My Iron-Man Friend

The Little Jewel

Two VIP' sour fine editor and engineer, Elmer Rilzman, running the engine and Bill Berkheimer, another expert engineer and restorer of all types of machinery. This was a great day running The Little Jewel followed by a picnic and get-together with many of

William Berkheimer

Content Tools

R. D. 1, Dillsburg, Penna.

First, a few lines to introduce Mr. William Berkheimer, who is the Iron-Man in this story.

Mr. Berkheimer was born on one of the cleanest and well kept farms in the Cumberland Valley north of the Williams Grove Park, then after the passing of his parents, he took over, but now his son and grandson have taken over the farm operation.

The Berkheimers were one of the first to use gas tractors and always were Case men, often rebuilding what most men considered junk, into a like new machine and would use it for many years serving as a new machine.

As long as the writer has known of the Berkheimer farm, one of the most used buildings contained a modern shop, well equipped with most all the tools required for machinery maintenance and rebuilding.

At one of the early Rough & Tumble Steam Shows held at the Arthur S. Young show grounds in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the steam bug laid a nit somewhere around Mr. Berkheimer's head and from it developed a new Case steam bug.

Before long some green backs were exchanged with Mr. Young for what appeared to be a pile of Case scrap. Within one year this scrap heap appeared at the Rough and Tumble Steam Show, completely rebuilt and equipped with new contractors, tank and coal bunkers.

When the engine arrived at the show grounds with its new paint and lettering it was quite a sight to behold. However, it rained several days in the show week and due to a death in the Berkheimer family, Bill could not attend but told Mr. Young to assign some good engineer to his engine and run it during the show.

Well, to make a long story short, it was quite a different sight covered with mud and grease when it arrived home several months later.

Now, this called for some improvement, so a new building was erected adjoining the shop to house the engine after a complete washing and cleaning.

It was now decided to keep fire in the boiler the entire winter, thereby helping heat the adjoining shop.

When talk of a steam show being held at the local Park began circulating, Mr. Berkheimer was delighted and became a charter member and always contributes a great deal of time and effort during the show.

For many years his display was a complete Case outfit looking like new and operating slowly during the most of the day under the watchful eye of a past employee of the Huber Company, namely Mr. Lloyd Stare, who was a neighbor of Mr. Berkheimer during his farming years.

Another of Mr. Berkheimer's self-imposed duties is the sprinkling of the show grounds during the entire week at the Williams Grove Show, often beginning at two o'clock in the morning and continuing until noon. He used his rebuilt Ford truck and his home built sprinkler, carrying a 1000 gallon tank. During the 1969 show, he kept records which totaled 100 tanks of water used on the grounds.

At the local show his engine drew many favorable comments and offers, one of which was just too much temptation for Bill you guessed it he sold to another local member of the club.

After sometime the empty engine house seemed to echo the word 'Traitor' every time Bill looked in, so again there was a new customer for a Case engine. Sometime later one was found and replaced the last friend. This one too was restored with contractors, bunkers and tanks, even better than the former engine.

About this time the bug had bitten Mr. Willis Fisher of Dillsburg and being a good friend of Mr. Berkheimer, when he learned of a good 65 HP Case in Iowa he contacted Mr. Berkheimer who agreed to accompany him to look it over. The end result was that Mr. Fisher bought it and had it shipped to Dillsburg by rail. When it arrived to be unloaded, many local men including yours truly gathered at the station for the event.

The last engine, prior to this one, to be shipped to Dillsburg was in 1931 when a D. C. Frick was shipped to yours truly by the Arthur S. Young Company. How things have changed! This was the low water mark in steam engines as this one cost me $125.00 plus $78.00 freight charges and was in transit fourteen days.

We used this engine about six years for road grading and sawmill work and then had a fire one night which burned off the canopy and the babbit from the left main bearing and the eccentric. It was then given to a retired machinist to repair with the agreement that we would have the use of it to saw one winter after it was repaired, then it was his engine. It was used several years as his plaything, then sold as scrap when he passed away.

The following spring Mr. Fisher's 65 Case was moved to the Berkheimer shop and repaired where needed, plus a new set of contractors, bunkers and tanks. By this time these Case bunkers were the talk of the steam engine men for miles around and many came to see them and to ask advice in building new ones on their engines.

Mr. Fisher had never cut corners in restoring or in the upkeep of his engine and I believe he has the most beautiful and well maintained engine to be found anywhere.

These two Case engines often stood side by side at the Williams Grove Show attracting photographers and many would-be buyers.

After several years of turning down offers, Mr. Berkheimer (in one of his weaker moments) fell for an offer when the new buyer promised he would return the engine for the local show each year. Now again the empty shed caused all the Case homesickness to return.

About this time Mr. Berkheimer confided to yours truly that he could make quite a lot of improvements using modern anti-friction bearings and rubber tires, as well as other changes on a Case engine. Now coming from Bill this was believable after seeing and listening to the improvements he made on a 1935 Caterpillar Tractor, as well as a three wheeled rubber tired lawn mower, with water-cooled 4 cylinder engine, three speeds on travel and three speeds on the reel blades that will turn completely in its own length and has electric starter with lights which he built and uses.

With these improvements in mind it was not long until Bill began looking and running down leads to any and all 6 HP Case portables. This, he figured would be the equal to a size 30 Case traction and would furnish the basic parts needed to build a traction engine that could be hauled on an ordinary farm truck to distant shows or road travel to local shows and parades. It was not too long until he had leads on two such 6 HP portables, one in Harrisonburg, Virginia and the other in Mora, Minnesota.

Now this seemed too good to be true, as very few such engines were manufactured because these small steamers were the first to be replaced by the gas engines. It soon developed that these two leads were for the same engine which was then in Mora, Minnesota and was for sale.

After corresponding by mail and phone as to condition and price, it was decided to go to Minnesota in Mr. Berkheimer's rebuilt truck for the 6 HP portable. After the little portable was in Mr. Berkheimer's shop and examined very carefully, it was found that quite a lot of work would be needed to have the boiler meet the Pennsylvania requirements and be perfectly safe at working pressure.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry was contacted and arrangements were made to have an inspector go over the boiler and recommend just what was needed before any more work or expense would be added to what Mr. Berkheimer began to think was a bad deal.

For safety, the inspector recommended having the boiler completely rebuilt by a boiler factory, with new fire-box, tubes and front tube sheet or head. The length of the smoke box or barrel was extended to give it a more authentic Case traction look as well as improve performance tested to 250.

In November of 1968 when the boiler came back from the factory, yours truly visited the shop and saw a beautiful job of boiler rebuilding. Bill told me the first cost was now almost doubled, but he had a Case boiler which could not be duplicated by modern methods of manufacture although the repairs cost about the price of a new boiler.

By this time, Mr. Berkheimer had collected most of his components by purchasing a Case Model L gas tractor and a fairly good 22'-36' Case Thresher. These two machines were dismantled for the parts that were to be used in his Case Tractor which would make it completely Case. The boiler was factory tested hydrostatically to 250 pounds and guaranteed.

In early June of 1969, Boiler Inspector Nathian Leasure of York, Pennsylvania performed final inspection on boiler and praised the workmanship and stamped the boiler 125 pounds stating the boiler was now probably stronger than when new in 1907.

This model Case Tractor had a roller chain final drive which was the reason for his choice which would furnish the quiet drive of his engine. Other parts from the tractor such as the differential, sprockets, steering wheel and all road wheels with their tapered roller bearings were used. The differential contains the only gears used in the engine and these are in very limited use, while turning only.

Parts from the thresher included the cylinder bearings, which were used on the counter-shaft, the fan bearings used on the steering chain shaft, sheet metal used in the chain shields, the inspection hole covers and the front axle with the center mounting as well as numerous small bearings and steel parts.

Some parts such as the stack base and wheel spacers which could not be bought, required wood patterns to have them cast at the foundry. These were hand carved in what Br. Berkheimer called his SPARE time.

Many parts such as the reverse mechanism, the clutch parts, the large sprockets, etc. were cut from plate steel, then machined in his shop with the exception of the large flywheel and the large sprockets. New grates were cast using a pattern from our Frick pattern storage which is the only parts that can be said to be anything but Case.

Four new pneumatic tires and tubes were bought and placed on the wheels and when yours truly visited the shop in the spring of 1969, the engine looked somewhat like a small Case would look, but still a long way from finished.

Work was discontinued during the farming season, but just as soon as the corn harvest was over Mr. Stare and Mr. Berkheimer could always be found in the shop working. It was now time for the water tank and coal bunkers. The tank was fit to the frame, then welded into one piece and mounted on cushioned hangers like large truck tanks. The material was 10 gauge steel and will probably last a lifetime.

The bunkers were built without welding of any kind, using over 350 rivets just as were used by Case many years ago. This meant over 700 holes to drill by hand, as well as first making a pattern to hand bend the corners without hammering or marks of any kind. This work alone required many weeks of hard work and patience by both Mr. Stair and Bill, but you have to see the engine to believe it can be done.

A rebuilt Pickering governor was fitted in place of the original and then work on the reverse came next. After studying some old Case books and carefully measuring several local Case engines, drawings were completed and then the actual work was done.

A very heavy pulley or flywheel was purchased, then reworked to Mr. Berkheimer's specifications (8' face, 31' diameter) and then the clutch and chain sprocket were fitted before balanced. While this pulley is much smaller in diameter, it is almost twice the weight of the original and gives the little engine a nice even motion at low r.p.m.

Mr. Berkheimer is very particular in having all moving parts balanced. While on a shop visit last winter, he demonstrated his work on a finished rear wheel by placing a jack under the axle, lifting one wheel slightly, then spinning the 400 pound wheel with two fingers.

No decals could be found for the bunkers to be the correct size so these were finally made to Bill's 'specks' by a professional.

In mid-May 1970 Mr. Abe Johnson of Marion, New York paid the Berkheimer's a visit and after some consultation, a steam-up and a trial run was arranged with the following men present: Mr. Johnson, Mr. Stare, Dale Evans of Philadelphia, Willis Brandt, the three generations of Berkheimer men and yours truly. The results were amazing and beyond expectations with no noise whatever, even on a gravel roadway.

Mr. Johnson immediately called it 'The Little Jewel' which seemed very appropriate and is now the official name for the engine.

It was noted that heat from the boiler resulted in warm tires, so heat shields were made and installed as well as some minor adjustments were made on levers and etc.

Mr. Berkheimer mentioned pictures at the next trial and yours truly thought it would be nice to have our ailing editor and wife at the next steam-up with the idea that it may be a good spring tonic for Rev. Ritzman. Mr. Berkheimer told me to make the arrangements to have the Ritzmans over at their convenience. After school was closed for the summer, plans were made for a small lawn party serving homemade strawberry ice-cream and cake (the preacher's favorite).

So on June 19, 1970 The Little Jewel was fired up under Mr. Stare's loving care and on a beautiful spring day the following people were present: Mr. and Mrs. Berkheimer, our hosts; Mr. Lloyd Stare, chief engineer; Mr. Hunter, official photographer; Mr. and Mrs. Ritzman, Bob Berkheimer, a son; Foster Berkheimer, another son and Mike Berkheimer, a grandson, and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Strayer.

After many pictures were taken by Mr. Hunter, as well as by amateurs, one of which was for the Pennsylvania Highway Department which is required for a homemade engine to secure a license plate, the engine was driven back to its shed and the party broke up.

The Strayers delivered the Ritzmans to their home in Enola and thus ended a perfect day.

The specifications of The Little Jewel are as follows: Length, 13 ft. 6 in.; width, 76 inches; height, 7 ft. 6 in; weight, ready to operate at 8500 lbs.; tire sizes, 14.9' X 24' rear and 5.50' X 16' front. Coal bunker capacity, 600 lb.; water tank capacity 500 gallon.

On July 4th and 5th, Mr. Johnson with his wife and father were again visitors of the Berkheimer's for the steam-up at the Williams Grove show grounds where Abe was chief operator, but with Mr. Stare and the Berkheimer men always nearby. Here the engine was tried out for belt work and road tests as it was driven to the grounds and home. Many steam fans with cameras were in evidence.

Anyone inspecting this engine will at once see that it is a work of love and please do not try to buy it as Mr. Berkheimer confided to yours truly that this is the last and it will be passed on to the grandson.

This little engine is a sample of what could have been, had steam not been replaced by the gas engine, as all the components used were available over 25 years ago.

Don't ask what this Little Jewel cost, because it is my opinion Bill does not know but I am sure he adjusted his sights many times and like all prices today always UP!