Number on Case Steam Engine Firebox Door Led to Misidentification

Letting Off Steam: A letter from the editor

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Regular contributor and steam historian Robert T. Rhode has alerted me to an error I made in our article on the 65 HP Case pulled from Kansas’ Republican River by Forrest Stewart and friends. In the March/April 2006 issue, we recounted Forrest’s discovery and rescue of the Case traction engine, which had been buried for 70 years following major flooding of the river in 1935.

In the article, I referenced a number on the smokebox door, 24270, as a boiler number. Based on this, and referring to Bob’s own 1923 65 HP Case, we concluded the Case was built either in late 1922 or early 1923. However, Bob recently realized the number I referred to is in fact the part number for the door, and actually reads 2427C, not 24270. According to Bob, the boiler number should be found stamped above the firebox door.

A call to Forrest and a little searching confirmed the actual boiler number is 24128. The boiler on Bob’s Case wears serial no. 24411, and his engine has serial no. 35654 (engine and boiler serial numbers were never identical). Subtracting 24128 from 24411 gives us 283, and subtracting that from Bob’s engine number gives us a theoretical engine number of 35371. If this holds, then it would appear Forrest’s Case was built in late 1921/early 1922, not late 1922/early 1923 as we reported.

And while we’re on the subject, Jeff Detwiler has located one of the most storied 65 HP Case engines of all time, Harold Ottaway’s “Joyland 65.” Many of you are familiar with Harold’s name, made famous through the steam shows he and his brother, Herb, held through the 1950s at their Joyland Amusement Park in Wichita, Kan. As Jeff discovered, the engine was sold along with the park in 1961 and simply disappeared from view for more than 40 years. But a chance meeting by Chady Atteberry with the engine’s owner led to its eventual recovery, and it’s now back in Oklahoma, where it was delivered new, in Jeff’s capable hands. See Jeff’s story on the discovery of this spectacular engine.

Finally, I was sad to be informed by Bob Rhode of the passing of steam man Tom Stebritz, Algona, Iowa, who died in, of all things, a car accident.

Tom wasn’t one to mince words, saying what he thought without hesitation. He was a unique man, extremely knowledgeable and forthright, and his ardent respect for the agricultural legacy that steam engines symbolize made him push hard for the truth.

"Through his incisive questions and keen criticisms, Tom kept us honest,” Bob noted in his letter to me. “The steam restoration and preservation movement has lost a contributor whose knowledge was broad and deep.” Our condolences to Tom’s family.