This year’s Half Century of Progress was impressive as always. I loved seeing new and different equipment which says a lot for somebody that has been writing about old iron for a lot of years. At this year’s show I interviewed the fun Justin Click and learned about the Bryan Tractor. Justin Click, a professional tractor restorer from Hobart, Indiana has a business called J.C. Tractor Restoration. The Bryan tractor was built in Peru Indiana, by the George Bryan Company. The company is still in business today and they make Bryan Boilers using the same flexible water tube that he invented for stationary boilers.
Bryan still has information on their website http://bryanboilers.com/history/. Company history states, “In 1916, a locomotive engineer and steam power enthusiast named George Bryan founded the Bryan Harvester Company, a small manufacturing firm which produced cars and steam powered tractors. The rising popularity of the gasoline engine forced Bryan to abandon those concepts in 1922, but it was not forgotten. The bent water tube boiler which powered these vehicles was extremely rugged, impervious to thermal shock, compact, and easy to service, making it ideal for other applications. Bryan Harvester became the Bryan Steam LLC and began refining and marketing the original boiler for an array of uses. Today, Bryan Boilers continue to incorporate many of the features found in the original. Applying the advantages of past experience to projects for the future has made Bryan the leader in the production of flexible water tube boilers.”
Justin said that in 16 minutes the tractor after igniting can reach 600 pounds of pressure. It was amazing to see him light the ignition for the boiler, just like a hot water heater, then after the tractor heated up, steam pours out. Many of those of us watching stood back a little intimidated by this steam tractor that was built on the same premise as the Stanley Steam Car.
Besides this amazing tractor, there was another tractor called the Little Oak that Justin said was a one of a kind, it was red shiny and lovely!
I also got caught up in the beauty of Peggy and John Curtis’s Orchard O6 tractor that had just finished being restored around the first of July. The story of John’s 1949 O6 begins when it was bought new by Bogardus Orchards, a local apple orchard that sold out to Glenn Hill. John said that today the orchard is still in business. He bought the O6 two years ago.
The tractor was restored by a friend of the Curtis family, Jason Boyd, who is also from Mt. Vernon, Ohio. The tractor may be beautiful now, but when Jason Boyd got it, it needed a bit of work, so the job took a bit of time. For the fenders that are original, he cut them into strips and then welded them together. John added that after Jason got done, he said, “I’m glad I did it, but I don’t want to do another!”
Thankfully he was willing to restore this lovely tractor. While I have seen orchard tractors before, I have not seen many O6’s and I find I am quite partial to them.
Wherever you travel this early fall, I hope you find some sites that you will keep tucked away to remember the event you attended. The Half Century of Progress won’t be back until 2019, but I will remember the sights and sounds of Prairie tractors starting up, corn picking, and golf carts heading willy nilly to see it all!