A Grain Elevator and a Runaway Stover
The story of Bill Stewart’s retrieval of a 3 HP Stover engine, Type KG, from the Bristol Grain Elevator.
Bill Stewart of Sandwich, Ill., with his 3 HP Type KG Stover no.193177, which was shipped to Northern Conveyor Co., Janesville, Wis., on Feb. 28, 1928. The engine was used on a coal elevator at the Bristol Grain Co. from 1928 to 1955. Bill and his dad had quite a time retrieving the engine at the end of its service. Bill was just 13 years old when he acquired the engine.
Photo By Joe Maurer
This story takes place in Bristol, a small town in northern Illinois. Like most rural towns in the grain belt back in the 1950s, Bristol had an elevator that bought and sold grain, coal and other commodities. To the agricultural illiterate, the elevator had nothing to do with people riding up and down in a box. The elevator dispensed its products using gravity. There were usually tall towers or silos filled with whatever the elevator was selling. Doors in the bottom of the storage towers let the grain fall into the farmer’s wagon or the railroad’s hopper cars. Cost was based on the weight of the product delivered.
So how did they get the stuff up into the bins in the first place? In the old days there might be a ramp so a wagon could dump a load into the bin. Typically, water power was used to lift wooden buckets and sacks hanging from moving ropes or wooden troughs with chains, and paddles could be used to slide the grain up. These were the first elevators and they were around for centuries. The Machine Age brought steam engines and later gas engines to power the elevators. Rural electrification brought electric motors and that’s where we are today.
So now that we’ve had our agricultural history lesson, we can tell the rest of the story.
Down the coal chute
As a kid, Bill Stewart walked past the Bristol Grain Elevator on his way to school. The elevator was built in 1928 and closed down in 1955. When he was 13 years old, Bill had his eye on a pair of flywheels at the top of the old coal chute. The flywheels belonged to a 3 HP Stover Type KG engine that had been used to pull coal up the chute. Bill approached George Valentine in an effort to buy the engine. In the end, George gave the Stover to Bill.