DAYS OF YORE
John J. Uhlenkott
Courtesy of John J. Uhlenkott, E. 315 Nebraska Ave., Spokane, Wash. 99207 Photo of logging operation using a 20 H.P. Aultman & Taylor return flue compound engine.
John J. Uhlenkott
E.315 Nebraska St., Spokane, Washington 99207
I think it is in order to write a few lines of my past life and
experiences as a steam engineer.
My father was a saw-mill and shingle-mill operator in Idaho.
These were stationary operations. In the shingle-mill I took
shingles away as they dropped from the saw and stacked them up in
piles ready for the baler. This mill was powered by a 20 H.P.
Westinghouse double cylinder single-acting stationary engine.
Then in 1904, Dad bought a sawmill. It was powered by a 10'
x 16' Atlas stationary engine. I used to start and stop the
engine when we were running the planer. I also fired the boiler. As
I wasn't strong enough to handle a scoop, my Dad furnished me
with a smaller shovel and I kept up steam.
Meanwhile there were steam threshing rigs in the area. I took
enough interest in them that I could tell by the looks of the steam
engine tracks what make of an engine had moved by. One instance I
remember very clearly. The weather was bad. There was some snow on
the ground and the rest was mud. This man had a 20 H.P. Aultman
& Taylor return flue Compound engine and was taking it to his
saw-mill. He had taken the front wheels off and had chained a
single-bob logging sleigh under the front end. He had 20 head of
horses hooked up to it and had a full head of steam on the engine,
using all the power it had. This engine is now owned by the late
Chris Busch's family at Colton, Washington. However, in 1916,
my Dad bought this engine and we threshed with it and I did some
logging with it. I am enclosing a photo of this logging
In 1918 I was drafted into the Army and served for the duration
in the 54th Artillery. Then after the war more logging with the old
Aultman & Taylor.
In 1920 to 1925 I had a chance to run a 20 H.P. Russell Compound
for a thresherman. He had a 30' x 50' Aultman & Taylor
separator. We used to average around 2,000 bushels per day of 11
hours. Then in 1926 I had a threshing outfit of my own that I ran
until the combines pushed us out. This was a 20 H.P. J. I. Case
engine built about 1908 and I had a 24' x 40' Advance
separator. I had lots of power with the 20 H.P. Case. This was a
bundle outfit and I ran 6 bundle wagons. I operated this outfit for
After that I devoted more of my time to saw-milling and lumber.
I owned and operated saw-mills of my own and also for other
operators. I started as a construction millwright in 1939 and
worked at that off and on until 1942. Then I started to build
saw-mills in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Montana.
Now I am retired and have a good hobby shop in the basement of
our home. I do mostly wood-working in there. However, I also do
iron-working and designing of miniature steam engines and boilers.
I have just finished a miniature power plant that I treasure very
highly. It is built on scale and patterned after the big ones used
in saw-mills and for other commercial uses. The boiler is a
H.A.R.T. type, 11' x 26', with 16 1' tubes. It has
Dutch oven for firing with sawdust. The boiler setting is
steel-encased an a lined with Kast-Set Refractory. There are two
small steam engines. One is a remodeled Crators Pop Corn engine
driving a small electric generator for light. The other engine is a
2' bore x 2' stroke Stuart 5A model engine. It drives a
small rotary air compressor. I am enclosing a photograph of this
I have no traction engines at this time but hope to get one one
of these days. I have a few stationary engines and one small
boiler. Also, I am hoping to build a steam tractor. It will be
mounted on rubber wheels and have a twin engine. This engine will
be about 8 or 10 H.P.
I would like to say a few words in regard to the trend of
gasoline and diesel power versus steam power. It is my opinion that
gasoline and diesel are more economical than steam because they do
not take the manpower. However, as far as power is concerned, they
do not compare with steam. Also, all the noise is unbearable!
Furthermore, they are trying to build horns to imitate the steam
whistle but up until now they haven't made anything to compare
with the old steam quill.
In conclusion I wish to say that I have had my ups and downs in
the saw-mill and threshing career, but as of now. I am having the
time of my life. In other words living a 'life of