Case Steam Engine

Original 110 Case steam engine in 1915 plowing on 20 Ranch on the Rosebud.

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Forsyth, Montana 59327

It all started when it was shipped to Cartersville, Montana, to a demonstration farm. This was in 1910 or 1911, but I don't know if it was sold to the government or not. It was never used while it was there but it sat alongside a barn for about two years. Dad was threshing about a mile or two from there at the time when the barn burned. It took the paint off the right rear wheel and the flywheel. Not long after the fire, Joe Holtz got the 110 and did contract plowing. It broke sod on the Rosebud flat. It was about 30 miles west of Miles City on Interstate 94. It is now the Clifford Wright Ranch. It did some plowing on the 20 Ranch on Rosebud Creek.

Dad was threshing a couple miles from there at the time. When he finished threshing he was moving to the creek crossing; the 110 was coming the other way and it was to use the same crossing. It was the only crossing in ten miles. It was a race I guess. Well, the 110 got there first, but the engineer got a little to one side and there she stood on her head. Dad unhooked from the huller while they pulled the fire on the 110. Dad hooked on the plow and pulled it back, then hooked on to the 110 Case. He broke a bull pinion on the 25-75 Case. Dad took a team and wagon and went to Forsyth which was about twenty miles. There he wired Billings for a new pinion. Before he left he told them to drain the boiler and tanks and wrap a rope around the flywheel and hook a team on it. He left his men to jack up the 75 Case and take off the wheel and broken pinion. The next morning the new pinion was there. He picked it up and drove back. They had the 110 out with the team and rope and were filling the boiler with water when he got there.

Joe Holtz sold it to a man by the name of Bower who used it for a year or so. Then it was sold to a man by the name of Milligan. He had it moved to Tongue River a distance of about 45 miles. Going up the Rosebud Road it went through a bridge and broke the end off the lower canon bearing. As the story goes it took about two or three days to get it out. Then it went on to Tongue River where it was put on an 18-inch pump. I am not sure how long it ran the pump. I believe it was the early 20s when they quit.

They had left water in the boiler and my brother, Claude rode over horseback and drained it before the weather got cold. It was about eight miles from home through the hills. Then he decided he wanted it because the old 25-75 Case was getting in bad shape. The spokes were stripping out of the hubs on the rear wheels. There was an old 32-110 about 15 miles south of the town of Rosebud that had been abandoned. Claude went and looked at that too. He wanted to see if the cannon bearing would fit and it did, so he went on into Miles City to see Roy Milligan. Roy said he would sell it for $750.00 and Claude said it was too much money so he forgot the idea and the engine sat there until 1934.

My uncle wanted an engine to pump with and my other brother, Paul, who was working for him at the time, told him the 110 would be a good engine. So they went to look at it. The riverbank had washed back so close you couldn't walk around in front of it. It was about 20 feet straight down to the water. They left to find Milligan and told him the 110 was about to go into the river. Milligan told them to take it and pay him whatever he thought it was worth. Next day Paul and my uncle came down in a model B Ford pickup. They got a stacker rope and along with my brother, Floyd, my dad and myself, (yes, I got to go too) we went to look it over. We got there and looked things over all the while wondering if any movement might make it cave off. They wrapped the rope around the flywheel and hooked on the model B. My uncle was driving. The old flywheel went to turning and the engine moved back about four feet. The pickup hit the end of the rope; the rear wheels came plum off the ground. We were pretty happy it didn't cave off. They kept wrapping the flywheel pulling it until we got it back about sixty feet. There was a coal bunker lid on the smoke stack with a brand new clutch pinion on it for weight. In moving it back it was just about to fall off when we noticed it. Paul and Floyd were looking it over to see what all had to be done. Most all of the pipes were gone. About half of the spokes were gone from the left rear wheel; the boiler jacket was hanging loose. Claude had taken the whistle and safety valve so the brass hunters wouldn't get them.

In 1929 the Yellowstone River was washing the bank really bad in the town of Rosebud. So they had hired a couple of Cats to pull the old 32-110 in for riprap. I was told the Cats were two tons. They had quite a time starting it. They hooked one Cat on each rear wheel because it had sank in the dirt. They did the same to get it up the steep hills then one holding to go down. It took about a week to get it into town. They buried a dead man on the bank, fastened a cable to it and the drawbar then pushed it into the river.

To get spokes Paul went to Rosebud and got spokes out of the old 32-110. He said the ice did a lot of damage to it. Paul and Floyd loaded up jacks, blocks and tools in a Dodge Ford truck. (It was made up with a Dodge engine and transmission, 1925 model, and Ford truck rear and worm drive and rocky mountain transmission.) They went to work on the 110. They pulled the rear wheels; used a piece of 6' pipe the right length for the end of the can nor bearing that was broken off, and an 8' over the 6' and babbitted between them. They worked on it 4 or 5 days. Then Claude went over to help. That is when I got to go again. I was 11 years old. I was sure excited because I was going to see the 110 run. When we got there Paul and Floyd had just gotten a tank of water, so we started washing the boiler. Pack rats had built nests in it. There was also cactus and sticks. I was small enough to crawl between the spokes so my job was to dig the sticks and cactus out of the hand holes. It took about three tanks of water to get it washed out. One time I was starting to crawl in the rear wheel while Claude was doing the washing with the hose. He hollered, 'Look out, there's a snake.' I tore the wheel apart getting out. None of us had seen a snake like it! Our uncle said it must be a snake of the United States because it had red, white and blue rings around it. We found out later it was a King snake.

When we went to putting in the hand pole plates we were short one for over the firebox, but were able to fill it with water. Our old 25-75 sat about 12 miles east from where we were. Claude and Paul got in the old Dodge pickup and I got to go with them again. I was pretty excited. I was going to see the old Case. That is what we called it. I hadn't seen it since 1928. It was dark before we got there. Dad had moved the sawmill in there in 1926. We used the 22 horse undermounted Avery, but the flues went bad in it so they moved the 25-75 Case. Then the rear wheels were so bad they didn't move it back home. I can remember it well, it was all together; just had to put water in the boiler and it was ready to go.

There was a big slab and sawdust pile there. We were pretty careful because there was a lot of rattle-snakes around. We didn't hear any that night and we got a hand hole plate. We looked around for something to put in the hand hole to keep the snakes out. I think they used a pitch knot. I remember it as a big engine, but it looked small after being around the 110.

We started back and there was a bad storm building up lots of lightning. Before we got back to the 110 the wind came and blew dust so bad you couldn't see. We had to stop for a while and when we got back to the 110 there wasn't anyone there. Floyd and Uncle Harry were gone but before long we saw a car light and it was our uncle. He told us that when the storm hit the wind and dust were so bad they just got the camp supplies and left.

Well, there were two preachers staying at the Brandenberg school-house so that is where they went for shelter. We all went to the school-house and our Uncle Harry cooked supper. I asked Paul where Floyd was, as it was pretty dark in there and I couldn't see him. There was someone in bed on the floor and I asked Paul if that was Floyd and he said no that it was one of the preachers and that I had to sleep there with him. Then supper was ready and while we were eating I was figuring out how I could get out of sleeping with the preacher. After supper I went out and lay down in the seat of the old Dodge. I figured if I could get to sleep maybe they would leave me alone. It wasn't long before Claude came out and told me to come in and go to bed. I said I was not going to sleep with the preacher. He asked me who had told me that I had to and I said Paul. He thought it was funny, but said I didn't have to do that and that it was Floyd that I had seen in the bed. They got him up and we fixed the bed and all five of us slept in the same bed crossways.

The next morning we cooked our breakfast outside again and moved our camp back to the 110. Claude and Paul went to work on the engine, The tank top was rusted out so Floyd put a floor board in it. About noon Claude started the engine and the throttle or the governor didn't work right; then they had to set the valve. It was late afternoon when they put the clutch in and made a circle. They hooked the tank wagon on behind for water. The tender was rusted out. There was another problem my three brothers and uncle had run out of tobacco. That made them all grouchy, but we started out. Claude was running the engine and Paul was firing. It was dark when we got to the schoolhouse so that is where we stopped. They were really needing some tobacco by then, so Paul and Floyd said they would go to the Wolf ranch and stay there for the night. Claude, Uncle Harry and myself headed for home. Paul and Floyd said they would fire up and haul water in the morning. We were also getting low on camp supplies. We got up the road away and saw a light; Claude said it was coming from Horton's sheep wagon and that he bet he would have some tobacco so we drove in. Claude and Harry knew the herder and, yes, he had plenty of tobacco. He also told us we could fix something to eat. We did and it sure tasted good! We all felt so good after the meal and tobacco that we decided not to go home so we went back to the 110 and went to bed.

Next thing I heard was the whistle. Steam was up and so was the sun and breakfast was ready. Claude had fired up about daylight and it wasn't long until we heard the old Dodge Ford coming. Paul and Floyd said they had just finished breakfast and stepped outside when they heard the whistle.

Well we got started and on our way. Uncle Harry went for groceries and tobacco. Floyd was firing. We had to travel about five miles on the country road then cut through the hills. The steam got up to 160 but it wouldn't pop. Someone had screwed the adjustment way down. Claude said it must have been set for about 180. We made it through the hills okay and got about two miles from home that day. The next day we got home with it; then belted it to the pump to irrigate the potatoes. Claude was going to use the 22 Avery but he had to help with the 110. So, seeing as they had the 110 going they used it. It took about an hour with the six-inch pump. When they moved it away from the pump Claude said the crankshaft would have to be re-babbitted.

They went back to Rosebud to the old 32-110. They took off the flywheel, clutch arm and pinion. I remember the clutch arm was broken. It had a plate riveted on it to hold it together. It took three or four days before they got it going again. It was late in the afternoon when Claude and Paul run it up to our yard. The next day they washed the boiler and tried to get me to crawl in the wheel to dig out in the hand hole. I was afraid there might be a snake in there. Uncle Harry had a man working for him by the name of Nick. While I was being coaxed into the wheel, Nick was doing pumping on the tank on the other side from us, but at that time was resting. Uncle Harry got the hose and aimed over the boiler at Nick and hollered 'pump Nick.' That shot of water hit him just under his hat brim and knocked it off his head. We all got a good laugh out of that.

The next day Claude and Floyd moved it to Uncle Harry's place and Paul ran the water truck. It was about a 15 mile trip and it took all day. The next day they pumped about half a day and ran out of water. Paul and Floyd ran it a time or two after that. Then it sat until the fall of 1936. Uncle Harry had Claude and Floyd ran it to pull out some stumps.

About the same time the Cheyenne Indian agency was starting up a saw mill. It consisted of a #3 Howell mill, three saw edger and swinging cut off saw belted to a 16 HP Russell. It was short on power so they asked my uncle about the 110. They made a deal that he take the Russell to use and they take the 110 and give him $12.50 a month. No one would run the 110 on the road so they pulled the Russell to where the 110 set with a 65 gas Cat (about 8 miles). They pulled the key on left pinion and hooked the 110 and pulled it to the mill. They had a lot of trouble with firemen. There was not a steam engineer among them and it got to leaking steam so bad the Indians wouldn't work around it.

In the spring of 1938 the superintendent for the Indians came to see Claude. He told him that if he would fix the 110 that he would have a steady job as long as the saw mill was running. The engine and saw mill were all shedded. The 110 was in an awful shape; half of the flues were leaking; main valve on dome was leaking where it bolted on. The elbow from the cylinder to the heater was broken off; grated burned out. Claude told the superintendent it would have to be rebuilt. He told Claude if he could make it run to saw 10,000 feet of bridge plank for the road department, they would get him the parts he needed to fix it right. It took about three days work to get it so they could saw. After the plank was sawed, they shut down for the rebuilding. Claude had three Indians cleaning and scraping grease. The crank-disk was loose on the shaft, so that was sent to a machine shop and rebuilt. He ordered new piston rings, connecting rod brasses, oil pump, governor, grates, and injector. The sleeve on the clutch was worn so badly it had to be babbitted. He poured a new main bearing, after he got it to run. The superintendent could not believe the difference in the 110. Claude kept it wiped off everyday. The Indians were still afraid of it. Once they were sawing a lot of small logs, Claude said he let the water get pretty high, then a big log was rolled on. Well, the old 110 pulled over or primed. The drawbar and tanks were taken off and you stood on the ground to fire it. By the time he crawled up over the two cannon-bearings to the throttle there was not one Indian left in the mill shed. There were about 12 or 14 working there most of the time. Another time the governor belt came off and that cleared the mill shed again.

The Government bought the 110 from my uncle about the time it was rebuilt. They paid him $175.00 for it. They brought the Russell back and put it right behind the 110 and belted it to a planner. In 1942 it was shut down and never run again. Claude and I went there in 1947 to look things over. I picked up the smoke stack; it had been laying alongside of the shed. It had been taken off when the shed was built. They put a piece of twelve culbert twenty feet long for a smoke stack. Claude said, 'What are you going to do with that? I said some day I'm going to own that engine (and I do).

In 1952 I was working in southern Wyoming on road construction. I came home over Labor Day weekend and as I was going through Lame Deer, I stopped to look at the 110 Case as I always did whenever I was close to Lame Deer. The shed was torn down and everything was in the open. The first thing I saw was a big S put on with green paint on the smokebox. As a matter of fact every thing had a big S on it. I checked around and found out that every thing was going for scrap to the highest bidder. I told Claude the deal and he said, 'you don't want that engine, it's too clumsy.' I only had a day and I had to be going back to work. There was a man in Lame Deer who said he would let me know when it came up for bid. I never heard from him. It was late October when I quit and came back to Montana and as I drove into Lame Deer at a gas station there was the Russell sitting on a truck. I drove over to where it was and I think I was out of the car before it stopped. I asked who bought the engine. They said a junk dealer in Forsyth. I drove on home. The next morning I was in Forsyth looking for a junk dealer and I found the man. I asked him if he would sell the 110 and he said yes. I asked how much and he said $10.00 a ton and it weighs ten tons. Well it goes without saying he got $100.00 right quick. I sure felt good that I had finally gotten what I had been dreaming of.

I then went to work for an outfit five days a week. On my two days off I would work on the 110. All the pipes were gone except the water column which Claude had mounted on the back of the firebox where it was easier to see. I put it back on the side and Claude helped. We put the smoke stack on and that made it look a lot better. There were no string chains so we used some off of a smaller engine. The wheels were in the dirt about three feet. I got a key made for the left pinion. The road foreman was a good friend of ours, but he would not let me cross the bridges so we had to go through the hills or Green-Leaf Mountains. The road department shop was close by. The road foreman brought some jacks and helped jack it up. The day before Christmas we fired up and run it out. Christmas day we didn't get started until noon. No tanks or bunkers for fuel or water. We tied the water wagon behind, built a good fire and stood on the top cannon bearing to run it. We'd go until the steam went to dropping them stop and put in another fire. The clutch shoes were gone so we had the clutch arm chained to the flywheel and we made about 10 miles on Christmas day before dark. We left the 110 about where Dad sawed lumber for the government with the 35 HP Buffalo Pitts double about 35 years before. We got a late start the next day and turned off the main road after about two miles to start down the Green-Leaf valley.

The first couple of miles the snow was so deep you couldn't tell where the road was. There were tall ponderosa pines on each side, so staying in the center you were on the road. We were out of the snow after about five miles. It was getting dark and we broke a steering chain. I was sure glad it didn't happen in the canyon. We used a chain binder and were on our way. Got to the Indian reservation line. On the third day we got an earlier start and had about 12 miles to go. We stopped at Harold and Virginia Sprague's for dinner. First Claude ate and he took the engine while I went to dinner. We made it home that night using pitch wood. We had lots of black smoke. The whole trip was about 30 miles. Then we never steamed it up until 1953.

My two boys, Gary and Jack, and I fired it up one time and ran it a little. From 1952-55 I worked on road construction and oil fields in three different states and on weekends I'd go around to the junk yards looking for engine parts and material to make a saw mill. I had the iron to a Curtis saw mill. In the spring of 1956 we had the mill completed with a Soule steam feed. We fired up the 110 and belted it to the mill. Every thing worked well and sawed about 20,000 feet. Next year Claude sawed about 30,000 feet. I helped him put a flue in (we knew it was due for a new set of flues).

That September Dad passed away and about six weeks later Claude passed away too. The 110 sat there. My boys and I hauled the saw mill to town where we lived and repainted it. In the summer of 1965 I hauled the 110 to town; that was quite a job. No steering wheel but with a 24' pipe wrench we got the job done.

I visited with Walter Mehmke and he thought I could find parts to fix up the 110. I went looking for parts and also for Avery parts. I got a lower cannon bearing from Walter Spreeman in Alberta. Clarence Young located a drawbar and bunkers for me. John Tysse helped locate two front wheels and axle.

The fall of 1974 I started to make new water tanks and by March 27, 1975 the tanks, coal bunkers, tool boxes were done, painted and stripped. In the summer I cut the flues out, took the rear wheels off, counter shaft and cannon bearings, front and rear wheels sand blasted and painted. Donnie Reiger, who worked for me at the time did the painting and did a really good job. On January 28, 1976, I pulled the 110 out of the shop all painted. I was short one steering chain so I did not fire it up until July 10 ,1976. Then I ran it at our threshing bee. Since then I took the crankshaft out, sent the eccentric hub and strap, crankshaft, clutch arm to Fargo to Jim Briden who rebuilt them. He made everything better than new. I also plan on making a cab and spark arrester for it.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the following people who helped me in this big job: Harold Ottaway, Wichita, Kansas; John Tysee, Crosby, North Dakota; Bill Krumwiede, Voltaire, North Dakota; John Hall, Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Austin Monk, Marian Mt.; Ray German; Oilmont Mt.; Walter & Carl Mehmke, Great Falls, Mt.; Clarence Young, Great Falls, Mt.; Norman Pross, Luverne, North Dakota; Jim Briden, Fargo, North Dakota; and Walter Spreeman, Olds Alberta, Canada.