Hedtke's Antique Engines Damaged


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Stillman Valley, Illinois 61084

Davis Junction, IllinoisThe roof of a 60 x 144 foot metal storage building less than five years old gave way Saturday evening, January 13, 1979, during a furious snow and wind storm, damaging priceless engines and other antique machinery belonging to George W. Hedtke.

The machinery is a main attraction at the North Central Illinois Steam Power Show which Hedtke stages each August during the first weekend at his Hickory-Oaks Farm on Illinois 72, 1 miles east of U.S. 51.

'It was a terrifying sight when I saw the roof down on my engines with the smoke stacks sticking through the metal roof,' Hedtke said. 'I would say 90% of the equipment received some kind of damage, some extensive and some only slight.' Hedtke first sighted the fallen roof Sunday morning when he and couple of friends drove to the farm following a snow plow on Illinois 72.

Hedtke emphasized that the roof didn't collapse from the snow weight alone, and that the furious wind Saturday evening added much to cause the roof to twist and eventually fall. To the east and west of Hedtke's building are groves of trees, while open fields lie to the north and south. The result was a wind tunnel, with winds hitting 45 to 70 miles per hour at times.

The entire roof with 14 foot eves gave way as 6' x 6' wall post snapped in two. The entire south wall became twisted and will have to be replaced, while the north wall is salvageable, and perhaps the end-gables. The building, which was erected in June 1974, prior to the first steam power show on the Hickory-Oaks Farm, was insured, also the machinery, Hedtke said. Hedtke estimated the damage to the building alone at $30,000.

'Damage to the machinery inside is a question. I'm not even sure how much there is because of all the timers, metal roof, and now added snow falls on top of it,' said Hedtke. 'I won't know what the damage is until the insurance adjuster arrives. You just don't go into any store now days and say, 'How much is a casting for a governor for a 1911 Case steam engine?''

'Several of the large engines, both gas and steam, had their canopies or cabs smashed' in,' said Hedtke. 'That cab over there contained the original wood, but now its all splintered. It can be restored, but the original cannot be replaced.' There's no way of replacing original equipment, Hedtke sighed, as he surveyed the result of 25 years of collecting and restoring antique machinery, seen now under a roof of debris and drifted in snow.

The building housed about 70 pieces of antique farm machinery, including 11-ton gas tractors dating to 1919, steam engines from 1911, a horse powered threshing outfit from 1889, numerous other threshers of various make and size, and several plows, mowers, wagons, buggies and much more. 'Fortunately my biggest steam engine (a 22-ton, 110 H.P. J.I. Case model) just had some minor damage and a governor broken. Also, my original and complete horsepower threshing outfit, a vintage of 1889, by J.I. Case Company, received no damage at all,' Hedtke stated.

Although there was what Hedtke termed 'a lot of damage' to most of the machinery, he said he has already received promises of repair help from steam power buffs as far away as Michigan. Numerous local friends and Iowa and Wisconsin steam show buffs have offered their help in the restoration, Hedtke smiled. 'I don't know if we will be ready to put on a good show in August, but we are going to try.'

Hedtke emphasized that it takes many different skills to restore antique machinery. Engineers, machinists, welders, and others are counted among his friends who will try to get the machinery in working order again.

'It's like starting all over again,' Hedtke said, as he viewed the damaged farm machinery. But after 25 years, George Hedtke is not going to give up. 'It will take a long time,' he mused, 'but it is also a challenge.' Hedtke has been tackling challenges with antique farm machinery for the past quarter of a century. And he has succeeded as he will again succeed because of his great love for a dying past.