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Threshing, Part Three: Jobs
Between 1890 and 1930, custom threshing crews travelled from farm to farm in Alberta, helping bring in the harvest.
It took a lot of people to run the steam traction engines that separated the grain so it could be sent to market.
And according to historian Pat Myers, the man who ran the show was the engineer.
His was the most important job. He was often the owner of the custom-threshing outfit, and he was responsible for not only keeping the steam engine running but for overseeing the whole operation.
The threshing engineer always got an early start to the day. He had a lot of work to do before the rest of his crew could start working in the fields.
He was the first one up in the morning. He looked after the steam traction engine, he cleaned the soot from the boiler flues, he checked the water level in the boiler, and then he got the fire in the firebox started. He watched the steam, and as the gauge got to about ten pounds, he would turn on a blower, which was a pipe running from the boiler to the smokestack. This sent a jet of steam into the smokestack, creating a forced draft through the firebox. This really got the fire going. It burned faster and hotter and the steam pressure really started rising.
Still, it could take about an hour to build up steam enough to power the thresher.
Once the engine was running at full steam, the engineer made sure everything was oiled and the separator was belted and properly connected. Then, threshing could start for the day.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.