Top Prize Winner
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Craig says he thinks even more FFA members will enter their projects in the future, which will raise the level of com petition even higher.
'It's good to see kids getting involved in the hobby,' he says. 'Being a kid, sometimes I was looked down upon by the older guys because I was so young, but the FFA is changing that.'
At age 18, Craig started his own company, Craig's Restoration and Repair, which involves buying, selling and doing restoration and repair work on antique farm machinery. In the spring of 2001, his efforts earned him an FFA State Star in Agribusiness.
Craig's experience in the restoration business helped him with the Nichols & Shepard side-mounted engine, which has 50 hp on the belt and 16 on the drawbar. No one knows how many of these engines were produced, he says, because the company's offices were destroyed in a fire. He does know his engine is one of the older models produced because it has a thin, 1/4-inch-thick boilerplate. 'When steam engines were first being made, their boilerplates were thinner than later models because the steam pressure was not as high,' Craig says. 'As horsepower increased, so did the steam pressures, resulting in heavier boiler plates.'
Craig was able to compare the 1898 Nichols & Shepard to another steam engine he owns, a 1916 of the same make, to get a better understanding of the parts and how they fitted together. 'The 1916 is fascinating to look at because it has the same parts, except they're larger and machined slightly different than the older parts,' he explains.
Craig first heard about the 1898 steam engine three years ago. A friend kept telling him about an old steam engine in Peoria, 111.; eventually, Craig went to see it and ended up falling in love with it. The engine was in decent shape for its age but still needed a lot of work.
'Pretty much on these old steamers, because they can be sort of dangerous, a thorough job needs to be done on every thing, ' Craig says. 'It's a learning process; if you go through every single piece of the steam engine, you learn about every piece.' With that in mind, Craig assessed every part and either restored or machined new parts depending on the condition.
The hardest part of the restoration, Craig says, was replacing the bull gear because it had to be made from scratch. Craig made a blueprint of the gear and had it poured from molten steel specifically for his steam engine.
'The thing about restoring steam engines is that there's not a whole lot of replacement parts,' Craig says. 'I had to make most of the parts because they aren't made anymore. It's not like a John Deere tractor; you can't go and order parts at a dealership and buy them new.'