The Belden Engine Collection

Steam engine

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1545 10th Avenue St. Paul Park, Minnesota 55071

My story is about a fellow by the name of Lloyd Belden, who in the 1960s and 70s, collected Case steam engines. I will tell you how I became acquainted with Lloyd and the years and engines he collected them.

In the summer of 1948 my cousin and I rode our bikes over to Swand land berry patch in Cottage Grove to pick strawberries. We lived in South St. Paul and it was quite a ride to get there. Lloyd Belden's farm was on the way and the Beldens were in the field as we rode by. We decided to stop and talk to Frank Belden, a brother to Lloyd, and see if they ever hired any help in the summer. Much to our surprise, Frank said, 'You boys look a little young to do heavy work, but if you come out next summer when we start haying, we will find plenty of work for you.'

Because Lloyd was not only a farmer, he also was a pilot for Northeast Airlines, and when he was flying, Frank ran the farm.

As a young kid, I never envisioned what was going to take place when I went to work on his farm in 1949. It would make an imprint of what I would become as a young man and carry all of the knowledge and work ethic up to this time. In 1949 my cousin and I started helping at the Belden farm. In the Fall, Lloyd asked me if I would work year round on the farm, and you know, when a young kid gets his first full time job he is pretty happy.

Because my father's family was born and raised in the same area of Cottage Grove as the Belden's farm, I am sure it helped me in getting the job.

When I went to work for Lloyd in 1949, I noticed he had a 50 HP Case steam engine, serial #33173. Lloyd acquired the 50 years before I came there and he told me how he acquired the 50 Case. Lloyd's father had two 15-45 Case engines on the farm that they used for threshing. As steam engines were going out, his father sold them and bought a big gas tractor. Later on Lloyd decided to try and find one of them, which he never did. In his travels he was told of a fellow up in Prescott, Wisconsin, who had a steam engine that might be the one 'you're looking for.' Lloyd didn't lose any time in driving over there. Entering the shed, a fellow in his later years appeared from behind the engine and the conversation about the engine started. Eventually, Lloyd made a deal and bought the 50 Case.

While I worked there we used the engine for silo filling and once we pulled a big stump out to the dump and had to pick up corn cobs from the field and fire them in the fire box to keep steam up to get the engine back home, about a mile. Lloyd had plowed with this engine and also threshed grain but this was prior to me working there. I believe in 1950 or 1951 Lloyd hired a fellow to come over and reflue the 50 and, at that time, we took off the rotten wood from around the boiler and put new wood on, new metal and also a repaint job.

In 1953 Lloyd sold the farm and I went to work for a road contractor. In the late 60s Lloyd decided he wanted to start a collection of Case steam engines. He acquired a 40 HP Case engine, serial #34956, from Jim Sylling of Mable, Minnesota. Jim is one of the old time steam men and over the years owned quite a few engines. This engine was in good shape and newly painted with a new canopy, and sure looked and ran good. At this time Lloyd started taking the 50 and 40 Cases to the steam shows.

This was the start of a collection that would get bigger and carry on until the year 1980. At this point I will mention that it takes more than one person to keep the engines in shape and clean, if you are showing them. Frank Orr also helped the first years at the shows. And, of course, I was doing a lot of learning. Later on with the help of Lloyd and Gene Roggeman I was able to get my engineer's license. Those two, Lloyd and Gene, really taught me about the maintenance of the engine and boiler, and the running of a steam engine.

The next engine acquired by Lloyd was a 30 HP Case, serial #33536. On Friday night I received a call from Lloyd that I was supposed to meet him at his shop and we were going for a ride. No other explanations or comments were made, except 'be there at 7:00 a.m.' When I arrived at the shop the flat bed truck was out so I figured he had something to haul. As we left I asked, 'Where are we headed?' 'You'll find out' was the answer I got. We went north on Highway 61 and we went North on 35 and then I woke up. I remembered hearing about a 30 Case up at Leslie Olson's at Mora, Minnesota. I asked Lloyd if we were going to Mora. 'Yes, I bought the 30,' he said. I said that was great and now we had something to talk about on the trip. We arrived at Leslie Olson's place and he had the 30 on his flat bed truck so we just backed up to his truck and pulled the engine across, tied it down and headed home. Now the 30 is added to the collection and made ready to show.

The next engine Lloyd bought was a 65 Case owned by Mrs. Wilma Clausen and daughters, Connie and Carol. This was an interesting buy. Lloyd had agreed to buy Clausen's saw mill so we took the lowboy truck down to Spring Grove, Minnesota, and loaded up the mill.

Jim Sylling was there helping us and we went to the house for coffee and Lloyd and Mrs. Clausen and Jim were discussing Lloyd's buying the 65 Case. I can remember Mrs. Clausen saying that he could buy either the 18 HP Advance Rumely, which they also had, or the 65 Case. She said she would only sell one. Lloyd wanted the 65. He didn't buy it until the next day because he wanted to think it over for a few weeks. But, that night, he started thinking he could lose the deal so he called her the next day and bought the 65 Case.

When we went to get the engine I remember the wheels were frozen to the ground and we jacked them loose and then had to pull the engine ahead and turned to get the lowboy in line to load it. We had to use a rope on the pulley and tractor to get the engine moved.

The next engine Lloyd bought was an 80 HP Case, serial #35211. Dan Booth of Ellsworth, Wisconsin, was the owner and Lloyd was after this engine for a few years. One day Dan stopped at Lloyd's shop and told him he finally wanted to sell his 80 and he wanted Lloyd to buy it. Dan knew that if Lloyd had it he would restore it. Lloyd told Dan he would be down the next day, so I got the call to go again. This is one engine buying trip I'll never forget! We arrived at Dan's and went over to the engine which was in an old shed that could see the clouds through the roof. The bunkers and water tank were sagging way down in the back, the bunkers were rusted out, and the front smoke box had a big hole in the bottom. It looked pretty rough. Lloyd said to me, 'Maybe you should buy it.' My answer was quick. 'No, Lloyd, I don't have that kind of money and besides you wanted this engine for sometime and I'll get to run it anyway, so you buy it.' Lloyd said if he bought the engine he would not leave it there for the night. He was afraid some parts would be removed before he got the engine. I suggested we load it up and take it up to my father-in-law's farm, which was eight miles away and leave it until Monday, when we could get permits to move it on the highway. So, that's what we did. I'll never forget, when we left, I saw Dan standing there with tears streaming down his face. He must have really liked that engine! When we pulled into my father-in-law's, his comment was, 'Where did you get that piece of junk?'

Lloyd did a good restoration on the 80 Case. I know because I helped on all of his engines.

We hauled all five engines to Butterfield, Minnesota Steam Show one year. We had quite a crew when we were there. Jim Mollenhaurer, Gene Roggeman, Lloyd Weekly, Frank Henricks, Lloyd and I had the fun of running all of them in the parade.

It was in the late 1970s Lloyd came down with Alzheimer's disease and in 1980 he auctioned off all of the engines except the 30 Case, keeping that for Lloyd to play with. As the disease got worse, Lloyd's wife Helen asked us to come over and steam the 30 up for Lloyd one more time. It was a sad time for me because after getting steam up, I told Lloyd to get up on the platform and run the 30 around. He got up there and his mind was gone and he could not figure out how to get it to go. After all he taught me and all the times we ran his engines together, it was a sad time. I reached over him and got the engine running and turned the throttle over to him and then he ran the engine around the shed.

At the auction on July 26, 1980, four of Lloyd's Case engines were sold to folks in different parts of the state. The 80 Case was bought by Jim Tow of Fairmount, Minnesota. The 65 Case was bought by Francis Oelkie of Woodbury, Minnesota. The 50 Case was bought by Lehart Freidrich of Lake Elmo, Minnesota. He later bought the 30 Case from Helen Belden. The 40 Case was bought by Hoff Brothers of Westby, Wisconsin.

In 1993 the 80 Case came up for sale at an auction at Fairmount, Minnesota. It was my intention to try and buy it if it would go reasonable. We ended up with it and now have it at the Butterfield Show. If I could get it home sometime, we would have four of the Belden engines within six miles of each other. Someday that would make a nice reunion.

This story just covers some of the times when Belden had his collection and I am sure he would have been a member of the Case Heritage Club. It was a very interesting period in my life.

I suppose you are wondering why I didn't buy one of Lloyd's engines at his auction. By that time I had bought a 65 Case, serial #32670 and owned it for a few years before the auction. I didn't need another engine and prices at the auction were high. When the 80 Case came up for auction at Fairmount, Minnesota, I made a deal with my wife, and good helper, on my engine that if we get the 80 I would put the 65 up for sale. I was hoping it would not sell and then I would have two engines. But she held me to the deal and I sold my 65 to John Schoening of Maple Plain, Minnesota in the spring.

As my story comes to the end, I must say that my wife, Cecelia, who has been a big help in the maintaining and cleaning of my 65 and now my 80 Case, deserves a lot of credit. Without her help we would never be able to have the engines at shows looking so good. That was a trait that Lloyd and Helen Belden had when they showed their engines and we try to carry that on. I have a lot of good memories from those years and thought this story should be told. I had my 65 Case stored at Lehart Freidrich's for many years and I helped on redoing his 110 Case when he bought it. One of my highlights was running it at the Case Expo at Rollag. I've met many people over the years running engines and had fun doing it!