Joe Steinhagen's 1913 60 HP Case before he started the engine overhaul. A clean and nicely detailed machine, its engine was ready for some attention.
The first thing to come off the Case was the non-original canopy. With no provisions for removal, Joe had to cut the canopy from its mountings to free it from the engine.
It's hard to explain how I got involved in the steam game, but I guess it started when I went to the Threshing and Heritage Festival in Rose City, Minn., with my old wrench collection. After I get all my display boards set up there really isn't much to do, so I started hanging around a steam engine trying to figure it out.
I was, at the time, a stranger to this type of machinery. There had been steam engines in my family on my pa's side, used on the family farm years ago. And an uncle with whom I share my name collected engines, owning six of various makes at one time. The most I remember about his engines was once when visiting his home he had one of his half-scale Kittens steamed up and running and he gave us kids rides. He sold most everything before he died, but he kept the two half-scale Kittens. Pa told me he tried to buy one from his widow, but she wouldn't sell anything to any relatives, so they disappeared for 20 years. A couple of years ago I was able to track down most of his equipment. It is now dispersed from Ohio to Oregon.
Getting back to my story, the people running the 65 HP Case (which belongs to Norman Grant) at the Rose City show , were kind enough to show me the engine and let me run it some. Ray Erickson, now deceased but the chief engineer on that engine at the time, suggested I take the steam school at Rollag, which I did in 1990.
The first day of school we learned basic theory, operation and safety, and it was great to learn what makes them go. The second day of the school they fired up a 50 HP Case for us to operate. After that, I thought my desire to know any more about steam engines would be taken care of. Well, my good friend, Scott Erickson, knew that I went to the school, and in 1992 he spotted a 60 HP Case steam engine sitting in the back row of a used car lot in Glenwood, Minn. He told me about it and, since it never hurts to look, we went to check it out.
The next day Scott stopped by and talked with the owner, Harvey Gloege, asking if the Case was for sale. It was, and a price was quoted. Scott and I talked it over and decided it was worth about two-thirds of what Harvey was asking, so we let it sit for the time being.
A week later Harvey called Scott and told him what he would take for the engine, and it was exactly what we figured the Case was worth. So in the spring of 1992 I bought my first engine, and I'm probably the last man alive to buy a steam engine off a used car lot!
We brought the engine home, checked things out and fired it up a couple of weeks later. In the small town of Forada, Minn., having a steam engine fired up and running causes quite a stir - we had people stopping by and taking pictures all day. After some minor repairs and a complete re-plumbing it ran pretty well. I got some help from Ray Erickson, but mostly I had to figure things out for myself, so some things were missed and some mistakes were made. For the time being I was happy with the way it ran, although I could tell that someday it was going to need some major work. I could also see I would have to do something with the paint - the wheels and flywheel had faded from red to pink, and what was green didn't look too good, either.
I decided to tackle the painting first. I'm not too big on sandblasting an assembled unit because the sand gets into every gear and oil box and you can't wash or blow it out. I hired a professional, mobile washing outfit to come to my yard and acid wash the Case, and this worked perfectly, leaving the metal etched and ready for priming. A local body shop handled the painting, and when they were done the Case looked like new. Some pin striping and decaling really finished out the job.
During the Donnelly, Minn., centennial celebration in August 2000, their resident 28 HP Minneapolis, owned by Earl Runquist, developed flue trouble. As a result, they asked me to belt up to their big Jackson lumber harvester owned by Lloyd Larson of Alexandria, Minn. I was a bit nervous about that because it has a 52-inch blade and it's all hydraulically operated, so it's quick. There was quite a pile of large, hard lumber, but they reduced the feed rate somewhat and my engine performed fine. But even though my engine ran well, there were a few clicks I just couldn't get out of it, and I also noticed that it was getting harder to get the engine moving in one direction than the other. The final decision to bite the bullet and overhaul my Case engine came while driving the Case across the show grounds at Donnelly. I was watching the Case's drive pinion gear wobble excessively around on the crankshaft, and it looked like the teeth were going to catch instead of mesh. In hindsight I don't think they would have, but with that issue and the others (not to mention the fact every brass, adjustable link had a thick stack of shims behind it or that all the shims on the main crank bearings were gone and one cap had been machined 0.010 already) I decided the time had come.
A close look points out the band of rust on the Case's steam dome from the dome brackets for the old, non-original canopy.
After the Donnelly show, and before heading back to my home-base in Rose City, Minn., I called Jim Briden, owner of Larson Welding and Machine in Fargo, N.D. Jim is well-known for his work on old engines, and I wanted to see if he had an opening in his shop to work on my Case over the winter months. To my surprise the only engine Jim had lined up was Lyle Osten's 22 HP Minneapolis, which was going in for some minor boiler repair, so there was a slot available. Norm Salto and I loaded the Case onto Norm's hauling trailer and headed off to Fargo. Norm does all my hauling, and even though he's into John Deere tractors he has on occasion helped me run my engine.
Right after Thanksgiving in the fall of 2000 we began the disassembly process. The arrangement Jim and I worked out was to handle disassembly and reassembly on the weekends so that during the week Jim and his machine shop could work on rebuilding engine components. This also allowed me do some of the work to help keep costs down.
The first thing 1 did was to take off the canopy. A well-built reproduction of the original, it was, unfortunately, mounted with no provisions for removal. At the front it had a non-original bracket around the dome mounted below the normally used top rivet line, and there were various brackets off to the sides to help support this mess. I knew I would eventually build something I could unbolt, so I took out the torch and cut off all the mounting brackets for the canopy. With the brackets cut we removed the canopy outside and then pushed the Case into Jim's shop to start work on the engine.
Jim is very knowledgeable about these machines, and working side by side with him on this project was a real treat. Discussing my inability to get rid of the clicks in the engine, Jim explained that when you have a bunch of shims stacked on each pivot point, as mine did, they actually start to give like accordion folds and you can never really get them tight.
After taking off all the links, rods and main bearing caps, Jim looked at the crankshaft in my Case and said it was a new unit. I was glad to hear that, but it also reaffirmed what I already knew about my machine; that it was a junkyard traction engine. I don't actually mind the fact that this engine was put together years ago from parts and pieces (even the bunkers were homemade, but I've left them alone because of the cost of replacing them and because they don't leak), because it means somebody way back when decided to save another engine from the scrap pile, and now we realize how important that is.
After we had everything removed from around the crankshaft we brought Jim's big overhead crane over, lifting the crank out of the main bearings and setting it on the floor. At this point I removed all the clutch parts because all the pivot points were loose and needed repairing. Jim ended up making me a new set of wooden clutch shoes in his woodshop at home, as the shoes on my engine were worn down to the cast iron holders.
New intermediate gear being set in place. Joe thinks the replacement gear came from a sawmill engine, as the only wear on it was on the inside hub.
We checked the eccentric on the crank but it appeared fine, so we didn't do anything with that. However, the crankpin had an oval shape to it, so that was pushed out and a new one installed with a new set of brasses made for it. Jim didn't like the grease zerk that was on the crank pin, so I bought a correct, spring-loaded grease cup from him and installed it on the engine (long after the fact I found a grease cup buried in my junk pile at home, but isn't that the way it always goes). Jim then pushed the flywheel off the crank, and as he did so some shim stock fell out of the keyway in the flywheel. This later proved to be an interesting problem.
At this time I decided to remove the piston so I could check the rings for wear and also to clean out whatever packing material was in the cylinder behind the piston. Every once in a while the back cylinder drain wouldn't work, and when you checked it you would get little bits of packing material out of the drain. This, it turned out, was because my jump-rope-soaked-in-oil-used-for-packing-material only lasted five years before it deteriorated and ended up inside the cylinder. Another lesson learned. The old piston rings were slightly worn so new ones were installed to help with power and water consumption. The bore in the cylinder was checked and determined to be fine. However, we replaced the outer piston rod packing nut with a newly machined one, as the old one had apparently come loose at some time and gotten smacked by the crosshead, bending it so it wouldn't push the packing down square.
All the clutch parts, the valve linkage rods and pins, as well as the connecting rod bearings, were sent out to Dr. Jerry Parker at Casselton, N.D. Dr. Parker is an orthodontist by trade and a steam engine man by choice, and as well as owning a big Minneapolis engine he has his own machine shop where he loves to make parts to keep his or anybody else's machine up and running. The drive pinion and the clutch-sliding ring were both re-machined in Jim's shop with new oiling holes drilled in them.
Crank disc with new pin installed, clutch collar, clutch arm built up inside and out and machined, drive pinion built up inside and machined.
The next step was to go after the intermediate gear. The one that was on the machine was worn down to about 25 percent and some of the teeth were corner chipped. None of the corresponding gears showed like wear, so I installed a gear I had already purchased that was only worn down about 5 percent. It must have been on a sawmill engine because only the inside hub was worn.
We checked the shaft the intermediate gear rode on and found it was virtually new - more proof this was a put-together parts machine. A new sleeve was installed in the intermediate gear and it was installed back on the shaft.
Contact steam engine enthusiast Joe C. Steinhagen at: 11980 Kluver Addition Road SE, Alexandria, MN 56308; (320) 762-2706. Special thanks to Jim Briden and Jerry Mandt for help with photos.