A Tale of Two Steam Road Rollers

A Pair of Steam Rollers Highlight Case's Role in Road Building

| December 2007

  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller1
    Left: A front view of the Case 40 HP steam road roller at Rollag, Minn., owned by Jim and Lynette Briden, Fargo, N.D., and Jerry and Claudia Axvig, Hawley, Minn.
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller2
    Top: Unlike a regular traction engine, there aren’t any lugs protruding from the smooth rear wheels on the Case 40 HP steam road roller at Rollag.
  • Case35HPSteamRoadRoller1
    Opposite page: A view of the Case 35 HP steam road roller at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. This road roller is owned by the Duane Coonrod family, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Image courtesy Nikki Rajala.)
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller2-1
    Center: The simple-cylinder on the Case 40 HP steam road roller.
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller2-2
    Bottom: A side view of the roller wheel on the Case 40 HP steam road roller.
  • SheepsfootRoller
    Left: The chain steering and the smooth rear wheels. Bars could be inserted in the holes in the wheels to make a sheepsfoot roller.
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    Right: Rivets on Case steam engines were inserted hot for a tight fit.
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller3
    A closer view showing how the steering chain winds to turn the Case 40 HP steam road roller.
  • Case35HPSteamRoadRoller2
    Left: The side of the Case 35 HP steam road roller at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, has the Case eagle, Old Abe, painted on it.
  • Case35HPSteamRoadRoller2-2
    Bottom: Another view of the Case 35 HP steam road roller. (Images courtesy Nikki Rajala.)
  • Case35HPSteamRoadRoller2-1
    Below: The front wheels on the Case 35 HP steam road roller are smooth, as are the rear ones, making the road rollers susceptible to getting stuck – or at least stopped – easily.
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller4
    Right: A closer view of the Case 40 HP steam road roller at Rollag, Minn.
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller4-1
    Below: The 40 HP Case steam road roller takes a break during its showing at the 2006 Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Rollag, Sept. 1-4, 2006.

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  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller2
  • Case35HPSteamRoadRoller1
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller2-1
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller2-2
  • SheepsfootRoller
  • SheepsfootRoller-1
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller3
  • Case35HPSteamRoadRoller2
  • Case35HPSteamRoadRoller2-2
  • Case35HPSteamRoadRoller2-1
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller4
  • Case40HPSteamRoadRoller4-1

It gets stuck easily. Its parts are not interchangeable with any other steam traction engine. It has limited uses. Yet everywhere the Case steam road roller is shown, it draws a crowd.

"People are used to a steam engine having four wheels," explains Lynette Briden, Fargo, N.D., who along with her husband, Jim, and Jerry and Claudia Axvig, Hawley, Minn., owns a rare 40 HP Case steam road roller They show it every year at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minn. "People like it too because it's a little smaller than the other steam engines - I noticed it first with the interest in the 9 and 18 HP steam engines - although the huge ones do have a certain draw," she says.

A 35 HP Case steam road roller is also shown at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, each year, owned by the Duane Coonrod family, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"It's a crowd pleaser in the parade," says Bob Gilchrist, who got involved with the Case road roller through George Bare, a mutual friend of the Coonrod family. "I showed up at Mt. Pleasant in the late 1970s, and George gave me all the dirty jobs to find out if I could come back the next year." He did, and one of the perks was working with the Case 35 HP steam road roller.



Bob says he figures the Case road rollers are rare because most businesses or the military who had them discarded them when something else came along - like the internal combustion engine machines that did the same work. "Businesses scrapped them quicker because they didn't have an orchard or fencerow to push them to, and the call for scrap metal during World War II was the demise of most steam engines, including many of those steam rollers."

A Touch of History

The first Case road rollers were produced in 1906 when a 10-ton road roller, serial no. 17093, appeared along with about 40 others. The quantity manufactured increased each year through 1911, when they sold for $2,200. After that, the number of road rollers manufactured fluctuated, until 1921 when the greatest number (the exact number isn't known, but was probably several hundred) was constructed. None were produced in 1922 and only six in 1923.

Rodney Firman
3/27/2018 9:12:15 AM

I myself would love to have one. Just the joy of showing her off and what she could do. And a legacy for my family. You guys are blessed!




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