Advance 30 HP Cross-Compound Steam Engine: A Story of Finds and Friendship

Clyde E. Corley and the "Strawberry" Engine

| July/August 2006

  • 30HP-cross-compound-Advance
    The 30 HP cross-cound Advance, this time with the right-hand side of the steam engine shown.
  • 30HP_Advance-plowing-Vanek
    The 30 HP Advance cross-compound goes for some plowing at Lewistown, Mont., June 7, 2003. Tom Railback is steering, while this article's author, David Vanek Jr., tends to engineering duties.
  • Advance_30HP-Vanek
    The Advance 30 HP cross-compound, serial no. 11574, (the left-hand side is shown here) at Pioneer Power Days in Lewistown, Mont., June 8, 2002. This is the only 30 HP cross-compound known to exist.
  • Avance_30HP-Vanek-belting
    The Advance 30 HP is belted to the separator. Article author David Vanek Jr. is throwing off the belt, while his brother Alan Venek (right) gives directions. Brother-in-law Lem Robinson is on the engine.
  • Sweet-conversation_Vanek
    From left, this article's author David Vanek Jr., Clyde Corley and Jim Spevac at Carl Mehmke's on June 21, 2002, near Great Falls, Mont.
  • 75HP-Case-Corley-Vanek
    75 HP Case engine, no. 27816, is run by Clyde Corley at Pioneer Power Days in Lewistown, Mont., June 9, 2001. Clyde, who was 93 at the time, belted the steam engine to the separator by himself in one try. This article's author, David Vanek Jr., owns the Case.

  • 30HP-cross-compound-Advance
  • 30HP_Advance-plowing-Vanek
  • Advance_30HP-Vanek
  • Avance_30HP-Vanek-belting
  • Sweet-conversation_Vanek
  • 75HP-Case-Corley-Vanek

It was in 1969 that I first laid eyes on an Advance 30 HP cross-compound plowing engine. I little knew it then, but I would eventually own that steam engine, and treasure my friendship with its former owner, Clyde Corley.

In the fall of that year, my dad got a custom harvesting job at the Buchanan Ranch, south of Geraldine, Mont. My brother, Alan, and I were along one day – I was 4 and Alan was 3 years old.

It just so happened that on that day, the pitman arm on Dad’s Massey-Harris 90 combine broke. The nearest welder was at the Clyde Corley Ranch, just down the road about a mile. Dad took the combine to Clyde’s place and they repaired it.

Meanwhile, my brother and I found a yard full of steam traction engines to play on that Clyde had lined up along the fence by the road. The biggest engine, with the big blue wheels, especially intrigued me. This was a 1909 Advance 30 HP cross-compound plowing engine, serial no. 11574. Clyde called it the “Strawberry Engine.” I never forgot that day!



Years passed as my fever for steam engines grew. I was in second grade and our little country school took a field trip to Carl Mehmke’s place near Great Falls, Mont. I really enjoyed his collection of tractors and steam engines. I wrote letters to Carl thanking him for the experience I had. Carl says he still remembers my letters today and how excited I was about the engines. We became great friends. Later, I worked for the Mehmke farm during the winter months in the 1990s.

I contacted Clyde in 1984, and inquired about purchasing an engine from him. He had an unrestored 1900 15 HP Rumely, serial no. 3587, that he said he might sell. I made several trips to Clyde’s place and got to know him well. I did purchase the Rumely late in 1985 (I was 20 years old at the time) and restored it over the next year with lots of help from Clyde and other friends. It is a very nice little engine to run. I really wanted to buy the big 30 HP Advance, but didn’t have the money at the time. I just had to dream of owning it someday.



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