Rebuilding a 1915 65 HP Case Traction Engine

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5534 Fieldstone Lane Madison, Wisconsin 53704

The 65 HP Case traction engine pictured was rebuilt during the summer and fall of 1993. All the work was done outside.

Although I knew I would be working with steam from the time I was four years old, I never thought about having a traction engine. When I was about 10-12, I used to go to the gas and steam shows with my uncle, who proudly displayed several hit and miss engines. He found I wasn't a good helper, because I always ended up in the steam section of the show watching the traction engines.

After graduating from trade school as a tool and die maker, I spent my time volunteering on the rebuilding and operation of several full-size steam locomotives over a fifteen year period.

It wasn't until I moved to Wisconsin in the winter of 1989 to work with Norman Sandley, that I was re-introduced to traction engines. Their advantages over railroad locomotives (no track required) led me to acquire an engine of my own and this project.

This 65 HP Case, serial number 32348, weighing about 13 tons with water, was built in 1915 and it was originally sold in the Oxford, Wisconsin area. (If anyone has information on the early owners of this engine, please contact me.) The engine was owned by Harry Schell during the 1940s. At that time, it was used to power a sawmill in Baraboo, Wisconsin. When Harry Schell moved to Blue River, Wisconsin, he drove the engine there to use it to power another sawmill. This was a trip of about 60 miles, done at top speed of 2 miles per hour.

In 1943 or 1944, Earl Clauer of Mineral Point, Wisconsin, purchased the engine. In 1967 it was sold to Alvin Heffner of Boscobel, Wisconsin. In September of 1969, Martin Stluka of Eastman, Wisconsin, purchased the engine. Martin added hand-made bunkers, installed rubber on the rear wheels and added a canopy. He also had a stainless steel piston rod and a stainless steel valve rod made. Martin used the engine to steam-clean tractors and thresh on his farm with neighbors. The engine was displayed at the Boscobel Show for several years.

I purchased the engine from Martin in October 1992. Luckily this engine had been stored inside most of its life. During the initial boiler inspection, the boiler was found to be in excellent condition. It passed a 225 psi hydro test and a visual inspection showed no defects.

It was stored over the winter, and in May of 1993 I began a full restoration. The restoration so far has involved over 1000 hours of work. By June, the engine was fully disassembled. All the machinery and pipes were removed. The front wheels and axles were removed. The front pedestal was rebuilt. The boiler and rear wheels were mounted on cribbing.

The drive gear for the right rear wheel had a 360 degree crack around the gear. It remained in place because the crack was irregular. Mr. Tom Taxis (of Ohio) was able to weld the crack by reaching through the spokes of the wheel. The wheel was rotated so each section could be welded.

All the machinery and the boiler were sandblasted, washed, masked, primed and painted.

After sandblasting, I examined each part and made the following repairs:

All the bushings and pins were replaced in the valve gear. The steering gear and worm gear were welded up and recontoured.

The babbitt was repoured on the steering shaft bearing gear.

All spokes on the rear wheels were straightened and tightened.

I designed and built a removable ash pan to provide easy access to the fire box. By loosening four bolts, I can remove the ash pan, drop the grates and have access to the firebox for boiler inspection and repair.

The firebox door was rebuilt and hinges machined. The cracks in the smoke box door were brazed.

The kerosene headlight was repaired. The broken glass in the sides, the chimney, and the reflector was replaced.

The canopy was completely disassembled. Tongue and groove lumber was placed on the frame and a tin roof placed on top.

The top of the water bunker was removed and replaced with new diamond plate steel. The inside of the tank was coated with fiberglass resin to prevent rust. New oak tool box lids and walk boards were custom-made and installed.

The drawbar was rebuilt after I obtained the original spring loaded draw bar from Mr. Stluka.

I rebuilt the rear (axle) springs. The right coil spring needed a 1' shim to level the engine. The clutch and all linkages were rebuilt. The crosshead was leveled and centered. The reverse lever was rebuilt and all latch pins were replaced. I spent several hours setting the valve, using dial indicators to get it exact. The steam dome studs were replaced and the governor was rebuilt.

All the parts and the Case symbol on the firebox door were hand-painted. Custom-mixed automotive polyurethane paints in original Case colors were used. The pin-striping and lettering was done by a professional sign painter.

I was able to obtain decals and some detailing from area suppliers easily. I found getting a feed water pump and heater very difficult. These were finally obtained from a portable 65 HP Case in Wisconsm Dells. The feed water pump was rebuilt and new tubes were put in the heater.

I was able to give the engine a final test at the 31st annual Badger Steam and Gas Engine Show in August, 1994 at Baraboo, Wisconsin. The engine performed well on the Baker fan and had no problems powering the saw mill. The engine powered the saw mill for about 10 hours of operation over a two-day period. During this period over 60 oak logs were cut into rough lumber.

In preparation for the 1995 Badger Steam and Gas Show, I installed boiler jacketing. I have noticed an increase in the efficiency of the engine due to the insulation that is under the jacketing. The boiler stays wanner overnight and even while on the saw mill, the engine stays on the pop with less effort firing.

I have built a pattern and will be working over the next year to install a set of rocker grates to ease the handling of the ash and keep the fire cleaner.

I wish to thank the following people for their support and friendship: Martin Stluka; William Brew, who provides a storage place for the engine; Tom Taxis, who assisted with the welding of the axles drive gear; my brother, Steve Rice, who assisted with the canopy lining; and my father, Roy Rice, who built the tool box covers, walk boards, and assisted with the sandblasting.

I am looking for a Case steam gauge for the engine and would appreciate any contacts that would help obtain one.