TERRY GRICE: An Iron Man With Steam in His Blood!

Case steam engine

Terry Grice operating his vintage Case steam engine. Photo by author.

Man Ann Wearda

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Box 235 Hampton, Iowa 50441

He's a steam engine enthusiast who has rescued junked engines from as far away as Canada and hauled them to his farm near Geneva, Iowa, where he restores them to perfect condition.

Twenty years ago he used to restore Harley motorcycles and he let his hair grow long. Now, with his Amish-style beard, suspendered jeans and straw hat, he looks the role of an early 1900s iron man.

Grice displays and operates his treasures every July at the Franklin County Fair on Grandpa's Farm, a 14 acre field at the fairgrounds just west of Hampton, Iowa.

Fairgoers watch as he maneuvers the 21,000 pound Case steam engine to pull the antique eight-bottom gang plow or to hook up the 200 foot belt to run the threshing machine.

Tom Brass, treasurer of the Fair Board, said he's known Grice for about twenty years. 'We knew he had steam engines so when we started Grandpa's Farm six years ago, we asked him if he would come to the fair and operate some of the antique machinery we had.'

Brass said that Grice is a big part of the fair. 'It's a lot of work for him and it's a big job to haul the engines here. He probably has the hottest job on the fairgrounds.' The temperature by the firebox is 140 to 150 degrees.

Grice, 46, farms on a 300 acre century farm south of Geneva and has a 50 sow farrow-to-finish hog operation. He said his father took him to shows when he was a kid, and he always liked watching the steam engines. 'I like to listen to them run,' he said. 'It's quiet power, and I like the smell of the wood or coal.'

Grice has three other steam engines besides the Case. Two are portables that are pulled around by horses.

There are only about 3,000 steam engines left in the US, according to Grice. 'They're all in the hands of collectors,' he added. Grice said that in the early 1900s there were thirty firms in this country manufacturing 150,000 steam engines a year.

'During World War II the law was, if it was iron and wasn't running, it had to be cut up for the war effort. That's where most of them went,' he added.

In addition to the steam engines, Grice has three threshing machines dating back to the early 1900s. He also has an original Case water wagon. At the fair, Grice will run the threshing machines and also give plowing demonstrations with his eight-bottom gang plow. Eight men ride on the plow, one to operate each of the 14 inch bottoms.

Grice farms with tractors but said he prefers the steam engine. 'They have power, but they're too slow,' he said. 'Tractors are built for speed. A tractor will run six miles per hour with an implement, a steam engine two.'

Grice will be operating at Grandpa's Farm at the Franklin County Fair July 16-20. The farm is a joint project of this Fair Board and the Franklin County Historical Society.

Last year 30,000 people came to the fair to see draft horses and steam engines supply the power for threshing, plowing, cultivating, hay making, corn and oat cutting, binding and shocking. There's also a horse-powered wood saw, a horse-powered corn sheller, a threshing machine powered by a horse on a treadmill and a butter churn powered by a dog on a treadmill. A hand-fed threshing machine is powered by seven teams of draft horses on a circular horse power unit. There's also a large display of antique machinery and gas engines at the farm and at Pleasant Hill, the turn-of-the-century town built on the fairgrounds.

For more information call the fair office at (515) 456-2049.