Box 26, Davis Junction, Illinois 61020
Hickory-Oaks Farm is the home of North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, Inc. It is located on Illinois 72, 2 miles east of Davis Junction, Illinois, or 1 miles east of U.S. 51 Jct. The annual steam and horsepower threshing show is held the first full 4-day weekend in August. Dates for the 1977 show are August 4, 5, 6, and 7. This means that all year around, planning and activities never end. I will try and elaborate now on some of the special happenings that took place during 1976. Emil Svanda, a close associate with me for 21 years with steam shows will furnish some pictures and captions to accompany this story.
In June 1976, we chartered a Greyhound Bus to take 44 of us steam buffs to the John Deere Foundry and Museum at Moline, Ill. We boarded the bus at Davis Junction at 8:00 a.m., on June 18th, and made our first stop at the John Deere Historical Site at Grand Detour, where we toured the blacksmith shop and the first home of John Deere. We ate dinner at a large country restaurant near Lyndon. We arrived at the John Deere at East Moline at about 1:00 p.m., where we were greeted by four foundry guides. The two hour tour was great, especially seeing the melting of steel and iron scrap in one of the foundry's four 15-ton electric arc furnaces. The chemical composition is accurately controlled and temperatures range from 2750 to 2850 degrees Fahrenheit. The molding, the sand and cores, and the cleaning and finishing of castings really was enjoyed by all. We next visited the John Deere Company Administrative Center and floor museum at Moline. We arrived back home at 7:00 p.m. same day, hoping again to take another group tour soon.
This 80 h.p. Case steam engine found a new home at Hickory-Oaks Farm in July 1975. The giant engine next in size to the 110 h.p. Case has been idle 40 years. The rusty skeleton looking steamer, minus numerous tubes and parts, was painted and restored within one year by its new owner, George W. Hedtke. Course, George as usual had a lot of help from his many steam show friends. The huge bunkers for the 80 Case have been made as per original by a Wallace, Nebraska steam engine buff, Mr. Harold Woods, at a cost of $1400. Delivery will be made about March 1, 1977. Pictured here is George W. Hedtke at the front wheel and his friend of 41 years, Louis V. Johnson of Stillman Valley, 111. A chuckle can be seen between the two engineers, knowing that grease is used for the engine axles instead of being oiled with a oil can. A city photographer thought this was a good way to pose for a picture in the Rockford paper. The 80 h.p. Case was engineered by Louis V. Johnson during the 1976 show with good performance.
Next coming up was our 1976 show. This meant get busy and get all of the engines in good operating conditions. Engines need repairs just like people, especially at older age. ha! During the 1975 plowing demonstration, an unfortunate incident took place on my 110 h.p. Case steam engine while pulling the 14 bottom John Deere plow. The babbitt bearings which were badly worn through the years since 1911, caused the 5 foot differential gear to slightly twist sideways. Realizing the tremendous pull of the 14 bottom plow would cause further damage to the spur gears, we did not use the 110 Case for plowing the last 2 days of our show. As a great surprise to the hundreds of spectators, two smaller steam engines were hooked together by a heavy duty chain to pull the 14 bottom plow the last two days of the show at Hickory-Oaks Farm. This proved to be quite a sight and a plowing demonstration. Thanks goes to so many fine activities at North Central Illinois Steam Power Show. Engineers are on hand not only from the state of Illinois, but from Kansas, Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states not registered. Plans got under way following the 1975 show as to when to repair the 110 Case. A conference was held by my annual friends, Harry Woodmansee from Dowling, Michigan, John Schrock from Rives Junction, Michigan, and Dennis Jerome from Hoopston, Illinois, as to when to start the overhaul job. It was decided to do it just 3 days before the 1976 show. After the oat crop was cut, bound, and shocked in July, the 60 by 144 foot storage building at Hickory-Oaks Farm was emptied of its engines and other farm machinery. The 110 Case was pulled under a large oak tree for shade for its repair work. Timed like a clock, Harry, John, and Dennis, arrived 3 days before our 1976 show. Large railroad jacks were used to raise the rear wheels off the ground one at a time. The large axle pins were soon removed and the 2 ton wheel lifted by a Case Company fork lift from the axle. Next came the 5 foot diameter differential gear which was laid on the ground. Work began fast and furious. Harry and Dennis disassembled the spider gears from the large differential gear, and templates were made to rebabbitt these bearings. John Schrock proceeded to build up the shaft for the big gear with an electric welder. The welding was ground down by John, so the shaft would become its original size once again. Dennis Jerome, who is a machinist, supervised the making of a new bronze bushing for the center of the differential gear. This overhaul job was quite an undertaking, and many thanks goes to Harry, John, and Dennis; also other engineers who gave their helping hand in some way or another. Very successfully, the gearing fit like new. The gears ran true and the 110 Case pulled the 14 bottom plow with ease all 4 days of the 1976 show.
Attention also was turned to the 80 h.p. Case steam engine, a newcomer to Hickory-Oaks Farm in July 1975. It was rusty, a skeleton looking engine minus numerous tubes and parts, and setting idle for 40 years. It got a new look within one year and was in operation during the 1976 show, all restored and painted, except for the bunkers which didn't get made by show time. The bunkers are being made at a shop at Wallace, Nebraska, as per the original style by Case. They will be installed by show time 1977 on the 80.
Our next happening and a surprise came when I received a letter from our good friend and sawyer, Vincent Duetsch of La Motte, Iowa, advising that he had built a stage coach, and if someone could come and pick it up at La Motte, he would donate the stage coach to Hickory-Oaks Farm as a Bi-Centennial gift. Needless to say, our Vice President, Thomas Draus, and my neighboring friend for years, John Sandvik, took a low trailer and made the trip to La Motte to get the stage coach just a few days ahead of our 1976 show. The stage coach is a great addition to Hickory-Oaks Farm, and many thanks to Vincent Duetsch.
'A Threshing Bee Queen' is very well recognized annually at the North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, Inc. Pictured here is Mrs. Floyd (Virginia) King, Kings, Ill., who was selected as the 1976 Threshing Bee Queen at Hedtke's Hickory-Oaks Farm. The 1976 Queen is a long time worker of North Central Illinois Steam Power Show. The annual steam and horse power show was held at the King Farm for 7 years, before the show moved to its permanent site in 1974 at Hickory-Oaks Farm. Mrs. King is seen seated here in a two-seated surrey prior to parade time on Sunday, August 8. She is holding a bouquet of golden stalks of grain and cut field flowers, a growth at Hickory-Oaks Farm, presented to her by the Hobby Ladies, as a tradition of harvest time.
Our show opened on August 5, with beautiful weather all 4 days of our 1976 show. A tremendous crowd appeared each day to see our numerous field demonstrations of old time farming, using various steam engines, large gas tractors, and 8 teams of draft horses and mules for power. The unusual fascinating demonstrations of horsepower threshing and evolutions of plowing seems to take the eye of the spectators. Camp Fuller, a Civil War Reenactment Unit of Artillery, Infantry, Calvary, and Fife and Bugle Corp, was a great attraction during our Bicentennial show year. The firing of the 3 big cannons twice daily shook Hickory-Oaks Farm. A special antique auto made its first appearance at our show last year. It was a large touring Austin Car built in 1911, now owned by Howard Somers of Linden wood, Ill., and his brother Merlin Somers of California. The unusual car, in very good condition, has always been in the Somers family. It was purchased new in 1911 by Will Somers for his son, Ralph Somers, as a wedding gift. Ralph in turn handed the car to his two sons, Howard and Merlin. Also a 1911 Chicago Motor Wagon, with a cylinder opposed engine with a friction chain drive, made its first appearance at our last year's show. After being sold for junk several years ago and stood outdoors for 25 years, it was rebought about 5 years ago in Chicago, and restored by its proud owner, Floyd Eyster of Rockford, Ill. The motor is air-cooled and runs good. These two old vehicles certainly added to our daily parade.
We tried something new last year during our show on Saturday night. It was a home talent show which proved to be a lot of fun and enjoyment for everyone. It was headed by Miss Dawn Hayenga and her brother Rodney of Kings, Ill. During this show I made a surprise announcement, naming Mrs. Floyd (Virginia) King of Kings, Ill., as our 'Steam Show Queen' for 1976. Mrs. King received a great hand of applause from the officers and audience. She rode in the parade on Sunday in a 2-seated surrey pulled by a team of horses. Leading the parade on Sunday ahead of the Ogle County Taxpayer's Liberty Bell Float, was Todd Andrew Svanda, age 8, and his sister Renee' Lynne Svanda, age 4, properly uniformed in the celebration of the Bicentennial year, being a drummer boy and a flag bearer girl. Their dress wear was made by their mother, Linda, in Colonial Style. They are the children of Mr. and Mrs. Larry Svanda of Oregon, Wisconsin, and grandchildren of Mr. and Mrs. Emil Svanda, and Mr. and Mrs. Floyd King.
The 1976 year was an outstanding crowd year at Hickory-Oaks Farm. It was a record breaking crowd. On Sunday the exit lane was used for incoming traffic to get the bumper to bumper cars off highway 72. It was great, even though additional help had to be sent to the admission area and the parade had to be delayed half an hour. The weather was perfect, oat crop for threshing was good, the machinery performed without fault, and the splendid cooperation of the numerous engineers and the spectators each day was greatly appreciated by the officers of the North Central Illinois Steam Power Show. We are looking forward for another great year in 1977, trusting that all of you can again pay us a visit at Hickory-Oaks Farm.