J.I. Case Collectors' Association Secures the Future for a Rare 12 HP Return-flue Case

The 12 HP Case

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The J.I. Case Collectors' Association has almost met its goal to secure this magnificent 12 HP ciraca-1890 Case return-flue traction engine.

The January/February 2004 issue of Steam Traction made passing reference to a circa-1890 Case return-flue engine and a project to place it on display in a museum in Racine, Wis.

There is, it turns out, much more to the story. The engine, a 12 HP straw-burner, was once owned by Calvin Whitaker of Pendleton, Ind., who bought the engine in Minnesota where it had been used on a sawmill. It was displayed in Portland, Ind., in 1992 for the J.I. Case Collectors convention and to celebrate 150 years of Case.

Shortly thereafter, collector Konnie Kuiper of Highland, Ind., purchased it and had it restored to museum-quality condition. A few years ago, Konnie decided to sell the engine and contacted Jerry Sanders, treasurer for the Plain City, Ohio-based J.I. Case Collectors' Association (JICCA). Konnie knew Jerry was interested in the engine, and more importantly he knew Jerry wanted the engine for the new Racine Heritage Museum, currently under construction and slated to open in 2006. The new museum will house the collection of Case and IHC antique machinery that was formerly part of the old Case museum. In addition to donating the equipment from its old museum, The Case Co. has also donated the old Case archives to the new museum. These promise to be an invaluable resource for researchers and restorers alike.

After talking with Konnie, Jerry went to the JICCA board of directors and secured approval to negotiate with Konnie for purchase of the Case. The engine wouldn't come cheap, but given its rarity - only three are known to exist and its stunning condition, that came as no surprise. The problem, of course, was raising the money to finance the $45,000 purchase price.

In the fall of 2002, and with Jerry as project leader, the JICCA launched a fundraiser to buy the case. The planned purchase hit a snag when another interested buyer entered the picture, and for a little while it looked as if the JICCA's bid to buy the Case might get scuttled. Enter collector extraordinaire George Schaaf, well-known for his Schaaf Truck & Tractor Museum in Frankfurt, Ill. George generously volunteered to purchase the engine, thus securing it and giving the JICCA time to raise the necessary funds. The engine is now in George's possession, housed in his museum until the new Racine Heritage Museum is completed.

By March 2004, only 17 months after launching the drive, the JICCA had collected $30,000. In addition to cash donations, one JICCA member donated a 1952 Case DC (JICCA will hold a raffle for the DC), and The Case Co. has donated two out-of-print books, Case - The First 150 Years, and A Case History, which the JICCA is offering as premiums on donations of $100 or more. The 12 HP Case will remain the property of JICCA, but will be on permanent loan to the Racine Heritage Museum.

That an organization should set out on such a goal is admirable and precedent-setting, and that they've come so far in such a short period of time is impressive. Thanks to their efforts, a rare piece of Case history is being preserved and will soon be available to the public.

Case Return-Flue Engines

The Case return-flue engine was first offered in 1884. Earl/ return flues were equipped with side-crank engines, while center-crank engines were standard from 1888 on.

The first return-flue engines were horse steered - a self-steering return flue wasn't offered until 1886.

All return-flue engines burned straw for fuel. The return flues were 3 inches in diameter.

The 12 HP had a bore and stroke of 7-1/2 inches by 10 inches, and the 16 HP had a bore and stroke of 8-1/4 inches by 10 inches.

The model was discontinued about 1898.

Anyone interested in helping the JICCA reach its goal is encouraged to contact Jerry Sanders at: 1360 E. Church Road, Beecher, IL 60401; (708) 946-6801;

The non-profit Racine Heritage Museum is run by the Racine Historical Society. Contact the museum at: 701 S. Main St., Racine, WI 53403; (262) 636-3926;