A Case for the 120

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J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. submitted this application for a 120 HP traction engine to compete at the 1912 plowing trials in Winnipeg, Canada.
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A vintage shot of an 80 HP Jacob Price “field locomotive.” Price’s engines were built by J.I. Case in Racine, Wis., in the early and mid-1890s.

Fans of J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. products can pretty much cite chapter and verse of the company’s steam engine offerings.

From the smallest Case 6 HP portable to the large 110 HP traction engine, Case offered a model to suit just about every farmer’s need. The 110, arguably Case’s best-known steam engine, was eclipsed only by the 150 HP road locomotive. Yet, with only nine of the 150s made, the 110 is generally considered Case’s largest offering. Recent information, however, suggests the company at least toyed with the idea of producing a 120 HP engine.

The Winnipeg trials

For some years, Bristol, Wis., resident John Davidson has made a hobby of collecting original farm equipment literature. John, who is well-known in the stationary engine hobby for his collection of rare engines, has amassed an impressive collection of engine literature, as well. His interests also include steam, and when he was offered the opportunity a few years back to acquire a sheath of old records from J.I. Case, he jumped at the chance.

Included in the records (which are mostly old test and production notes) was an entry form for the July 1912 plowing trials held in Winnipeg, Canada. That entry form specifies an engine that never appeared in any Case catalog — a 120 HP.

Specifically, the engine listed in the Winnipeg application shows a bore and stroke of 13 inches, while a standard 110 was 12-inches square. Total weight, loaded, is listed at 42,500 pounds, while a standard 110 weighed approximately 37,000 pounds.

The records that John acquired also included a sheet detailing the results of Case economy tests conducted between 1911 and 1913. A 120 HP engine appears among the engines tested. Some interesting particulars are spelled out in this record, including a notation that one 120 HP engine tested was “equipped with a cylinder of the Stumpf type and a sleeve valve similar to the Knight gas engine.” This engine was fitted to a boiler equipped with “a 70-foot coil of 2-inch pipe placed in the smokebox for the purpose of providing superheated steam. This did not show very good results, as the water consumption was greater than on the regular.”

Further 120 HP variations

Case evidently played with variations of the 120 HP, as test results of a 120 HP equipped a 12-inch bore are noted. The stroke remained at 13 inches. Further, this engine was on an “extra long boiler fitted up with an economizer with 126-square-feet heating surface in the front end and a superheater in the firebox. The superheater was made up of 1/2-inch steel tubes, placed over the fire brick, and had about 45-square-feet of heating surface. The boiler had 50-square-feet less than the regular, nearly 300 degrees superheat was obtained with this boiler.”

The following temperatures were taken during testing:

Temperature …

… of feed water 52 F
… of water into economizer 160 F
… of water into boiler 334 F
… of steam to throttle 650 F
… of smokebox 525 F
… in firebox at superheater 1,150 F

Respected Case expert Chady Atteberry, Blackwell, Okla., says he’s heard rumors of an experimental 120, but he’s certain the engine was never offered. According to Atteberry, it wasn’t uncommon for companies to run experimental engines at the Winnipeg trials, even though the Winnipeg trial application required competing engines to come from regular stock. Case’s 1912 Winnipeg entry lists a retail price as $4,250 for the 120.

While Case’s intentions for the 120 HP engine will likely remain obscure, it’s fascinating that almost 100 years after the fact information continues to come to light of designs and engines previously unknown. ST

If anyone has information or knowledge of Case’s fabled 120 HP engine, please contact Richard Backus, rbackus@ogdenpubs.com.

More J.I. Case equipment

In addition to supplying test sheets showcasing Case’s experiments with a 120 HP engine, John Davidson, 8250 200th Ave., Bristol, WI 53104 (sdavidson@busynet.net), also sent in a treasure of old photos, including this vintage shot of an 80 HP Jacob Price “field locomotive” (see Image Gallery). Price’s engines were built by J.I. Case in Racine, Wis., in the early and mid-1890s.

This image probably originated form a Price catalog and will be familiar to some. The best, however, is yet to come, as John also supplied us with an original Jacob Price catalog form 1895 — stay tuned. ST

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