The Steam Engine Collecting of Glen J. Brutus
In 1955, American author Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, "One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach." With equal truth, she might have written, "One cannot collect all the beautiful Case steam engines in America." All the same, Glen J. Brutus of Pine Village, Indiana, collected as many Case steam engines as he could.
The peaceful 1950s had just begun. Home from harrowing experiences in World War II, Glen attended the Indiana State Fair in 1950. At a booth, he picked up a copy of The Iron-Men Album, a magazine devoted to steam engines, primarily those used for agricultural purposes. Glen's memories of steam power extended back to his childhood. "Jake St. John," Glen recalled during an interview on June 6, 1999, "was running his sixteen-horsepower Nichols and Shepard engine along the road. He stopped that bugger and set me up on it." Jake then took Glen for a ride. "That was in 1925 or 1926, along in there. I hadn't started to school yet." Even with his early introduction to steam engines, Glen had not thought to buy one not until he saw the Album, that is.
Bitten by the steam bug, Glen bought his first steamer in Mexico, Missouri: a 40-horsepower Case traction engine, serial number 34091, built on March 7, 1917. His father, Arba, disapproved of collecting steam engines and warned Glen not to bring one to the home farm. For that reason, Glen kept his new big toy at his fiancee's parents' house in town.
Jessie Cook, an experienced steam man, and James Elmore, math and science teacher who had helped his father farm with Gaar-Scott engines, lent their expertise when Glen first learned to fire up his Case. "About a year later, I got brave enough to take it out to the home place," Glen said. By then, his father had relented on the issue of the steam-engine hobby, commenting to Glen's in-laws, "He could be doing something a lot worse." Later, Glen sold the 40 Case to Leonard Mann, also of Pine Village, who made it the centerpiece of an annual threshing bee at the Mann farm. The engine sold again, this time at auction in 1988.
On his honeymoon, Glen bought a 6-horsepower Case portable, serial number 19661, boiler number 8382, built in 1908, in Attalla, Alabama. T. S. "Windy" Stingle, who as a young man attended one of B. B. Clarke's steam schools held in Indianapolis, had told Glen where to find the engine.
Engines were in Glen's blood. After all, his grandmother Brutus's sister's husband, George Clawson, was an employee of the Atlas Engine Works in northeastern Indianapolis. Glen often traveled to Kentucky on weekends to look for engines. He crossed a river on a ferryboat which operated by means of a wooden lever which worked back and forth along a rope strung through it from one shore to the other. On a tip from Roselle Raisch of Mt. Healthy, Ohio, Glen found another 6-horsepower Case portable, serial number 24437, built in 1911, in Nicholasville, Kentucky. To get the engine, Glen traded a 23-90 Baker boiler on rubber wheels; the Baker's new owner wanted the boiler to melt tar. Eventually, Glen sold the more recent Case portable to Leonard Mann.
Charlie Rouck, a third-generation boiler man in Sheldon, Illinois, acquired from Lucken Steel a front tube sheet already flanged and stamped out, and he installed new flues in the 1908 portable Case. Lucken had made boilerplate for certain Case engines. Glen received a new ring and door for the portable from the Case company in Racine.
Glen traded the refurbished portable to Al New of Pendleton, Indiana, for a rare high-wheeler Canadian-special Reeves, serial number 7904, built in 1916, and Al traded the Case to Keith Mauzy of Middletown, Indiana. Al had purchased the high-wheeler from Windy Stingle, who bought it from a family in Oxford, Indiana. Referring to Pine Village history, Glen said, "The last day that engine ran was the day the elevator burned down in July of 1933. It had a six-bottom plow hooked to it."
In a telephone interview on June 15, 1999, Lyle Hoff master of Bucyrus, Ohio, said that the Reeves Company built thirty-eight of the 16-horsepower high-wheeler engines and twelve of the 20-horsepower engines. At one time, Lyle knew the whereabouts of several high-wheelers, whose owners touted their strength, but Lyle said that only three exist today all of them 16s. Lyle mentioned that, at some point in its early history, the Stingle high-wheeler had become frozen to the ground. Under steam pressure, the engine was jerked for half a day, until the wheels were free. As a result, the wheels were sprung, one of them more than the other. Windy told Lyle that some of the spokes were up to three inches longer than the rest, to compensate for the distortion.
Glen arranged to buy the high-wheeler Reeves in Pine Village before Al had time to haul it to Pendleton. Glen's photograph of the Reeves engine appeared in the July/August 1964 issue of the Album. It was only fitting that Glen own a Reeves, since one of his fraternity brothers at Purdue University was a Reeves son. Glen regretted that he "never did talk about engines with him. I wasn't interested at that time."
The Snyder brothers of Goshen, Indiana, eventually acquired the high-wheeler Reeves, and Earl Marhanka of Dowagiac, Michigan, bought it. It was sold in 1973 for $5,000; a photograph of it appeared in Jack Norbeck's Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines. Another photograph of it appeared on the cover of the Album for November/December 1977; the engine had been shown at Blooming Prairie, Minnesota. Clarence Black of Free-port, Illinois, now owns the rare high wheeler Reeves.
From Renos Staley in Bowling Green, Indiana, Glen purchased an 80-horsepower Case traction engine, serial number in the 35000 range. It was missing its tag. The engine had been used in a sawmill up until the last. Glen kept the 80 long enough to scare himself with it. On the day of the mishap, he and some friends were running the engine, when a hand hole gasket beneath the throat sheet blew out. Misconstruing the accident as the first step toward an explosion, Glen's helpers made themselves scarce, hiding behind buildings. Some even scampered to their cars and took off at high rates of speed. Glen was left to handle the problem on his own. He damped the fire, bringing the situation under control, but he never felt comfortable around the 80 again.
Glen bought another 40-horse-power Case traction engine, serial number 32463, built in 1915, and a 36-horsepower Case traction engine, serial number 25423, boiler number 14227, built in 1911. Both of these engines came from Carl Erwin in Arkansas, although Glen purchased them at different times. In the May/June 1955 issue of the Album appeared a photograph of Glen, Barbara (his wife), and their baby Susan in front of the 40 Case. In the Album for July/August 1957, Carl published a panoramic photograph with the following caption: 'Threshing on the Vol Denton farm, Alpena, Arkansas, in 1913. Case 12-36 engine No. 25423. The engine is now owned by Glen J. Brutus, Pine Village, Indiana. Carl Erwin, who now lives at Harrison, Arkansas, is running the engine. Hand-fed separator.' During a telephone interview on June 15, 1999, Keith Mauzy said that, in 1911, Carl drove the 36 off the railroad car which brought the engine to Arkansas.
The 40 had "bobtail bunkers" that is, regular bunkers, not contractor's bunkers. It was in excellent shape; "you could read the stamped number on the front flue sheet," Glen said. The 36, while having a good boiler, had worn lugs and loose spokes. The September/October 1961 issue of the Album carried a photograph of Russell F. Davis's truck hauling Glen's 36 from the Ozark Mountains. Davis was a "contractor in Lafayette who helped me haul engines in the winter time," Glen explained. On the back of the truck is a 40 Case, serial number 33590, which Glen bought in Gravette, Arkansas. Glen had located the 40 while on his honeymoon but bought it later. To extricate it from a shed, he had to trench paths for the driver wheels. The daylight faded fast. Glen backed the engine, under steam, from the shed. By the time Glen was ready to drive the engine up onto the truck, he had to do so in the dark of night. Glen is a brave man.
Keith Mauzy now owns the 36, which has a square front axle and a steel pre heater. Glen's advertisement in the Album for March/April 1954 offered the 40 which Carl Erwin sold to Glen, as well as the 80, for trade for a 110-horsepower Case. Ultimately, Rudolph Shin holt of Jonesboro, Indiana, came to own the 40, and Pete Burno of De Forest, Wisconsin, bought the 80. Later, Pete sold the 80 to George Hedtke of Davis Junction, Illinois.
Herb Smith of New Palestine, Indiana, came to own the 40 which Glen loaded in the dead of night #33590, built in 1916. The engine now belongs to Tom, Herb's son.
The pride and joy of Glen's Case collection was his 110-horsepower traction engine, serial number 28053, built in 1912but having a 1913 style of clutch when sold in 1915. Charles Stannard from Williston, North Dakota, originally owned the engine. Charles told Glen, 'I'm a World War One man. I ran the engine all the time, except for the two years I was in the Army.' Charles continued, "I got her stuck in a slough once. I had to tie telephone poles to the rear wheels with chains. The front end came off the ground several feet before she made it out. Don't worry about that gear ingit's been tried!"
Charles also commented on a typical day of plowing with the big Case engine: "We had her hot at four o'clock in the morning and shut her off at ten o'clock at night, and we had forty acres plowed."
Charles explained to Glen that the 110 narrowly escaped the junkman's torch. He had sold the engine to a junk dealer for $250 during World War II, but the dealer demanded that Charles load it on a flatcar. Glen remembered Charles's next remark: "I refused. That was the only thing that saved her." Two other 110s in the same area were repossessed.
Glen did not purchase the engine directly from Charles Stannard. First, Danny H. Roen of Comstock, Minnesota, bought the engine for $450. In turn, he sold it to Justin Hingtgen of LaMotte, Iowa. The engine passed inspection for 175 p.s.i. Justin put a new governor on it and used it in a sawmill. J. R. Winters of Detroit, Michigan, who owned the patent on the stamped-out rocker arm used on Green Diamond International engines, offered to buy the 110 from Justin. "Yeah, I'll sell it to you," Justin said, "but you've got to furnish me power to run my sawmill." Winters replied, "I've got a 110 skid engine plus $3,000."
"It was in 1954 or '55 that Justin told me, 'You'd better get up there and get that bought,'" Glen recalled. Dutifully, Glen and his friend Gene Gephart took a train to Detroit. Glen said, "Winters's bookkeeper had told me that Winters had over $3,000 'tied up in that engine.' We met J. R. Winters at the factory on Sunday morning. The 110 was sitting inside the factory building. Winters didn't know that I knew about his economic difficulties. I offered him a thousand dollars for the 110. 'I'll junk the s.o.b. before I'll take a thousand dollars for it!' Winters yelled. He finally simmered down. He said he'd sell it for $1,500. Somehow we split the difference. I got it for a little more than a thousand."
Glen wanted to construct a cab for the 110. He kept sending letters to the Case factory in Racine, Wisconsin, but received no response. "I wasn't getting anyplace," Glen said, "so I decided I was going to write to the president of the company. Then things started moving!' Glen was put in touch with the blueprint department, and he secured a copy of the 1912 prints for the 110's sheet-steel and wood contractor's bunkers and cab. He also received a new smoke-box door for his 110 (as well as the ring and door for the 6 portable mentioned earlier). When Glen learned that the Case president was scheduled to speak at nearby Purdue University, Glen invited him 'to come out to see the 110, but he wrote back that he was too busy."
After several years, Glen's restoration of the 110 Case was complete. It towered proudly above the crowd at the 1973 Indiana State Fair, where it performed with flawless perfection. Glen said that the Kelly brothers from Pawnee, Oklahoma, drove to his place once and returned with some parts for their 110 Case. On September 9, 1975, Glen sold his 110 to Lehart Frederich of Lake Elmo, Minnesota. In 1992 at Rollag, Minnesota, Glen videotaped it and several other 32 and 110 Casesin action at the 150-year anniversary of the Case company. After Lehart Frederich passed away, the 110 which Glen had owned was sold to Dr. Roland Larter of Hallock, Minnesota.
Glen had once traveled to David City, Nebraska, to see another 110-horsepower Case owned by Emil Kudlacek. Emil did not want to sell. While they were visiting, Emil told Glen that Emil had owned another 110 but decided that it could not be repaired and cut it up for scrap. Today, such an engine might be restored, even at great expense, but the decisions made today differ from those made in the early years of collecting. Back then, when engines were relatively cheap and more plentiful, even the collectors who loved steam engines the most were sometimes persuaded to junk an engine needing major repairs.
Glen also journeyed as far as the Porcupine Provincial Forest in Manitoba, Canada, in search of a 110 Case. The one there had a butt-strap boiler but no cab or tenders.
While Glen drove many miles in search of Case steam engines, the products of other companies, such as the high-wheeler Reeves, made their way into Glen's mostly Case collection. The March/April 1953 issue of the Album reported that he sold a 15-horsepower Nagle stationary engine which he had acquired from Purdue University and which had its original paint. From Purdue he also acquired a Baker stationary engine with a uniflow cylinder; the engine had been used in the engineering department to teach students. In a telephone interview on June 15, 1999, Pete Burno said that the Baker engine had a Prony brake permanently attached to it. In that respect, it was similar to other stationary engines built for university engineering departments.
Glen owned an 18-horsepower Avery under mounted traction engine, serial number 4654. Justin Hingtgen had owned it first; Justin bought it in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Glen paid $850 for the Avery, including delivery to Glen's farm. The Avery needed repairs. Charlie Rouck ended up staying at the farm for two weeks. Rouck put in twelve or fifteen new stay bolts, repaired the governor, fitted a new steam pipe to the engine, and installed a new back axle all for $1,200. The restored Avery threshed at the Farm Progress Show, and, according to the May/June 1963 Album, from September 14 to 16, 1962, it powered Otto Klutzke's Prony brake during the Home Hospital Fair, a fund-raising event held in Lafayette, Indiana, by the Illiana steam club. Glen helped to lead the Illiana organization; on April 29, 1956, he was elected Secretary/Treasurer of the association (see July/August 1956 Album). Today, Dennis Christiansen of Peotone, Illinois, owns the Avery.
When more experienced members of the steam fraternity reminisce, newer members occasionally call their anecdotes "war stories." Glen, however, has plenty of authentic, hair-raising war stories to tell. Captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, Glen was being transported by boxcar from one prisoner-of-war camp to another. It was Christmas Eve, 1944. RAF pilots began to bomb the area. The German guards and the American prisoners scattered. Suddenly, Glen heard the shriek of a missile hurtling toward him. Instinctively, he hit the ground. Along with the blast behind him came a concussion of the soil beneath his stomach. When he regained his wind, he looked back. 'Thirteen of my buddies were lying dead around the crater,' Glen said, staring to one side, as though he could still see them.
"I went to a bunker, but it was filled with German civilians. I knew they'd kill me, once everything died down. So I got out of there and went to the crest of a hill. Albert Olschig [another prisoner] spoke German fluently. I wanted him to take off with me. Many of the German people were sympathetic with escaped prisoners, if you could get them away from the other Germans Hitler planted on every block. But Albert didn't want to take any unnecessary chances. He had a wife at home expecting a baby. I went back to the boxcar, but I discovered that our shaving kits and personal belongings had been stolen. I walked up to the locomotive. That engineer obviously had orders to stay by his train no matter what. He'd been in that engine all night during the bombing raid."
In broken German, Glen asked for hot water. "The engineer stuck the hose out of the window and filled my helmet." Glen had first scrubbed the helmet with clean dirt, for it had been put to hygienic purposes in the boxcar. "I washed my face." Again, Glen asked for hot water, and, a second time, the engineer filled the helmet. "I drank out of it that time. That was the first water I'd had in three days."
Glen continued, "By about daylight, a German officer rounded us up and marched us up a mile away." Glen was still a prisoner.
Years later, Don Bowman, a minister who had come to serve the Pine Village Methodist Church, was talking with Glen, and they discovered that they were on the same boxcar that night in 1944.
At Lukenwalde much later, the prisoners learned that the Russians were coming to liberate the camp. The German officers and guards said that they planned to spread out to the perimeter of the compound to set up their defenses. If the Russians were not to show up or were beaten back, the Germans would return to the camp. "They told us that, if they found we had a gun, they were going to shoot a hundred of us," Glen said. After the Germans left, some American prisoners disposed of a German shotgun by dropping it down a privy.
While the Germans were away, one of the prisoners found a box of records in the office and brought it back to the barracks. Glen knelt beside it, thumbed through the files, and pulled out his own German prisoner-of-war record, which he has to this day.
The Russians accomplished their objective, and Glen eventually returned to the United States to savor the peace that followed the war.
His war time experiences had taught him, to paraphrase the motto of the United States Army Service Forces, that the difficult he could do immediately but that the impossible took a little longer sound advice for anyone intending to restore as many engines as Glen has put into preservation.
Glen was in the forefront of the steam hobby early on and shared information with other collectors who, by now, are legendary. Harold Ottaway of Wichita, Kansas, told Glen that a titanic 40/140-horse-power Reeves traction engine was located in Julesburg, Colorado. Two or three years later, Harold said to Glen, 'I was just through Julesburg again. That one got junked.' Glen, however, knew where another 40/140 was to be found, and he passed that fact along to brothers Ray and Ed Smolik, who wound up buying the much-sought-after Reeves. Glen commented, "Windy Stingle said that the 40/140 was the largest traction engine that could be hauled on a railroad flatcar."
Once, Ed and Ray Smolik, Justin Hingtgen, and Glen made a wintry trip to Canada to pick up an engine and parts. Glen said, "We were close to Hudson Bay Junction. We unloaded Justin's ton-and-a-half pickup from his lowboy. It was so cold that we had to use heater plugs to get the trucks to start in the morning. Ed and I took off with the pickup. Justin and Ray were going to load a thirty-six Rumely somewhere else. Ed and I had to scoop snow to get in to the farmer's place, there on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border. The farmer had four-hundred head of cattle. He was feeding them sheaves of oats. It was twenty or thirty below zero. The Smoliks had bought that farmer's 110 Case to part out. Its firebox had swollen from being frozen. The farmer's stock tanks were the 110 Case driver wheels with cement poured around them. In its day, the engine had been used to power an irrigation system. A three-cornered area there in Canada was short on rainfall most of the time, so they told us."
Glen continued, "After we got the truck loaded, the farmer says, 'I think you can get across the river on the ice.' I went ahead of Ed Smolik, who was driving the truck across the Saskatoon River, and I was tapping the ice with a scoop."
On another occasion, Glen and Justin Hingtgen went to the West to close a deal on a 30-horsepower under mounted Avery owned by a farmer. Justin wanted the extension rims, and Glen wanted the engine. Justin and Glen arrived at their destination, ready to load. The farmer looked at Justin and said, "I thought you were dead." Justin was taken aback. "I already sold the Avery," the farmer continued. "A man came here to look at it, and, when I told him you were going to buy it, he told me you were dead. I figured you weren't coming back, so I sold it to him."
Glen did not allow his frustration and disappointment at losing the 30 Avery to dampen his enthusiasm for Avery engines. Once, he drove to Ponca City, Oklahoma, to see a 40-horsepower Avery under mounted on a butt-strap boiler. He was surprised to discover that there was not much difference between a 30 and a 40 Avery.
It was nicer weather when, on a Sunday morning after church services, Glen drove to Rockville, Indiana, to see an engine beside a jailhouse. The 23-90 Baker traction engine, serial number 17313, built in 1923, was used as an emergency heating plant for the jail. Glen looked in the firebox and found a blister there. Back in Pine Village, Glen told Windy Stingle about the engine, and Windy "went down and bought it." The Baker had a Reeves flywheel on it. Windy parked the engine beside Tony Arrigo's blacksmith shop, where Windy planned to have the boiler retubed and other work done. The engine rested there for years. Meanwhile, Windy traded the steam gauge and whistle to Al New. Later, Alvin Kline of Millersburg, Ohio, acquired the engine. At the recent Kline auction, the Reeves flywheel was sold. The engine is now owned by Ray Miller of Dundee, Ohio.
Despite the attractions of Baker, Avery, and Reeves engines, Glen's passion was for Case equipment. Perhaps that love began when a young Glen met a Case representative who came to see Glen's father's invention. "According to Purdue University," Glen said, "my father was the first man in the United States to successfully bale hay out of the windrow." Arba Brutus "took the baler to the hay instead of bringing the hay to the baler." Glen's father placed a Model T Ford engine in the center of his new machine. "I went with my father to Indianapolis to have sprockets made for an over-running clutch," Glen remembered.
In 1929, the famous photographer J. C. Allen, who often snapped pictures on the Brutus property, made a special trip to capture Arba's device on film. In 1995, the photograph was reproduced on page 142 of Farming Comes of Age: The Remarkable Photographs of J. C. Allen & Son (Farm Progress Companies and Harmony House Publishers). In the photo, Don Gephart is on the baler, and John Cooper is on the tractor. "You had to be a good judge of the moisture content in the hay before you could bale hay straight from the windrow," Glen commented. "That was a new thing to have to consider and learn."
The Case man who visited the Brutus farm studied Arba's machine carefully. If the Brutus baler worked as well as rumor had it, Case intended to put a similar implement on the market. Indeed, Case soon was marketing a pick-up balerand Glen was developing a fascination for Case equipment.
In much the same way that the Wisconsin eagle Old Abe evoked cheers from veterans of the Civil War, the steam engines bearing the trademark of Old Abe inspired World War II veteran Glen Brutus. He avidly collected Case steamers and preserved many for the edification and appreciation of future generations.
The following people deserve thanks for contributing to this article: Pete Burno, Kim Besecker, Clarence Black, Glen J. Brutus, John Edris, Ron Gruenke, Lyle Hoffmaster, Ken Hough, K. R. Hough, Leo Mann, Marilyn Mann, Keith Mauzy, John McDowell, Al New, Ron Pieper, Joseph C. Rhode, Herb Smith, and Calvin Whitaker.