam cylinder and such came out of the Brady machine shop. Mac had the foresight to buy a code boiler from Ed Troudt’s boiler shop in Nelson, Nebraska, so we never had a problem with inspection as many homemade engines do.

The Bupp engine is made with old Case tractor wheels and a proper size Jarecki engine from Erie, Pa. via Morgan Hill. The gearing and such was done in Bupp’s workshop at home.


They solved the inspection problem by working with the inspector at the time and doing all the calculations needed to meet the requirements. Allen Bupp Jr. took a welding class several years ago and as his major project built a half size boiler, modeled after the distinctive boiler used by the Twentieth Century company in Somerset County, Pa.

The boiler has become the basis of a half size three wheel steam roller, which we are waiting to see in steam. To go with it he has a half size Oil Pull tractor with an IH engine in it, and has just built up a road grader of appropriate size so he has a bit of a set.

Harold Bupp Sr. built several working miniature hay balers, many of which he sold. He also did a miniature sawmilll, for which he made castings for the head blocks.

In addition we had a return showing this year of Rich Bosch’s little portable, which I would say is about a quarter scale machine. It was run this fall by his grandson Greg Senge, who is becoming a pretty good boiler fireman, and we need a few of those.

Our other boiler man, Ben Midkiff, is also working on a small size traction engine, this time a vertical boilered machine with a vertical engine. Using a boiler with stamping on it — making it inspectable — is another way of getting around that problem. He is also using an engine built by a company called Tiny Power.

He was describing to me what junk pile or flea market various parts of it came from, so obviously it is not copied after any original traction engine, But there have often been several of those at shows, and if it is steam powered and self propelled it will be welcome.

The big advantage of these scale model machines is they are easier to run and easier to haul with normal size trucks and trailers, and still a living breathing steam engine.

Keep up steam.


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