See that tractor right there? See the one spittin’ hot fire? With all the smoke and the steam and the iron making great big heaps of noise? See the guy sitting atop it all, just living life? That’s me. In my dreams.

And somehow, all of that drama puts out only about 110 horsepower, which is less than your mom’s Toyota Prius. So sure, it goes slow, and merging onto the highway must be terrible. But wouldn’t it be awesome doing it?

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Anyways, I’m not sure you’d worry about it all being a fire hazard, either, if the video description is to be believed:

Do not worry about the fire hazard. What you see is a very exaggerated amount of burning embers coming from the smokestack. The sparks are created as a night spectacle for entertainment. Before this pull, sawdust was added to the firebox to enhance the night “spark show.” Having said that back in the day there was always a risk of fire. There was less of a risk during plowing season. The highest risk was during harvest when the steam engines returned to the fields to thresh (separate) the grain from their stalks, in typically dry fields. Weeks before the steam engines arrived the grain was cut and bundled by binders. These mechanized machines looked the front of modern “combines” but binders only cut and a bound the grain. The crops were cut close to the ground by the binder leaving the grain (heads) connected to the shaft. These bundles were approximately 8” in diameter and were about 3’ tall. After the crops were cut, these bundles were stacked in small piles called “shocks.” These shocks contained maybe 7 to 12 bundles and scattered all over the field. The shocks were left in the field until the grain was dry enough to separate. The threshermen traveled from farm to farm to thresh each farmers grain. Most individual farmers could not afford a steam traction engine so the threshermen provided this service to the farmer. On threshing day wagons were brought to the field and would load the shocks of grain and haul it to the threshing machine where it was placed quite a distance (and upwind) from the steam engine that provided the power for the machine to do its work. The steam engine provided power to the threshing machine via an extremely long belt to keep any embers away from the dry chaff and straw that was separated from the grain. The shock piles of crop were gathered as they were needed and not all gathered up and piled in one place at one time. That way, if there was a fire it would be small and contained to a small portion of the harvest and not all of it. The steam engines were also outfitted spark arresters while threshing. Not to mention these steam engines required water so water was generally available should a fire break out. Also the steam engines would burn the straw which was waste from process of threshing the grain.

Let’s just say that one day, when I achieve my dream of riding about on a great big steam tractor, I won’t be driving it near any dry kindling.


Contact the author at ballaban@jalopnik.com.
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