American Farming With Steam Tractors

Farm Steam Tractors


“Dreaming of Steam”
Upon my cottage porch I sit and dream of happy days,
when old steam threshers rolled along the lanes and dusty ways.
The smoke I see a rolling high and hear that engine still
a puffing, hissing, sputtering when climbing up the hill.
I liked to watch those clouds of steam, and loved the whistles tone.
I liked to hear the drive wheels ring when they would crush a stone.
And when it turned into our lane with dignity and pomp,
it gave me such a happy thrill that I would shout and romp.

From Songs of the Iron Men by Chester Phalor


Recently someone shared with me a video of a restored steam tractor in a demonstration plowing a field. It reminded me of some old family photographs taken in the early 1900’s of a steam tractor that was used for plowing and threshing of wheat that my family used on their farm on the Great Plains. I dug the photos out and a few are shared below. Farming was a family enterprise with the participation of young and old as well as the help of neighbors at the dawn of the age of industrialization. These old smoke and steam belching monsters are a reminder of the dawn of the industrial revolution in the lives of our ancestors and a harbinger of change in so many ways.

Steam engine powered equipment and vehicles were common in the late 19th century, that included ships, locomotives, tractors, steam shovels, trucks and automobiles.



International Harvester "Titan 10-20" running a belt-driven wheat threshing machine with steam tractor in background



See videos below of restored steam tractors in action.

Steam Tractor
A steam tractor is a vehicle powered by a steam engine which is used for pulling.

In North America, the term steam tractor usually refers to a type of agricultural tractor powered by a steam engine, used extensively in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In Great Britain, the term steam tractor is more usually applied to the smallest models of traction engine – typically those weighing seven tons or less – used for hauling small loads on public roads. Although known as light steam tractors, these engines are generally just smaller versions of the ‘road locomotive’.
This article concentrates on the steam-powered agricultural vehicles intended for the direct-pulling of ploughs and other implements (as opposed to cable-hauling).

Read more about steam tractors at Wikipedia >>


Steam Engines
The steam engine was a critical component of the Industrial Revolution, providing the prime mover for modern mass-production manufacturing methods. Modern steam turbines generate about 90% of the electric power in the United States using a variety of heat sources.

Read more about steam engines at Wikipedia >>


Further reading and sources about steam tractors:

  • Hornsby Crawler
  • Ugly belching steam powered tractors
  • SteamTraction.com at Farm Collector
    Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. From windmills to cream separators, hog oilers to horse-drawn equipment, implements to engines to farm toys, if it’s old and from the farm, we’re interested in it!


    Old Waterloo Steam Tractor


    120hp Peerless Z3 pulling 20 bottom plow


    Plowing with 28 HP Minneapolis


    See other posts at Legacy America about American Agriculture.


    Plow & Hearth


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