1897 15 HP Case Compound Steam Traction Engine

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A one-of-a-kind 1897 15 HP Case compound steam traction engine.
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A one-of-a-kind 1897 15 HP Case compound steam traction engine.
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A one-of-a-kind 1897 15 HP Case compound steam traction engine.

Recently one cold snowy winter day, I was passing the time away studying my Case Repair Parts and Price Book. I kept running across repair parts listed for Engine 6727 only. A quick check in my Case Serial Numbers records revealed engine #6727 was built in 1897 as a 15HP compound traction engine. Since so many numbers for repair parts referred to 6727 only, it was becoming clear that this engine was a one-of-a-kind, experimental engine. Perhaps, it was a prototype that later developed into the Case traction engine, manufactured and sold in the Twentieth Century that we all know and love.

Immediately, I wrote a letter to my good friend W. C. ‘Chady’ Atteberry of Blackwell, Oklahoma, inquiring what he knew or ever heard about Case Engine #6727. Chady is very knowledgeable about Case steam engines and one of the true steam men around today. Chady was also fortunate to have been a close friend to the late E. C. ‘Big Mac’ McMillan of Hoisington, Kansas. Chady checked his files of Case records and memorabilia from the collection of his late friend, ‘Big Mac’, and came up with three pictures of a strange looking Case engine. Big Mac had written the following note concerning the three pictures: ‘1897, here she comes, one of the first side-crank, rear-mounted engines.’

After carefully studying the three pictures Chady and I have come to the following conclusions. No doubt, all three pictures were taken at the Case factory at Racine. The rear view shows that the engine is a rear-mounted model, but not spring-mounted. Also, the steering wheel had been moved to the right side of the engine; on previous center-crank models, the steering wheel and flywheel had been on the left side of the engine. And, it looks like engine 6727 might have been equipped to burn straw.

The picture of the right hand side of the engine plainly shows that the clutch is still the old style, previously used on the center-crank models and early side-crank, side-gear model traction engines. Also, the front-mounted water tank is another carryover from the center-crank models. The front wheels appear to be the same as those used on the early center-crank engines, whereas the rear wheels appear to be a slightly modified version of the earlier rear wheels. The smokestack looks like an early version that later became the famous Case cast iron stack, which was used on all late models for many years.

The front view of this engine plainly does, indeed, show a rare and strange looking Case engine. The smoke box door looks rather bare without the famous eagle trademark. A close look at the cylinder plainly shows that this is, indeed, a compound engine. Unfortunately, we do not have a view of the left hand side of the engine.

Together Chady and I have become convinced that these are pictures of one-of-a-kind J. I. Case engine #6727. On page 29 of the 1928 Case repair parts book, it lists part No. 271C, engine frame, 15HP compounded for engine 6727 only. So, we know engine #6727, built in 1897, was definitely a 15HP compound.

Careful study of these older Case repair parts numbers reveals there are a lot of parts numbers listed as prior to engine #6750, so one can easily conclude that there were many changes and improvements made on the rear-geared, side-crank Case engine in 1897. Many were to be made in 1899, also.

If anyone has any additional information on engine #6727 or these three pictures of a rare Case traction engine, let’s hear from you! We need to be getting all early history and developments of the Case traction steam engine recorded in print before more is lost to the passing of time. Thanks to the vast knowledge and collection of the late E. C. ‘Big Mac’ McMillan, we have preserved three priceless pictures of an early and extremely rare Case traction engine, even if it should prove not to be one-of-a-kind Case engine #6727.

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