Case Engine Receives New Bunker

The Haleys build new bunkers for my 65-horsepower Case steam engine

Jim Haley and John Haley

Jim Haley (left) and John Haley (right) begin to bend the tank. A pipe in a V-shaped channel creates a smooth curve. All photographs, except the last one, were taken by Jim's wife, Sue Haley.

Sue Haley

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4745 Glenway Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45238-4537. rhode@nku.edu. Reprinted with permission from the Winter 1999 issue of Old Abe's News, Dave Erb, Editor 

Only a respect for old iron would motivate someone to build a new water tank and contractor's fuel bunkers for a 65-horsepower Case engine. Only considerable skill would enable someone to create new bunkers better than those made by the J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company. With the requisite motivation and skill, brothers Jim and John Haley with help from their father, Sam gave my agricultural traction engine a show-stopping tank and bunkers.

For as long as they've been in the steam engine hobby, the Haleys, from Odell, Illinois, have been working on steam engines. The family runs Haley's Farm Shop, a steamer repair business located at 23405 E. 2200 N. Road, Odell, Illinois 60460. Readers of IMA will remember seeing a 1982 photograph of Jim and three sizes of Case engine on the cover of the March/April 1984 issue. Jim's letter printed in the Album for May/June 1984 reads in part, 'I managed to get to nine shows and related events last year and hope to go to at least that many this year. The smell of coal and hot oil draws me back again and again. My high school friends don't understand my obsession with these old relics. They get their pride and joy from their new cars. My pride and joy is running our 1922 50 HP Case!' (page 12). The Haleys have built tanks and bunkers before, including the elaborate Case contractor's type. Sam won the 1987 Best Restored Engine trophy awarded by the National Thresher's Association for the preservation work done on his 50-horsepower Case. As far as the Haleys are concerned, shaping and riveting new Case bunkers doesn't pose an insurmountable challenge.

One of the toolboxes that Sam Haley assembled is attached to a fender, which is cut to conform to the gearing. The bunkers are trimmed with quarter-round. One of the factory-original sliding doors is in place.

Jim and John already had put a new smokestack and risers on my Case and had tackled my lengthy list of mechanical repairs, when, at a show, Sam turned to me and said, 'You know what would complete that engine? A new set of bunkers!' I nodded in agreement. 'You might as well get them now and finish the restoration,' he added. I didn't have to think about it for long. I walked across the show grounds to where Jim was running his engine and soon had his word that Haley's Farm Shop would undertake the project.

The bunkers were in need of replacement. Since their debut in 1923, the years had not been kind to them. They had lost their quarter-round trim. The toolbox lids had vanished, with plywood slabs taking their place. The canopy support posts had been bent and leaned to the engine's right. In a 1960s restoration, steel sheets had been wrapped around the outside of the water tank and welded along the edges where rivets once gleamed. Rust was bubbling through the wrapper sheets. I had painted and lined the bunkers. I first interviewed Richard Cherry, a professional painter, and received many valuable pointers. I bought special lining paint and brushes. When I did the lining, however, I chickened out and used masking tape. I also forgot that it's best to remove the tape before the paint is dry. At the end of a hot day, I pulled off the tape, tearing off ragged chunks of red and white lining paint with it. As Jim summarized the general condition of the old bunkers, 'They're good from far but far from good.'

Jim, John, and Sam enjoyed what Jim called 'the metamorphosis' from sadly worn-out factory originals to a new contractor's tank and bunkers. The Haleys purchased the steel in Peoria and had it sheered to size. Departing from factory specifications, the Haleys made the bottom of the tank and the platform floor from steel 3/16 of an inch thick for stability greater than can be had for 1/8-inch plate. The mild steel rivets came from Michigan. Two weeks before Labor Day in 1998, the laborious project began. Over the next six months, Jim, John, and Sam totaled in excess of 150 man-hours on the bunkers. John mused that, in the steam era, 'If two guys didn't build one or two sets a day, they probably got fired.'

Jim gave an overview of the process: 'You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. It all has to fit together and make one unit.' First, John and Jim bent the front of the water tank. John explained, 'There are three pieces to make up the tank base.' As shown in the accompanying photographs, the bending was done by placing the steel sheets between a V-shaped channel and a pipe. Once all three pieces of the tank were assembled, drilling holes for rivets began. 'That got so boring!' John commented. Jim agreed, saying, 'Trying to get all those holes bored out by hand was the worst part.' John added, 'We should have drilled them with a drill press first before bending the sheets.' Each hole took about twenty seconds. Including holes for rivets, screws, and bolts, the number drilled in the tank and bunkers upon completion of the undertaking came to a few more than 1,500 holes. 'As soon as you were done drilling holes,' Sam said, 'you found out you weren't done.'

After the bottom of the tank was attached, baffles were installed to keep the water from sloshing too much. Everything received a coat of primer, and then it was time to test the tank by filling it with water. Following factory specifications, Jim and John's new tank held 219 gallons. 'There were no leaks!' John exclaimed. Then he continued, 'Just kidding. There was a small one.' Once the leak was stopped, Jim joked about filling the tank with goldfish.

Next, the brothers riveted the top of the tank in place. By now, the weather had turned cool. Bucking rivets became a cold, repetitive task. Coal bunkers were shaped, then they and the fenders were set in place atop the tank for a test fit. The bunkers for a 65 Case are large, holding up to 900 pounds of bituminous coal. Consequently, it was a large disappointment when John and Jim had to make another coal bunker for the left-hand side because the first one didn't fit exactly within the tank's lip. Finally, they affixed quarter-round to the upper edges of the bunkers with a layer of silicone in between to ward off the accumulation of moisture.

With John at the levers, my engine struts her stuff at the 1999 Will County Threshermen's Association Show, held near Kankakee, Illinois. I took the photo.

John cut the toolboxes, and Sam assembled them. Then Jim and John wheeled the engine into the shop, propped the canopy with two-by-fours, and torched off the old canopy-support poles. When the engine shucked off her old tank and bunkers, did she feel wistful, or did she breathe a sigh of relief? We'll never know. Luckily, John and Jim remembered to put the new support pipes in the holes before raising up the new tank and bunkers. By now, it was around Thanksgiving.

After Christmas, Jim and John painted and striped the bunkers. The factory scene decal came from Jerry Sanders, 1360 E. Church Road, Beecher, Illinois 60401. In 1992, in recognition of the firm's 150th anniversary, the Case Company recreated the factory decal from the original plates. All other decals came from Lyle & Carol Wacker Case Decals, Rt. 2, Box 87, Osmond, Nebraska 68765. This time, the striping came from perfectly accurate rolls of tape, not from a paint brush, masking tape, and my unsteady hand.

The result is a set of contractor's fuel bunkers representing a smoother job than done at the factory. 'They're a rewarding project,' Jim said. 'I like the way they look on a Case.' Many other makes of steam engine used simple tanks and bunkers; typically, a tank was nothing more than a cylinder. Even an amateur like me might attempt to build a cylindrical tank. Only professionals like the Haleys can create a new Case tank and bunkers.