This is the tale of fascination – a fascination for steam engines. All my life I've been amazed by them, by the steam and the heavenly puff/chug of their single cylinders, although I can barely remember when they were used for threshing. But I always knew what they were, and I've wanted one all my own for nearly as long as I am old. The unexpected opportunity came in 1999, when I finally became the owner of a 3/4 scale model Case steam engine. To me, Case is the ultimate engine. If I wanted one of the large engines, that's what I'd have.
The engine I have was built by a retired welder and expert machinist named Loyd Musick of Elston, Missouri. Loyd had worked with steam engines most of his life and had restored a 15-45 Case steam engine back in the '50s. After working on the scale for five or six years, he completed her in 1975. After ten years, Loyd sold her and I lost track of the engine. In the meantime, Loyd built another engine, completing it in 1989. It was quite a bit bigger, and after Loyd's death in 1990, his widow offered it up for sale. I let that one get away because it was a little bit bigger than I was looking for.
After searching for several years, I located the first Case steam engine which Loyd had built, and in 1999 the owner called and offered to sell her to me. I wasn't going to let her get away again.
I bought the engine knowing that it was in dire need of some serious TLC and much needed repair. But before I bought her, I took Senior Steam Engine Consultants Leonard Bruns and his son, Leonard Jr., along with me to check her out, and I bought her on their appraisal.
I ran this engine at the 1999 Missouri River Valley Engine Association's show at Boonville, Missouri, in September. Knowing it needed a lot of repairs, I contacted my expert plumber, friend Ed Rost of Jefferson City, Missouri, who in turn invited Rick Enke, another plumber, to help with my engine's restoration.
Early in 2000 we took the engine to Ed's shop and completely repiped her with schedule 80 steel pipe. Every valve was taken apart, cleaned, and repacked. All the check valves were replaced, and Ed got the crosshead pump working.
While Ed and Rick were plumbing away, I set out to clean and repaint her. We really had her looking good. I even built a new canopy for her. That's where my other helper, Frank "Butch" Distler, came into the picture. He has a cabinet shop in Elston, Missouri, and he sawed the ribs for the canopy.
Six months later, after working many evenings and weekends, we fired her up for the first time in June 2000. It ran good and looked even better. The first show I took her to was the Owensville Thresher Association Show at Rosebud, Missouri. It was July 2000, and I was so proud of her appearance and performance.
Oh, on the first day of the show in Rosebud, one of her flues started leaking and that was a big disappointment, but I should have expected that would happen, due to her age.
My friend Richard Adams and his son Curt were at that show with their scale model Peerless engine. They are both steam engine mechanics and they told me that they'd replace her flues. So, to prevent future leaks, we decided to do all 22 of them while we were at it. After that, I consider her to be in top condition. It really performed well at the 2000 Boonville, Missouri, show.
My cousins Bob and Harold LePage of Jefferson City, Missouri, have a 28-46 McCormick-Deering thresher. With a little wheat left over from the Boonville show, we had a threshing day here at home, and a few friends and relatives stopped by to watch. And I imagine this year we'll expand the home show to at least two loads of wheat.
Now my sons, Phil and Bill, have gotten into the act. And as you know, the apples don't fall far from the tree.... FC
Specs from Loyd's Engine No. 1
Stack height: 7 ft; Front wheels: 30" x 6"; Rear wheels: 50" x 16"; Width overall: 81"; Flywheel 30" x 6"; Overall length: 15 ft; Dry weight: 8,000 lbs.; Boiler 20" in diameter; 22-2" flues; 125 psi.
As told to Heather Berry of Jefferson City, Missouri.