Case 25×45 Tractor: Cranking Problem

300 Leon Drive, Apt. 4 Jonesboro, Louisiana 71251

In Mackinaw, Illinois, during the 1930s, my father Dan S. Zehr
owned and operated his first gasoline tractor. The steamers were
still reserved for threshing, but rather than steam engines for
corn shelling, he used the Case 25×45 for winter shelling jobs. The
little beast was intended to save time and effort, and was used
with a Minneapolis steel sheller, I believe a #4 model. All
consideration and forgiveness might be granted and due people he
used, for they, too, possessed only the steam power tricks, and
engineering know-how of their time, for whatever problem that had
to be solved to get the job done. The gasoline tractor had just
appeared over the horizon.

I believe he had purchased the animal from the J. I. Case Branch
operation in Peoria, Illinois. In those days, tractor mechanics
were rare and possibly not exactly astute at problem solving, and
the old steam engineer probably did not even have the benefit of an
instruction book. So if there was to be any help from informed
people, it would be a rarity that some franchised individual was
available on some below-zero morning to trouble shoot. The
alternative was the ‘hard way,’ which was time and energy
consuming, as well as very frustrating. Whether a ‘tractor
specialist’ had been contacted for a discussion or high level
consultation as to why this (blankety-blank) tractor was such a
brute to start, is not known, but it was the #1 conversation with
friends and competitors.

The problem seemed to be just a contrary female in nature, the
starting only seemed to end in a terrible cranking ordeal. Words
new to me were exposed when it came time to start preparing to set
up and move to a rural crib job. The process consisted of two men
taking turns in cranking the thing’ for what seemed hours, with
no firing or back-firing occurring for encouragement. Just crank
until out of breath, almost to the point of collapsing, and then
the relief cranker take over for his turn, for the partner was
forced to back-off and think kind words to rename the machine.

A magneto man was summoned, and he had his hand at trying the
analysis for his turn, things such as compression, valve job, short
in the wiring, crude analysis of the fuel, old fuel, wrong brand,
(some brands were in doubt), wrong brand of oil in crankcase, all
provided mystic thinking for the problem. The cranking would
continue for hours and success was not the word.

The noise of the crank on the flywheel was an odd sound. The
crank was placed on the engine flywheel hub, which had
indentations, in the interior ring of the outer ring, and there was
a pawl that engaged into the indentations inside the flywheel, as
the cranker lifted, the wheel turned the crankshaft to the point of
maximum crank travel, and hopefully an explosion occurred in one of
the four cylinders. If not, the crank hit the surge screw in the
governor housing and the pawl collapsed as a ‘glitch’ sound
occurred. Then a dead bang from the violent collision of the steel
crank arm and the governor housing made of cast iron. At that time
the bar of the crank collided with the bronze plug of the governor
surge screw and then the pawl collapsed with a ‘glitch’
sound’bang-glitch,’ then a clatter as the crank fell

I can see and hear in my mind the sound of the process as if it
occurred again just now. How those two men stood this terrible
exertion and effort of the process for generating power from a unit
is one of the many mysteries of mankind, and it was the time in the
century that drove men to distraction and perhaps success if they
stood it all! I will never forget. Finally the stubborn thing would
‘puke-out’ a blue smoke and if a hand reached the right
controls in time, maybe it would run. Sounds like it was flooded,

I have read of Mr. J. I. Case’s ingenuity and success, but
there is no doubt in my mind that if this infamous tractor came
across his horizon, as he traveled about the great universe of his
days of genius, I’m certain he would have shipped it to the
West Coast for the movie people to make some kind of use of it
without its ever running. Just let it sit and freeze up with rust
from the Pacific Ocean, and destroy the records so that the company
would never be taken to court for some prime attorney to provide a
modern suit of the million dollar category, as is done too many
times today.

‘Just keep it clean, painted,’ but with the
instructions, ‘Do not start this damn tractor,’ signed, J.
I. Case. Perhaps EPA would have taken care of this if it occurred
today or OSHA in the event that Congress would pass a new law. They
can do most anything to stop a mechanical monster that ‘red
tape’ will destroy and destroys the minds of people.

Sorry, you Case enthusiasts, it’s all in good fun!

Another story from out of the ‘Ant Stinger’ of

Dean Zehr’s name may be recognized by those familiar
with the Central States Show in Pontiac, Illinois, as he was active
with that club, helping his father Dan there during the 1950s and
60s. He would be happy to hear from our readers.

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