Traction Engine: The Problem
engines of greater size were needed to provide the draft power required by big
gang plows. There were many problems associated with steam power in the public's mind,
however. The history of steam on the railways had created a mythology
of disaster and calamity, replete with exploding boilers and grieving widows.
Fires caused by sparks escaping from the smokestack and the damage to roads and
bridges caused by the transportation of these heavy machines over inadequate
local and municipal roads or bridges also caused widespread concern. But
initially, the steam traction engine was the only source of motive power
available. The first steam plowing in the Canadian West took place near Regina
in 1883, and the concept simply moved west with settlement.
application of an old power source brought additional problems to light. By the
last quarter of the nineteenth century, steam traction engines were being used
extensively for powering threshing machines in the central and eastern
provinces. They were not, however, used for land breaking as that had occurred
there several decades previously. Steam traction engine manufacturers soon
discovered plowing put tremendous strains on the machinery that threshing did
not. They quickly found out that the engines intended for plowing had to be heavier,
stronger and more solidly constructed than those used for threshing.
Kenneth Tingley. Steel and Steam: Aspects of Breaking Land in Alberta. n.p.: Friends of Reynolds-Alberta
Museum Society and Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, Historic Sites and
Archives Service, 1992. With permission from
of Reynolds-Alberta Museum..