Dreamland Museum: The Late Oscar O. Cooke’s Amazing Steam Engine Collection

Collector prized Best 110 HP, rebuilt Rumely Oilpull prototype

| Fall 2006

  • 1910_Olmstead-25-50HP_tractor
    A 1910 Olmstead 25-50 HP tractor makes a nice prop as Oscar Cooke poses for a photo.
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    Oscar Cooke's oil-fired Best steam engine.
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    A Holt track-type tractor and Oscar Cooke pause for a photo together.
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    A 16 HP Reeves steam engine at the entry to Oscar Cooke's museum.
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    Some of the old equipment in one of Oscar Cooke's tractor sheds.
  • 20HP_Reeves-cross-compound
    Oscar Cooke's operable 20 HP Reeves cross-compound engine. It was actually quite a late Reeves engine.
  • Huber-return-flue-engine
    The little Huber return flue engine that houses the ashes of the late Oscar O. Cooke, in Cooke Cemetery.
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    Oscar Cooke proudly stands beside what was likely his toughest and most costly project: Kerosene Annie.
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    Steam traction engines in action at Oscar's Dreamland.
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    A scene from the showcase of antique agricultural equipment that was Oscar's Dreamland Antique Farm Show.
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    Oscar O. Cooke billed his collection as "The World's Largest Antique Agricultural Equipment Collection."
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    At the parades at Oscar's Dreamland, Oscar O. Cooke's engine was always the Best steam engine. Many of his 300-some tractors also participated.
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    Raising steam at Oscar's Dreamland.
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    There was no shortage of old iron on display at Oscar's get-togethers.
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    Oscar Cooke's steam engine collection and thorough threshing productions attracted crowds at the Dreamland Museum.
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    Another snapshot from Oscar's Dreamland, an appropriately named museum for anyone interested in antique steam engines.
  • Ad-Oscar
    An auction announcement promised that nearly 2,000 items would be sold at Oscar's Dreamland.

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  • Ad-Oscar

Oscar O. Cooke owned a unique collection of steam engines, which he turned into Oscar’s Dreamland Museum, near the Yellowstone River south of Billings, Mont. At his shows, the threshing demonstrations were thorough productions, and the parades were no less spectacular. Cooke always led the parade with his oil-fired Best 110 HP steam engine, and the 300-some tractors on display were his own. Among the items in his collection was a 20 HP Reeves cross-compound, and a prototype of the famed Rumely OilPull tractor. This is Cooke’s story, and images from his stunning collection.

I was a young man the first time I visited Oscar’s Dreamland Museum near the Yellowstone River south of Billings, Mont. The late Max Tyler insisted I needed to go out and meet Oscar Cooke the next time I was in Billings. Oscar owned a bunch of crawler-type tractors, and although Max had been a real steam man from the original steam era, his real love later in life became “Cats.” Both men had their Holts, Bests, Caterpillars, Monarchs, Allis-Chalmers and Cletracs, and Oscar even had McCormick-Deerings. Max wouldn’t own one, as he’d grown up running Cats while in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and had his personal reasons for disliking them.

I ventured out to meet Oscar the next time Sharon, my wife, and I went to Billings. Cooke had just opened his museum to the public in 1968. I was very pleased to see a huge old Corliss engine out front that once powered the Great Western Sugar Co. in Billings greeting the public.

I remember seeing this 16-foot (I believe) flywheel engine in operation at “the Sugar Factory” in my boyhood. I remember walking into Oscar’s shop, where he was working on a small, steel-wheeled gas tractor. I sort of felt like an unneeded interruption, as my age didn’t quite qualify me as anything but another “question asker.” I soon turned our conversation to my love and ability with steam traction engines. Oscar came right to life. After checking me out a little further, Oscar insisted I needed to become part of his engine crew for his shows. He set down his wrenches, cleaned his hands and insisted on taking me around his museum on a personal tour.



I don’t recall the size of the three (red, white and blue) sheds at Oscar’s Dreamland, but they must have been close to 75-foot-by-150-foot or possibly larger. Some had lean-to roof extensions on the outside, where he stored his steam traction engines. It was phenomenal the amount of equipment he stored inside. One building was pretty much filled with huge prairie-type gas tractors. Another was filled with smaller tractors and the third was a mixture of antique aircraft, antique automobiles and other memorabilia, at that time.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was when we passed by the scrap iron pile and the remnants of his “Kerosene Annie,” the prototype of the famed Rumely OilPull tractor. She lacked so much. There were massive amounts missing – gearing, steering gear, engine parts, and it looked completely hopeless to me.