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

Case steam tractor - compound engine detail

Detail shot of the Case tractor’s compound engine. Case introduced compound engines in the late 1890s, but dropped them after about 1910.

David R. Long

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.