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110 HP Case

Author Photo
By Bill Vossler

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The 1910 Case 110 HP, serial no. 24150, is a showpiece during the daily parade at the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Midwest Old Threshers Reunion each year. Mud doesn’t stop this big machine. (Photo courtesy Old Threshers Reunion.)
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Old steam threshermen would not like to see the black smoke coming out of the smokestack on this Case 110 HP. They learned how to fire their steam engines very efficiently and with a clean stack the majority of the time.

When Lennis Moore came to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa,
as administrator of the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in 1978, he
only wanted to stay about five years. But he fell in love with Mt.
Pleasant and Old Threshers, and his wife enjoyed her teaching job,
so they stayed. One of his delights at Old Threshers has been the
1910 Case 110 HP steam traction engine, which had been on the
grounds for about six years when he arrived.

“It was originally purchased by the association in 1972 from the
Justin Hingtgen estate, because they decided they wanted to have a
representative 110 here at the show, and apparently felt they had
enough money in their coffers,” the 57-year-old CEO of Midwest Old
Threshers Reunion says.

At one point, the Case 110 HP, serial no. 24150, was used by a
Canadian service station as a fuel oil tank. Lennis notes that the
fuel oil doubtlessly helped protect the boiler.

After its use at the service station, Hingtgen, a well-known
collector of old iron bought it, dismantled it, and over several
trips back and forth to Canada to get the pieces, brought it down
to his farm in LaMotte, Iowa, to operate a sawmill he owned. When
Old Threshers bought it in August 1972, it was partially dismantled
because it was too wide and too heavy to move in one piece.

NO SHOW

In the late 1980s, the Case 110 HP was starting to look pretty
shabby, Lennis says, so the decision was made to restore it. Time
went on, the restoration process was slow, so Lennis decided not to
show it at the annual Midwest Old Threshers Reunion.

“We were not progressing the way we had hoped on the
restoration,” Lennis says, “so I made the call to put her in
storage for a year. That was a big, controversial thing as far as
the older steam guys were concerned, but I just held my ground.” He
wanted to show people how good it looked after it was restored.

“It needed to be painted, and we decided to take the existing
cab off and replicate a more correct factory-type cab that would
have been on it,” Lennis says. “We also just went over the engine
and did little stuff that you normally don’t do. Once that was all
finished, we had the steam guys go over it and make sure it was
sound. When they said it was ready to go we put the cab on, painted
it, detailed the lettering on the cab and put the decals on
her.”

That year it was stored in the south building of the Richard
Oetken Heritage Museum, which is used for the winter storage of
engines, tractors and steam power. “After the reunion is complete
each year,” Lennis says, “the engines that are staying are put in
there. The boilers are washed and the steam traction engines are
pulled into the building in a way that they can be seen as people
walk through the museum.”

WHEEL EXTENDERS

During the Case 110 HP restoration, the factory-installed
extender wheels were taken off and stored between the museum
buildings. “We had several offers to buy them,” Lennis says.
“People are desirous of having factory extender rims.”

He remembers the board meeting where the sale of the extenders
was being debated. “At the time it seemed like a sizable amount of
money,” Lennis says, “and one of the members, Bill Satter, just sat
there in silence for a while looking at the other members. Then he
said, ‘If you sell the rims, you get the money and once you spend
it, you won’t have the money or the extender rims.” That quieted
the debate, and, as Lennis points out, those extender rims are on
the Case 110 HP to this very day.

FIRING AND USE

Lennis says he was fortunate to be around a number of men who
grew up on the platforms of steam engines. “In the old days, an
engine man had to provide and pay for the fuel himself, so they
learned how to fire it very efficiently. They ran the engines with
a clean stack most of the time. If they saw how the young people
show how much smoke they can make at steam shows now, they would
have laughed. The guys who grew up on the platform had no smoky
stack. They watched and opened the door, and looked in and tossed
the fuel in right on top of the dark spots. They had a bed of coal
and an efficient fire, and I’m willing to say they would use half
the fuel, or less, than what is used today. It’s one thing to fire
an engine that’s working hard and another to just keep firing it.
Just like any other machine, there’s a difference between running
it and knowing how to run it efficiently. But those guys had grown
up on it. If you’re on an engine every day, it gives you a lot
better understanding of that machine,” Lennis says.

The average farmer could not afford a big engine like the Case
110 HP. “Historically,” Lennis says, “these were big, heavy plowing
engines used to either break or maintain large wheat fields from
Texas all the way up into Canada. Their primary use was
agriculturally in the field.”

In addition, they provided good belt power for harvesting and
threshing processes. “During the offseason when they weren’t in the
field or doing harvesting work, if they were independently owned,
one would assume they would have a semi, be a wildcat trucker,
because every day the engine sat idle you lost money,” Lennis
says.

Thus, it was important that the owner would get out and find as
many other jobs for his engine as he could; roadwork, house moving,
hedge pulling, anything that needed a big heavy engine to perform.
“Just like Hingtgen brought this Case 110 back to run a big
sawmill,” Lennis says. “That way the engine could stay in one place
during the winter and provide a steady source of income during the
not-so-busy cycle. Then, it could get back to agricultural work if
it needed to.”

He adds that Case touted the 110s as big, heavy haulers in the
cartage industry, particularly in manufacturing, or a mine, where
it could pull several cars of manufacturing goods or several cars
of ore, hauling from place to place on a site or mine area.

In the January/February 2000 issue of Iron-Men Album,
Charles Stannard of Williston, N.D., was quoted talking about a
typical day of plowing with a big Case 110 HP steam traction
engine, serial no. 28053. “We had her hot at four o’clock in the
morning and shut her off at 10 o’clock at night, and we had 40
acres plowed.”

He added that he got the behemoth stuck in a slough one time and
had to tie telephone poles to the rear wheels with chains. “The
front end came off the ground several feet before she made it out.
Don’t worry about that gearing – it’s been tried!” Stannard
said.

CROWD’S REACTION

Lennis says big engines like the 110 HP are rare, but not hard
to come by. “If you look through any of the old Case company
catalogs, you’ll see the small versatile ones to the big ones,” he
says. “The smaller ones were more popular, and by the time you’re
up to the 110 you’re talking about the biggest, heaviest engine
made. There wasn’t as much demand for such a big machine as there
was for the smaller ones.” Thus, the rareness.

He says the big engines like the 110 HP are always attention
getters just because of their sheer size. “When you fill the boiler
with water, it weighs 32,000 pounds, 16 tons. Young people who see
it, but don’t have any remembrance of steam engines working in the
fields, think it’s cool. They might even ask, ‘What is this
machine?’ As they learn about it and talk about it, their nostalgia
goes on to the next year when they come and they say, ‘I remember
that big steam engine. Let’s go see it,'” Lennis says.

It’s a totally different crowd at the shows now than it used to
be. “Most of the people who started these shows are gone, and with
them has died the knowledge and expertise of what life was like.
With them died the nostalgia trigger for these big old machines
like the Case 110. Each year the nostalgia trigger is moved ahead.
Most people have nostalgia for the tractors of their youth,” Lennis
says.

One little-known item about these big Case 110 HP engines is
that they have power-assisted steering. “When it’s under steam and
sitting, you can still move the wheels all the way left and all the
way right with the steam assisted-power-steering. And there is no
steering wheel. It’s driven with levers, and a lot of times the
average new visitor will look up and say, ‘How are they steering
that? There’s no steering wheel,'” Lennis says.

He says if you talk to a Case man, he’ll say the Case 110 HP is
the best that was ever invented in the world. “But talk to a Reeves
man or an Avery man, they’ll say it was an average to poor engine.
These big engines were built at a time in our history when the
Midwest was just developing. So when you see these big engines,
it’s good to try to come away with some understanding of what they
did, why they were important and why so many steam engines in
general were built,” Lennis says.

He adds that in the great scheme of things, steam engines
weren’t built or used that long. “By the 1870s they were being
looked at for applications in agriculture and by the time their use
was full-blown, it was pushing 1900. Then by 1920, you see pretty
invasive ads in the agricultural magazines for tractors, and by the
1920s tractor ads overtook steam engine ads, and by 1925, steam
just disappeared from the picture. The Depression ended a lot of
them, because people couldn’t afford them any more. World War II
took a lot of them into the scrap movement.”

Lennis says Midwest Old Threshers Reunion Assn. owns seven steam
engines of the dozens that are shown every year. “That Case 110, we
always try to keep in pretty nice shape,” he says. “She remains our
flagship.”

Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several
books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372,
400 Caroline Lane, Rockville, MN 56369; e-mail:
bvossler@juno.com

Farm Collector Magazine

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