80 Years With An 80 Case


| November/December 1997



Case steam engine

1931: Frank Peternell Farm, Brockway Township, Stearns County, Minnesota. Gust Schuneman, engineer.

703 County Road 2 South St. Stephen, Minnesota 56375

This 80 HP Case steam engine, serial number 30357, was purchased 'new' in 1917 by my grandfather, Frank Vouk, of Brockway Township, Stearns County, Minnesota, in company with his engineer, August (Gust) Schuneman. It was shipped by rail from the Case Distribution Center in Minneapolis to St. Cloud, Minnesota, and driven the fourteen miles to Frank's farm in what was to become the village, and later the city of St. Stephen. When Gust had to leave for the World War, Frank bought out his share.

I put the quotes on the word 'new' in the above paragraph because sometime after the purchase a man wrote to Frank and asked how he liked the engine, because he said it had been repossessed from him. The inference was that the distributorship had taken it, cleaned it up and sold it as new. Well, this rather peeved Grandpa, and so he subsequently refused to let the distributor ship take the 60 HP Case engine he had traded on the 80. The 60, which by this time was 20 or more years old, sat along the fence row for many years and eventually was scrapped for the World War II effort.

Frank did custom sawing each spring with the 80 on his farm with a No. 2 Howell mill, and threshing in the surrounding area, sometimes for up to 80 days in a season, with a 36' wooden Minneapolis separator with wing feeders, until his death in 1930; at that time my dad, Bill, at age 18, took over as head of the family, which included his mother, one brother and six sisters.

Bill continued custom threshing and sawing with the engine until 1939, when it and the wooden separator were replaced by a 1919 10 ton Holt Caterpillar and a 36' Huber steel separator, also with wing feeders. For several years, the 80 was steamed up each fall to clean this threshing rig. It sat at its old resting place at the end of the barn until 1952, when Bill and Gust decided to get it going again. They used it on the sawmill that year and the next with Gust as engineer. Then it was once again retired.

After starting to attend steam shows in the mid'50s with Gust and Henry P. (Horsepower) Lahr of St. Joseph, Minnesota, and with the purchase of a 65 HP Case engine in 1961, at an auction in Little Falls, Minnesota, the steam in Bill's blood once again came up. So in 1963, with the help of Gust at age 73, who did much of the work including the painting, he completed a total restoration of the 80, with new flues put in by Mr. Lahr, new water tank built by Bill, a correct canopy (the old one was for a 65), repoured canon bearing, new piston rings, etc.