Second Chance: Case Steam Tractor Restoration

The Fisher family of Redland, OR initially declined when the author offered to restore their Case steam tractor in the mid-1980s. Twenty years later he got his wish.

| March 2005

In 1984, when I was 17 years old and getting interested in steam, I was told that the Fischer Mill Supply outside of Redland, OR, had a steam engine, so I went out there to see if it was true. It was.

I went into the sales office and asked if I could have a look, and I found this Case steam tractor. Although I knew a bit about boilers and basic steam engines, I didn't know anything about operating or restoring a traction engine. I had a little experience working on steam locomotives, so I wanted to give it a shot. I went to the owner, Gene Fischer, and asked if I could help restore it or even buy it — okay, I was dreaming. Gene said, "no" because I did not even know what I was looking at. Disappointed, I left and forgot about it.

Later that year, I joined the Western Steam Fiends at Antique Powerland in Brooks, Ore., home of the Great Oregon Steam-Up, and I learned as much as I could about steam tractors, boilers and stationary engines.

Years went by and life changed. I moved out of state for a couple of years, then moved back in 1992. In 2001 I went back to the mill to see if the engine was still there. It was right where I remembered it, so once again I asked Gene Fischer if I could restore the engine. This time he smiled, and told me to see Dean, his son, who had taken over ownership.

I went to see Dean, and we talked a while about what I knew about steam tractors and tractor restoration. Dean asked me to come back in a week so he could think about it, as he had just received an offer for it. A week later, he told me I could start working on it.

In March 2001, I removed the jacket and checked the boiler. It was in good shape and hydro tested to 150 psi. I replaced the plumbing and inspected the cylinders. The smokebox door was split in two and had steel straps holding it together, so I had Silverton Foundry in Silverton, OR, sand cast a new one as well as a few other parts. I had never seen a tandem compound before, so I started researching and found a reprint of an owner's manual and obtained drawings from the Case Heritage Foundation.