P.O. Box 333, Larimore, North Dakota 58251
This story begins not with the intention of a steam traction engine restoration, but simply with the desire to fulfill a lifelong dream of owning one. After spending much time visiting with individuals in person, on the phone, and researching advertisements in hobby magazines, my son Paul and I found our choice a 1919 Case steamer, 65 horsepower, serial number 34592. This engine spent most of its life in northern Iowa before migrating to North Dakota.
Even though the 65 Case was in very good condition, I knew from the onset that I would eventually want to replumb it. This first engine purchase took place on April 29,1993. I spent the first season running the engine as I bought it, just for the simple reason of getting acquainted with it.
During the early summer of 1994, I replaced the fusible plug and completely replumbed the Case with schedule 80 black pipe from the domb-valve down to the blow-down valve. I also replaced all of the valves with Nibco brand valves. This I did because the valves that were on the engine ranged anywhere from original to water valves used as replacements. The new valves and all of the pipe is stamped for 300 lbs. steam pressure. I also replaced the oil pump plumbing with new high pressure copper tubing designed for refrigeration use. The gauge was recalibrated, and the throttle valve was rebuilt. Needless to say, none of these materials were purchased from a hardware store, but from a qualified, licensed plumber in order to stay consistent with state boiler codes. At this point, I was satisfied with my project, and I had no further intention of any further engine modifications.
By the beginning of 1995, I began considering more engine projects. This came in part from pictures and stories about other restorations, from seeing the finished work of some knowledgeable hobbyists, and also the desire to personally own a perfectly completed project. As the first couple of months in 1995 passed, I made three major restoration decisions. First, I elected to have a complete new set of contractors bunkers made by Mark Pederson of Luverne, North Dakota, rather than replace the bottom of the old set, which is very common to do by those experiencing pinhole leaks in original tanks. Second, I had the eccentric hub rebuilt with new brass, and a new wood slide block, completed at Larson Welding Company in Fargo, North Dakota. It seems that engines using the Wolf reverse valve have a tendency towards eventual wear, requiring the eccentric hub to be built up. As long as the crankshaft was removed for this purpose, it was an ideal time to have a qualified machinist inspect the shaft, bearings, brasses, pins, gears and clutch assembly. I was given a point of confidence when told the engine had apparently seen little work considering everything mechanical was in a new-like condition. The good condition of the wheel grouters would indicate that the engine had seen little travel. I feel fortunate that the boiler required no repairs. I might add that the former owner had installed a new set of piston rings. Third, I had the engine professionally painted at Lynn Baier Body Shop, Fordville, North Dakota.
How to have the Case repainted was no small decision. I considered doing it myself, hiring others to help me on a part-time basis, or having it done by a professional. Considering I didn't have the proper equipment or location to take on this major job, I hired a truck/auto body shop owner to do this for me. It, of course, was the most expensive, but once I saw the painter start to dismantle the engine, go through the cleaning, the priming, and finally the painting, I had no doubt I made the right decision. This paint job will last a lifetime by virtue of the use of high temperature primer, and that the entire engine was painted with polyurethane Imron paint. The proper shades of original Case colors came from information obtained from Richard Rorvig of Rothsay, Minnesota.
All the wood was replaced with new maple wood plank boards. For the appearance of continuity, I replaced all of the valve handles with ones that were more original looking and of the same pattern. New castings included two new oil reservoirs with covers for the new bunkers, and a third step with risers for the left engine side made by Clyde Hall of Fillmore, Saskatchewan. I also purchased a new set of rocking grates.
The water pre heater was retubed by Mark Knox of Fisher, Minnesota, and an authentic reproduction of a riveted, crown top spark arrestor was made for the smoke stack, also by Clyde Hall. By the spring of 1995, I had made some lucky contacts to locate the other appurtenances needed to give the engine that Case advertisement look. I was fortunate to acquire a geared pump with the complete assembly, a canopy with the dome and rear canopy brackets, and a headlight. After the painting was completed and the engine was reassembled, a sign painter, Todd Drussell of Hawley, Minnesota, who has had experience pinstriping antique engines, put the finishing detail appearance to the steam engine.
The valve-gear was reset to prepare the engine for its first steam-up in the spring of 1996. In order to complete this major project, I took the engine out of service for the entire 1995 season. I felt that I wanted the project completed all at one time rather than to spread the job out over a longer period of time. I decided to tackle this restoration all at once instead of in stages.
As I mentioned in the beginning of my article, I didn't plan such a major restoration other than the re-plumbing when I purchased the engine because I didn't think the engine needed anything else. But I found that as one becomes more involved in such a hobby, a person has the desire to have a 'picture perfect' steam engine, partly for personal satisfaction, and partly due to the witness of the images of restored engines owned by other hobbyists. My affection for steam began as a young boy growing up next to the Great Northern mainline, although it took many years before I had the opportunity to get personally involved.
In order to make up for the steam-up time lost during 1995, I plan to take the 65 Case to extra shows during the 1996 season. I want to extend with appreciation, all of the help, counsel, spent time with me, that I'll forego mentioning all names for fear of omitting one. My respect and affection for all of you will always be remembered.