My Hobbies Especially Steam

Steam engine

My latest edition of a steam engine. It is a 1/2 scale model of a 65 Case. I spent over two and a half years of spare time in its making. Courtesy of Sig Bakke, Adams, North Dakota 85210

Sig Bakke

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North Dakota 58210

My interest in steam engines dates back to early childhood. My first attempt at one was when I was about 14 years old and that's over 50 years ago now. This was quite a crude affair but at the time, it fascinated me immensely. It was a stationary engine. I started by building it on a board 2' x 12' x 18' long. Being very simple it consisted of a fly-wheel, crankshaft, eccentric, cylinder, and a couple of petcocks. A three foot long copper pipe connected the cylinder to a one gallon oil can placed in the forge. My first few attempts at getting it going were futile - the fly wheel being too small, it wouldn't carry over, as steam was fed to the front end of the cylinder only. By replacing the flywheel with a bigger one, I thought it would carry over, which it did and my hopes were renewed. I pumped the forge bellows to get more steam. It made a few puffs under its own power and I was up on cloud nine for a few seconds and then with a big bang everything became dark in the shop with coal dust and rubble. After the dust settled, I found out that my oil can boiler had gone dry so it had exploded and all that was left was the iron in the fireplace of the forge. Fortunately, I was not hurt. I found the remains of my engine in the far corner of the shop. Seeing the dust emerging from the shop, my mother came to investigate as to what was going on. When I told her what had happened she said in no uncertain terms, 'This is enough to this. Its time for you to get out in the field.' This was the end of my first steam engine.

Money at that time was not plentiful at our place. We were a family often so we all had to pitch in to make ends meet. Our Dad passed away when the oldest one was 15 and the youngest about five. Grain prices in the thirties besides drought didn't make farming very profitable.

I have had other hobbies over the years, the first being Ham Radio. My call is WLWX. I got my first license in 1938 and have had lots of enjoyable hours talking to people all over the U.S.A. and other countries. Amateur photography is another hobby. We have over a mile of 16mm movie film and a number of 35 mm slides taken on our travels. Later, our interest turned to antiques. We have collected antiques of all descriptions - hanging lamps, carnival and custard glass plus most anything that our forefathers used in their homes. We have an old country schoolhouse moved in to house these old time treasures. We've had visitors to see these from all over including Norway and Canada.

Steam engines always had a spot in my heart. In threshing time I would rather be close to the engine than haul bundles or grain. My interest was rekindled when my wife, Lillian, gave me the book, 'Days of Steam and Glory' by Dona Close Jennings.

On our way home from Los Angeles one winter we stopped at Murdo, S. Dakota and we went through the Museum there. Among other interesting things we saw was a 1/4 scale Case Steam Engine made by Olaf Bakke of New England, North Dakota. This made us decide to go by New England as I wanted to talk to him in person. They were very hospitable people and insisted that we stay with them overnight which we did. We discussed steam engines, etc. and had a very enjoyable visit.

I had intended to make a small engine but my final decision was a 1/2 scale model of a 65 Case. I began picking up parts all over for a start on my new project. Through a friend, Roy Grimes of Fairmount, North Dakota, I got acquainted with Laurence Dahlman of Roshalt, South Dakota, where I got the main castings and lots of advice and help. Norman Nelson of Rollag, Minnesota was one who really encouraged me when my morale was at a low ebb. My turning lathe wasn't big enough and experience was lacking and this is where Norman's skill and help was greatly appreciated. Another friend, Pete Striemer of Winkler, Manitoba, Canada has also been a help to me in locating needed parts.

Well now after 2 years of work it is in running order and I have enjoyed it very much and so have my neighbors and friends. I built a sturdy trailer for hauling the engine around. Last fall, September of 1972, I took my engine to the Central North Dakota Steam Threshers, Inc. Threshing bee at New Rockford, North Dakota and there with Norman Nelson's Separator we threshed for about 3 hours which has been one of the highlights with my steam engine.

I don't have a separator of my own so that will have to be one of my next projects. If I'm going to thresh I'll have to have bundles which means a binder and of course a bundle rack and grain wagon and come to think of it I should have a 1/2 scale cook car too - I have a couple of 1/2 scale cooks my granddaughters, Terri and Laurel!! That's all for now!