1909 45 HP Case Finds Home in Austria

Austrian mountain steamer: Dream of owning an American steam traction engine comes to fruition for one European steam enthusiast


| September/October 2004



1909 Case

The Austrian Alps lend a majestic background to Peter Gabriel's stunning 1909 45 HP Case.

Life is often a series of events, with each one necessarily leading to the next. Yet, we often don’t realize where a particular chain of events is leading us. Certainly, I did not realize when I visited the U.S. in 1992 that I was setting off a chain of events that would ultimately lead to my owning a Case steam traction engine.

First hint at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa

When I visited in 1992, my only intention was to buy parts for old motorcycles, mainly Harleys and Indians, which I occasionally restore. While in Davenport, Ill., I met fellow Austrian Brullmayer Bruno, who had told me about a Labor Day meeting for old steam engines in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

I was immediately intrigued, so my friend Hans Seiwald and I traveled to Mt. Pleasant to see the steam engines on display. During the drive to Iowa, I turned to Hans and said, “If only one tractor is steaming, the long journey will be worth it.”

About three miles away from Mt. Pleasant, we noticed black drifts of smoke rising in the air, but we couldn’t have dreamed what was waiting for us at the show. There were dozens of steam traction engines on display, with Case, Rumely, Russell and many others represented, along with huge tractors manufactured by Hart-Parr, International and Avery, as well as large numbers of stationary engines. And they were all working.

Coming as we do from the alpine region of Austria, we had never seen anything like it before, and by the time we left Mt. Pleasant, I was infected by the steam bug. Returning to Austria, I made up my mind that I wanted to buy a steam engine, and I could barely wait for my next chance to visit the U.S. and take part in another American steam meeting.

First steam engine – a Wichterle portable

A few years later in 1994, during a journey through the Czech Republic late one day as it was gradually getting darker and the rain was pouring down, I thought I saw something special sitting next to an old barn. What I found was an 8 HP Wichterle portable steam engine, serial no. 775, manufactured in 1914 in Prosnitz, which was then part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire.

I located the owner, and he was willing to sell the engine. However, it took more than a year before I became the proud owner of my portable Wichterle, as I had to secure an export permit from the Czech National Museum before I could take possession.

Once I had the engine in Austria, I immediately and eagerly started the effort to get it working. Up to that time, I had restored several motorcycles and engines, but I had never worked on a steam engine.

cp
2/22/2010 9:22:29 PM

i have a headlight that looks alot like the one in the photo of the case 1909 45 hp picture from austria. i was wondering if anyone had a frontal picture of it. my light has a brass buckle on it that says c b @ q which was a north american railroad. i would really like to know what i have and any information will help. thank you.....