Antique Defies Rust, Lives Again


| November/December 1999



Steel tubing

Steel tubing carries oil to the bearings of the engine, which will be displayed at Hawkeye Antique Acres.

Staff Writer, Des Moines Register Photos by Harry Baumert, © 1999 The Des Moines Register and Tribune Company. Reprinted with permission.

The following article was sent to us by Francis C. Cox, 506 10th Street S.W., Humboldt, Iowa 50548-1950. It is reprinted with permission from the Des Moines Register, where it appeared in July 1999.

One of Iowa's heaviest and most unusual antiques goes on exhibit this week, fulfilling a dream that Jim Hamilton thought he might never see. The antique is a 150-ton Corliss steam engine that once generated electricity for convicts at the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison. Hamilton, now 72, of Des Moines, helped dismantle the machine in 1982, when it was hauled to Des Moines in a move that required 11 trips by heavy trucks.

The massive engine gathered rust outside a Des Moines restaurant for a time, then was brought to Hawkeye Antique Acres, four miles south of Waukee on Interstate Highway 80. About 40 volunteers have helped rebuild the machine, toiling thousands of hours to make long-struck mechanical parts run freely again. The workers finally got the lumbering engine operating in September for the first time in many years, and its prowess will be demonstrated the next Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Old Time Power and Machinery Show. The event is hosted at Hawkeye Antique Acres by the non profit Central Hawkeye Gas Engine & Tractor Association.

'We're just lucky we got it running,' said Lyle Stoberl, a retired farmer from Stuart. 'It was called 'The Sleeping Giant.' The day we got it started, they said, 'We woke the Giant!''

Jim Hamilton shows off the champagne bottle that he, Roger Greever and others emptied last September when they finally started their giant steam engine at Hawkeye Antique Acres.