80 Years With An 80 Case

Case steam engine

1931: Frank Peternell Farm, Brockway Township, Stearns County, Minnesota. Gust Schuneman, engineer.

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703 County Road 2 South St. Stephen, Minnesota 56375

This 80 HP Case steam engine, serial number 30357, was purchased 'new' in 1917 by my grandfather, Frank Vouk, of Brockway Township, Stearns County, Minnesota, in company with his engineer, August (Gust) Schuneman. It was shipped by rail from the Case Distribution Center in Minneapolis to St. Cloud, Minnesota, and driven the fourteen miles to Frank's farm in what was to become the village, and later the city of St. Stephen. When Gust had to leave for the World War, Frank bought out his share.

I put the quotes on the word 'new' in the above paragraph because sometime after the purchase a man wrote to Frank and asked how he liked the engine, because he said it had been repossessed from him. The inference was that the distributorship had taken it, cleaned it up and sold it as new. Well, this rather peeved Grandpa, and so he subsequently refused to let the distributor ship take the 60 HP Case engine he had traded on the 80. The 60, which by this time was 20 or more years old, sat along the fence row for many years and eventually was scrapped for the World War II effort.

Frank did custom sawing each spring with the 80 on his farm with a No. 2 Howell mill, and threshing in the surrounding area, sometimes for up to 80 days in a season, with a 36' wooden Minneapolis separator with wing feeders, until his death in 1930; at that time my dad, Bill, at age 18, took over as head of the family, which included his mother, one brother and six sisters.

Bill continued custom threshing and sawing with the engine until 1939, when it and the wooden separator were replaced by a 1919 10 ton Holt Caterpillar and a 36' Huber steel separator, also with wing feeders. For several years, the 80 was steamed up each fall to clean this threshing rig. It sat at its old resting place at the end of the barn until 1952, when Bill and Gust decided to get it going again. They used it on the sawmill that year and the next with Gust as engineer. Then it was once again retired.

After starting to attend steam shows in the mid'50s with Gust and Henry P. (Horsepower) Lahr of St. Joseph, Minnesota, and with the purchase of a 65 HP Case engine in 1961, at an auction in Little Falls, Minnesota, the steam in Bill's blood once again came up. So in 1963, with the help of Gust at age 73, who did much of the work including the painting, he completed a total restoration of the 80, with new flues put in by Mr. Lahr, new water tank built by Bill, a correct canopy (the old one was for a 65), repoured canon bearing, new piston rings, etc.

In 1965, with these two engines, Bill and his family started the 'Vouk's Steam Engine Threshing and Lumber Sawing Show' on the old family farm. Every year since, the 80 has powered the same sawmill on the same site that it did years ago, with Bill's younger brother John and his son Tom as engineers. It is also used to pull an eight bottom John Deere plow which we restored in 1995. It still carries a MAWP of 110 psi. In 1989 Bill's nephew, Tom Vouk, and grandson, Shawn Vouk, repainted it, had it striped and put on all new decals for the 25th show. I think this engine is rather unique since it has been in the Vouk family for 80 years, since it was purchased 'new.'

This Case 80 has been in the family of Jim Vouk, 703 County Road 2 South, St. Stephen, Minnesota 56375, for 80 years. The sawmill in 1989 at the family's 25th annual show.

Other engines at our show include the aforementioned 65 HP Case, an 18 HP Advance Rumely, a 45 HP Case owned by Jim Dehn of Rogers, Minnesota and a 9 HP Case owned by Richard Rademacher of Brainerd, Minnesota, the latter two having been built from parts by the late aforementioned H. P. Lahr, who got his nickname not only from his initials, but also from working with and on steam engines. All these engines can be seen at work at the annual 'Vouk's Steam Engine Threshing and Lumber-Sawing Show' in St. Stephen, Minnesota, always on the last full weekend in September.