16 Year Old Restores & Runs Traction Engine

Traction engine

The engine as it sat when we bought it at Malmo, Nebraska.

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Route 2, Wayne, Nebraska 68787


Carl Johnson of Wayne, Nebraska is 16 years old, and has always been a steam enthusiast. He always went to the steam engine reunions that Ray Magnuson of Allen, Nebraska held. Every chance he had, he would operate one of the smaller steam engines that was on the show. He read all the steam books he could obtain, plus two original Engineer guides published in 1903 and 1909. He obtained any Iron-Men Album Magazines he could. When he was 11 years old, he began building a steam engine, and has it fairly well completed.

In January of 1972, he located this steamer on a farm place near Malmo, Nebraska. It had been setting since 1964, and was in restorable condition.

The boiler was in excellent condition, and still has the original jacket and bands on it. It has 38 - 2' inch flues by 6'6' long. The heating surface of the boiler is 308 sq. ft., and has eight square feet of grate surface. The boiler is locomotive style, with round bottom, butt strap high pressure, and coal or wood fired.

The engine is single cylinder, side crank, with 81/!' bore and 10' stroke. It is equipped with Wolf valve gear and D slide valve. The engine R.P.M. is 200 and develops 52 H.P. on the belt. The flywheel diameter is 40' with 14&' face. The drawbar H.P. is 16. The drive wheels are 6' in diameter with 18' face.


This Minneapolis steamer was formerly owned by Mr. B. Dvorak of Malmo, Nebraska. He purchased it from Mr. Martinson of Swedesburg, Nebraska, and that is as far as back as he could trace the ownership. If any friends of Mr. Martinson at Swedesburg should remember this engine, we would appreciate hearing from you. The initials J, a possible former owner, is stamped several places on the mountings.


He had been looking for an engine for some time, and through Ray Magnuson he heard of this one at Malmo. Others that he had heard about were either too expensive or not in good condition. On a cold January 30, we drove down to Malmo and looked at this engine, and after discussing it over between ourselves, and a lot of thought plus a good dinner, which seemed to help, we decided to go ahead and buy it. This engine had set there for that length of time and settled in the dirt, and looked so lonely and distraught. We made arrangements with Mr. Dvorak to deliver it, and it was a happy day in May when Mr. Dvorak and son, Wayne, delivered it. Carl was so excited that he skipped school so he would be on hand when it arrived. After a lot of planning, we attempted to unload it, but didn't have enough power with our tractor to pull it out of the wheel well in the Low-Boy. Carl's brother, Bruce, had to get his big tractor, and both tractors took it off in fine shape. Our neighbor and relative, Jake Johnson saw the steam engine on the Low-Boy come into our place, so was real excited and came over. Jake was water boy for Carl's Grandfather, J.K. Johnson, who had a threshing run with a Minneapolis 12 h.p. Return flue traction engine, in the early 1900's.

Carl spent many hours looking it over and getting it ready to run.  It was on a Friday that the steamer came and on Sunday, Mr. Magnuson came down and cold water hydrostatically tested the boiler to 225 lb.. pressure with no leaks or bulging.  It did not take much work mechanically to have it in running order, so Carl had it ready to go by Monday. As soon as he got home from school, he was firing it up, and in two hours of slow firing, he had 10 lbs. steam pressure and the engine turned over for the first time in eight years. Even with this low pressure of steam, the engine ran very smoothly. In a short time the pressure was up to 140 lbs. pressure, before the pop off blew, so Carl decided to set it down to 125 lbs. pressure for safety sake. He blew the whistle many times that day as was such a thrill to hear the triple chime whistle do its song, a memory of yesteryear for many an old timer. After several blasts of the whistle, he had scattered the cattle, and some broke out over a gate and never came home till the next day.

The Magnuson Steam Threshing Reunion was coming up in early September, so Carl wanted to have his traction engine painted, so began cleaning the engine not long after he got it. In so doing, he found the original colors that were used before. He ordered special heat resistant paint for it, and in August was ready to paint it. After two and half weeks, he had it all painted and shiny just like from the factory.

A few days before the Reunion, a promised hauler was unable to transport the traction engine to the show, so Carl had it running here home; and many people stopped in to see it run, and took pictures. He hopes to display it more next year. If any of you are in the neighborhood, stop in and see the engine, as Carl likes to show it to anyone interested. He lives the first farm place north of Wayne, Nebraska.