Minneapolis Steam Engine Ready for Close-Up

1920 Minneapolis steam engine has star status

| December 2000

Trace the history of most antique steam engines, and you'll find a sawmill or farm. Dean Alling's 1920 20 hp Minneapolis steam engine has all of that, and a bit of glamour as well: it was featured in the 1956 film "Friendly Persuasion" with Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire. 

"The old steam guys who've been around a while, they always recognize it from the movie," Dean says.

The stint in Hollywood didn't do the Minneapolis steam engine any harm, but years of use on the farm and sawmill left the antique steam engine worn out. It was used at a sawmill in Wausau, Wis., into the early 1950s, and on a farm prior to that.

"If a steam engine has been used to plow, the gears are worn out, and if it's been used on a sawmill, the boiler's worn out," Dean says. "This one was just all worn out."

The steamer was acquired by a collector and moved to Oceanside, Calif., in 1955. It was used in parades and later parked at the Del Mar Park, where it sat for at least 10 years, the victim of benign neglect. In ensuing years, the Minneapolis steam engine went through a series of owners. It was torn apart for restoration, but the project never advanced beyond that point.

When Dean found it in 1995, it had been in a pile of pieces for 20 years.