16 Year Old Restores & Runs Traction Engine

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The engine as it sat when we bought it at Malmo, Nebraska.
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Picture is the engine after it was restored and painted. Carl is on the right and his father is on the left. Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. John Russell Johnson, Route 2, Wayne, Nebraska 68787

Route 2, Wayne, Nebraska 68787

I. INTRODUCTION

Carl Johnson of Wayne, Nebraska is 16 years old, and has always
been a steam enthusiast. He always went to the steam engine
reunions that Ray Magnuson of Allen, Nebraska held. Every chance he
had, he would operate one of the smaller steam engines that was on
the show. He read all the steam books he could obtain, plus two
original Engineer guides published in 1903 and 1909. He obtained
any Iron-Men Album Magazines he could. When he was 11 years old, he
began building a steam engine, and has it fairly well
completed.

In January of 1972, he located this steamer on a farm place near
Malmo, Nebraska. It had been setting since 1964, and was in
restorable condition.

The boiler was in excellent condition, and still has the
original jacket and bands on it. It has 38 – 2′ inch flues by
6’6′ long. The heating surface of the boiler is 308 sq.
ft., and has eight square feet of grate surface. The boiler is
locomotive style, with round bottom, butt strap high pressure, and
coal or wood fired.

The engine is single cylinder, side crank, with 81/!’ bore
and 10′ stroke. It is equipped with Wolf valve gear and D slide
valve. The engine R.P.M. is 200 and develops 52 H.P. on the belt.
The flywheel diameter is 40′ with 14&’ face. The
drawbar H.P. is 16. The drive wheels are 6′ in diameter with
18′ face.

II. FORMER OWNER

This Minneapolis steamer was formerly owned by Mr. B. Dvorak of
Malmo, Nebraska. He purchased it from Mr. Martinson of Swedesburg,
Nebraska, and that is as far as back as he could trace the
ownership. If any friends of Mr. Martinson at Swedesburg should
remember this engine, we would appreciate hearing from you. The
initials J, a possible former owner, is stamped several places on
the mountings.

III. RESTORING TRACTION ENGINE

He had been looking for an engine for some time, and through Ray
Magnuson he heard of this one at Malmo. Others that he had heard
about were either too expensive or not in good condition. On a cold
January 30, we drove down to Malmo and looked at this engine, and
after discussing it over between ourselves, and a lot of thought
plus a good dinner, which seemed to help, we decided to go ahead
and buy it. This engine had set there for that length of time and
settled in the dirt, and looked so lonely and distraught. We made
arrangements with Mr. Dvorak to deliver it, and it was a happy day
in May when Mr. Dvorak and son, Wayne, delivered it. Carl was so
excited that he skipped school so he would be on hand when it
arrived. After a lot of planning, we attempted to unload it, but
didn’t have enough power with our tractor to pull it out of the
wheel well in the Low-Boy. Carl’s brother, Bruce, had to get
his big tractor, and both tractors took it off in fine shape. Our
neighbor and relative, Jake Johnson saw the steam engine on the
Low-Boy come into our place, so was real excited and came over.
Jake was water boy for Carl’s Grandfather, J.K. Johnson, who
had a threshing run with a Minneapolis 12 h.p. Return flue traction
engine, in the early 1900’s.

Carl spent many hours looking it over and getting it ready to
run.  It was on a Friday that the steamer came and on Sunday,
Mr. Magnuson came down and cold water hydrostatically tested the
boiler to 225 lb.. pressure with no leaks or bulging.  It did
not take much work mechanically to have it in running order, so
Carl had it ready to go by Monday. As soon as he got home from
school, he was firing it up, and in two hours of slow firing, he
had 10 lbs. steam pressure and the engine turned over for the first
time in eight years. Even with this low pressure of steam, the
engine ran very smoothly. In a short time the pressure was up to
140 lbs. pressure, before the pop off blew, so Carl decided to set
it down to 125 lbs. pressure for safety sake. He blew the whistle
many times that day as was such a thrill to hear the triple chime
whistle do its song, a memory of yesteryear for many an old timer.
After several blasts of the whistle, he had scattered the cattle,
and some broke out over a gate and never came home till the next
day.

The Magnuson Steam Threshing Reunion was coming up in early
September, so Carl wanted to have his traction engine painted, so
began cleaning the engine not long after he got it. In so doing, he
found the original colors that were used before. He ordered special
heat resistant paint for it, and in August was ready to paint it.
After two and half weeks, he had it all painted and shiny just like
from the factory.

A few days before the Reunion, a promised hauler was unable to
transport the traction engine to the show, so Carl had it running
here home; and many people stopped in to see it run, and took
pictures. He hopes to display it more next year. If any of you are
in the neighborhood, stop in and see the engine, as Carl likes to
show it to anyone interested. He lives the first farm place north
of Wayne, Nebraska.

Farm Collector Magazine
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