Traction Engine: The Solution
engine gang plows through tough ground with all the accompanying jolting and
jarring was hard work. Plowing engines, therefore, had to be designed to
withstand the stresses caused by heavy traction work. The boilers on plowing
engines had extra reinforcing, namely double or triple rows of riveting at
joins. Butt-strap riveting, where a strip of metal was riveted over the joining
of the plates, gave extra strength. On most threshing engines, the axles were
mounted directly on the boiler. This arrangement was unsuitable for plowing
engines because it put a great deal of strain on the boiler when plowing.
Instead, plowing engines had extra plates or reinforcements, and special
mounting brackets for the axles and the engine. Heavier gearing was also needed
to avoid breakage under heavy loads. The plowman could purchase extensions for
the wheel rims to keep the engine from sinking in soft ground.
traction engine reached the zenith of its technological development and
popularity in the early years of the twentieth century. In 1890, over 3,000
manufactured in the United States: ten years later, over 30 companies were
producing 5,000 annually. The J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company built more
than twice as many of these behemoths as did any other firm. Between 1876 and
1924 when Case ended production of its steam traction engines, it had sold
35,737 for use on American and Canadian farms.
The Case 110
horsepower model, valued at $3,000 in 1915, symbolized the mammoth machines
responsible for speeding the land breaking in Alberta. These machines could
simultaneously pull gang plows, packers, seed drills and harrows, covering a
strip nine metres wide at up to six kilometres per hour. This could cover 40
hectares a day. With horses, this would have taken 50 teams! However, breaking
about 10 hectares a day became the norm.
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..