Mighty Minnie engine

Nearing the summit after a long hard pull, high and dry above the river. Mighty ''Minnie'' no longer in the Little Missouri now for the long ride home and a big restoration job.

J. G. Rathert

Content Tools

Forman, N. Dakota

Toward the end of the 3rd day we were getting ready for the big pull. On top of the bank a trench 4 feet deep and 15 feet long was dug for the dead man. We dropped in a large Ash log with double one inch cables leading to the sheave blocks. Many feet of 5/8 inch cable was strung on the sheaves with two one inch cable leading to the rear wheels of the engine. The cables were strung over the rear wheels and chained to them so as to roll the wheels. This should give us more leverage. We hooked Don's little H. D. 5. Chalmers Cat to the take up cable. The rear wheels of the engine just would not turn. The heavy one inch cable snapped like store string. We had loosened all the bearings cap on the counter shaft on this machine, soaked it down good with diesel fuel and oil; also soaked down the rear axel and the hubs. We restrung our cables with the winch truck on our one side and the cat and sheaves on the other side. The rear wheels still would not turn. With this weight and pull the 30 inch wide rear wheels on the engine began to settle. The pull was terrific so much in fact that the entire front end of the engine raised four feet up out of the mud. We surely made quick work of throwing dry dirt, trees, rocks and anything handy under the front end. We had enough power to tip it over backwards, but it still would not roll. We pried on the big gear with bars while pulling and they did turn just a little and again and again the cables snapped. Next, we rerigged the cables to the bottom of the wheels. This way it would lift up on it as we pulled. Getting the wheels to turn seemed impossible. It looked like the only way to move it would be with brute strength and drag it up the backslope we had made. This way we did get it back a couple of feet giving us a chance to get at the front of the boiler and clean out a ton or so of sand. From hereon it was patch cables, slide it a little ways, jack up the left rear wheel using two railroad jacks on the one wheel, taking each jack a notch at a time. We raised it enough to get some railraod ties under it, this way we moved it back about 15 feet. The pin in the big triple sheave block was beginning to bend stopping the pulleys from turning.

We were also beginning to feel the beating, as this was quite a project for just the two of us.

This was a very busy time of the year for Don as he had to get many river crossings, trails and ranch work ready for freeze up. He did spare considerable time to give us a pull and help us when we needed him. This we greatly appreciated. 

The weather turned bad, rain and snow mixed and it was getting colder. This presented more problems as we were miles from an all weather road and could easily get snowed in. We still had a long way to go to get the engine out of danger of the spring high water.

This river bank behind the engine was 35 to 45 ft. high before we cut it down. Our backslope run back 100 to 150 ft. as we had moved the engine only about 15 ft. we still had a long way to go.

Because of the weather we decided we better get out of there. We tightened up the cables and fastened them to keep the engine from sliding back in the hole. We loaded up the 'Bobcat,' flywheel, crankshaft, one rear wheel extension, and hit the trail for home. If we had not left when we did, I doubt that we would have made it as the hills were getting icy. We left the one truck and trailer there. We got home at 10:30 P.M. Thanksgiving day, tired and happy but already making plans to go back as soon as the weather and condition permitted.

I   thought the engine would slide easier on frozen ground also 1 planned on making skids to put under the rear wheels to keep the lugs from culling in.

It  would lake a lot of tinkering to get this toy ticking, but being what it was, it should be worth it. It is the big 45 H.P. double tandem compound Minneapolis. It has 2-7 inch pressure cylinders, 2-11 inch low pressure cylinders. Yes that's right, double tandem 4 cylinders 4 pistons.

Shortly after Thanksgiving the weather seemed to settle down and it turned quite nice. After a few days of this I could not resist the urge to go back out to the river by the Big Minnie. A friend 'Swede Johnson', offered to go along and take a try at it. I quickly took him up.

I had already made skids for the rear wheels, also I had driven over to Lawrence Fish, of Barnsville, Minnesota, who at one time was in the big building moving business. As I had hoped, he had just what I needed - 3 large heavy single sheaves with 1 inch pins. These sheaves had shorter pins so they would stand a heavier pull without bending. I also got 200 feet of new 3/4 inch steel cable.

On the ninth of December, Swede and I left with the Chevie Station Wagon loaded far beyond its load limit. I felt sure this time something was going to give and it wouldn't be us. It was dark when we arrived there Saturday night, so we headed for the old log cabin. We set it up and started a good fire, carried in our cots and went to bed. It just didn't seem to warm up. I guess the floor didn't fit the walls like it did when it was built back in 1901. The next morning as it was turning daylight I thought I saw a snow flake or two coming down. It was. The shingles had been gone for a long time and with the boards spaced on the roof that place was just as comfortable as an old time corn crib. The weather turned quite warm on Sunday so we didn't suffer to much Sunday night.

Sunday, when we got to the engine we found about 18 inches of ice covering the cables and sheaves we had left fastened to the engine. It took until noon to get them chopped out and pulled loose so we could rerig. The over flow from an Artesian well had found its way down the approach we had cut and as it run into the shaded spots it would freeze and build up. We spent most of the rest of the day restringing cables. Late that evening we tied unto the cable with the winch truck. Don Short was not at home so we didn't have his Cat to hook on the cable. We were quite interested whether or not we could move it with the winch alone. After taking in quite a lot of cable everything tightened up and slowly the big brute started to move up hill. The days being very short this time of the year we decided to wait until daylight so we could see what was going on.

On Monday we had real good luck as we had pulled the engine back about 100 feet up hill. The Skid under the rear wheels was working real good. We had no control over steering it and it did slide into the side of the cut a couple of times. We had to rehook our cables to straighten it out.

Monday evening, the weather turned cold and snow was in the forecast. When Mr. & Mrs. Short returned to their ranch and found out that we were back working on the engine, they suggested we come and stay in the bunk house on their ranch. This we did and appreciated it very much.

Tuesday morning much refreshed after a good nights rest we headed back to the engine. The ground was covered with snow, even a few small drifts. We thought it would not take long to move it another 20 feet to level ground where we could easily load it, but things didn't work as we planned. The engine wanted to slide sideways rather then come uphill. After a couple hours of this we hooked to the right rear wheel and tried to swing it around. The winch on the truck had taken a real beating with all this hard pulling. The gear case on the winch went like a ripe melon dropped on a rock (......******Censored.)

It was plain to see that was 'it' for this time. We clamped the cables tight, gathered up the gear case and parts loaded up the station wagon and headed for home. At least this time we had the engine high and dry.

When we return in the spring it shouldn't take long to pull it another 20 feet so we can easily load it if there is any easy way to load a dead machine of this size with all wheels sliding.

How did this engine happen to be in the Bad Lands and in the river? This is almost a story in its self. There are valleys along this river that have many acres of good level land. Mr. Short's father had decided to try irrigation. Water ways were built, a ramp was built by the river for the big engine to stand on. A large 12' x 12' steam pump was installed.

This project, I believe was started in 1924 -1927 just ahead of the big depression. It could have and should have turned out real good as this is real good land. After the depression the project was given up like many other things.

For many years the engine just sat there. In 1947, the river hit an all time high, with large chunks of ice going over the banks. The ice jams took the engine off its stand and dropped it in the river.

I intend to have this engine home for our show in 1968. It should be something of interest even in the rough.

Love is the delightful interval between meeting a beautiful girl and discovering that she looks like a haddock.