The 80 Horse Case Steam Engine That Never Had A Chance

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Rt #2, Box 6890 , Button, Montana 58433-9716

Mr. Ed Seven of Power, Montana has mentioned to me several times an 80 HP Case threshing outfit at Grenora, North Dakota, which is in the northwestern part of North Dakota, not far from the Montana and Canadian border.

Mr. Seven told me that in 1922, a group of farmers including his dad and uncle around the Grenora area got together and purchased a Case engine, along with a 44' Case wooden separator, also a cook car.

According to Mr. Seven, this was purchased as a new outfit for the 1922 fall threshing season. That big outfit would need twelve to fourteen bundle wagons to keep it running at full capacity, and a gentleman by the name of Baker was the engineer. He fired with coal, as was prevalent in that area.

They had a pretty good run that first fall and in 1923 they changed to another type of feeder on the separator for some reason. Ed can remember their making the changeover, as the Seven farm was where the run finished up in the fall of 1922.

As the threshing season was to begin in the fall of 1923, the rig left the Seven farmstead and began the threshing run some distance away. No doubt, not everyone is always ready, and with as many as seventeen farmers having an interest in the Case threshing rig, it could present a problem at times. So, some of the farmers were probably getting a bit impatient, waiting for the big Case outfit to come and do their threshing. There happened to be another smaller threshing rig in the area, with a cross motor Case for belt power, that did a number of jobs that were done the previous year by the Case steam rig.

That fall of 1923 was the last year the 80 Case did any more work. The rig was parked at some farmer's place that fall, some distance from the Seven farm. But Ed can remember he and other boys about his age, would on occasion go and play on this 80 Case engine. Ed can also recall noticing the paint on the gearing showing hardly any wear whatsoever, and Ed figured the engine had not traveled much over fifty miles altogether, during the two years it did the threshing.

Years later, Ed decided to leave that North Dakota farm and head west to Montana to work on farms around the Fairfield and Power area northwest of Great Falls.

When World War Two started, Ed entered the Armed Services for several years, and when he came home after being in the service, he inquired about the 80 Case engine. He was told it had been scrapped out on the place it was parked all those years ago.

A number of years later, the engine was a victim of the cutting torch. The old Case separator was pulled out to a plowed field and set on fire, and the cook car burned up too, but not intentionally. Folks suspected mice were the culprits that may have gotten into some farmer's matches that may have been left there.

Ed did tell me that he had made several contacts with people who knew about the particular threshing rig, looking for someone who may possibly have had any pictures, papers, etc., but he found nothing. If any of you readers out there can maybe shed some light on that particular Case engine, I'm sure Mr. Seven would be glad to hear from you. Contact Ed Seven, Power, Montana 59468.

I can see why that engine had as few miles and hours on it, possibly because the steam traction engines were starting to be phased out at that time. And, most of the virgin sod in the area had already been broken up, with little timber of any kind on the western prairies of North Dakota and eastern Montana. Any sawmill operations to any great extent would have been very slim. Also, a large number of the huge distillate burning tractors on the scene at that time replaced a lot of the steamers.

We all know many fine steamers were scrapped out at that time, but I'm sure most of these had done a lot of traction and belt work.

I guess we can all be thankful for the number of steam engines and gas tractors that were saved from the scrap heap. As we travel throughout the U.S.A. and Canada, and attend the many old time threshing bees, from early summer to late fall, we can enjoy the sounds and smells of yesteryear.