They bought 16 tons and what did they get?

Artie Kortof

Our Engineer, Artie Kortof, Edina, Minnesota.

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We thank Bill Paulson, Butterfield Advocate Newspaper, Butterfield, Minn. for the article and pictures.

I must confess it was my idea to buy the steam engine.

You see, watching threshing bees the last four years I've developed this compulsion to own an absolutely huge piece of machinery.

When I learned an 80 horsepower Minneapolis steam engine was for sale I laid plans to fulfill my dream. A steam engine was perfect. Not only did it represent an almost extince source of traction, but it was big, big. The Minneapolis weighed 16 tons!

The asking price was much too steep for my pocketbook, so I started putting together a carefully picked partnership. The first man I approached was Clarence Hovdet while he was out on his farm laying fence. He sort of giggled when I told him of my plan, but confessed real interest because we'd often talked of buying a big tractor together. He was very critical to the partnership because of his motto, 'I've never seen anything I couldn't drive.'

The third carefully picked partner was my neighbor, Chuck Bisel, who happened to be leaning on the nearby fence when I asked, 'How about going in on a steam engine?'' His quick 'OK' reflected the frustration of a snowmobiler looking for something novel to ride during the off season. And I suspect his devotion to this union was further heightened with the knowledge a steamer has no spark plugs to change.

The fourth partner proved easy to persuade, too. I just pointed out to Arnie Friesen that a steamer, unlike the stock market, was an investment he could lean on. Surprisingly, he agreed before I was able to blurb out the rest of my argument which was a lie about all the opera singers who own steam engines. I was especially excited about his acceptance because he has a steam fitter's license and knows something about steam.

So, with a partnership formed, Bisel, Friesen and I traveled to Mankato for a look at the steamer. Hovdet was too busy for the trip, but told us 'Anything you guys decide is fine with me.'

Our impression of the huge engine standing in its shed was overwhelming. Bisel noted the steamer had more faucets than his whole house. Friesen looked for some small flaw in its reconstruction as a point of negotiation, but without success. I naively pleaded with its owner for a test run. He frowned and told me it took three hours to build up enough steam to run the thing.

The next week Hovdet did get up to see the steamer and in the ensuing negotiations we became owners of the Minneapolis.

Calling our partnership the 'Minneapolis Four', we were anxious for that first Saturday after our steamer was trucked down. Not only had we purchased an engine we had never seen run, but we didn't know how to run it.

Around Voss Park on Saturday the chances of running into an experienced steam engineer are as good as stepping on grass. So Cornie Fast and Clip Clipperton took it upon themselves to start a fire in our firebox, put 500 gallons of water in our boiler and tenders and get us up a head of steam. Most of all, we were thankful when the clutch was thrown and the 16 tons lumbered forward. From then on, the afternoon was spent in learning all about its operation.

As time went on, the partnership of the Minnesota Four has proven remarkably compatible. Hovdet's job is to steer the monster, while Friesen operates the clutch and throttle. Bisel is official oiler and coal tender with the promise of an occasional chance to blow the whistle. I am official group photographer. Privately I admit to being the brains behind the operation, but I'm still waiting for one of my partners to ask me for advice.

Don't let this organized chaos scare you. The former owner, a licensed engineer, was at the controls when it really counted.