931 Robin Road, Blackwell, Oklahoma 74631
In the November/December 1996 Iron Men Album was a
letter from Ken Hough of Valparaiso, Indiana regarding dress of
steam engineers at the shows, and this Chady Atteberry article is a
follow up on this topic. It is reprinted with permission from
The Heritage Eagle 28.
Not many people have the privilege of reenacting history by
operating a steam engine at a public show. Authenticity is
important to show people how work used to be done. I don’t like
to see a modern day engineer dress in shorts, tennis shoes and a
baseball cap at a show. He looks out of place to say the least. It
is like seeing a play about Abraham Lincoln with the actor dressed
in shorts with a bright colored T-shirt.
For the most part, at our show, we encourage our engineers to
dress more like the thresher men and farmers did in the years when
the engines were used and steam was king. This not only improves
the show but helps to preserve our heritage. Also, needless to say,
rubber-soled shoes and bare legs aren’t safe around a firebox
While at Irricana, I saw a young man who was wearing overalls
and an English-type cap. He was running a 65 Case. This young man
impressed me. I believe his name was Gary Kvill or maybe it was
Jim. (Like a fellow told me, ‘When you get a little over the
hill you spend half your time looking for a restroom and the other
half of your time trying to remember someone’s name.’)
I’d like to encourage engineers to do the same at other
shows. Dress for safety and for authenticity.
Explaining Big Mac’s Letter
I’ve enclosed a letter written to me on October 11, 1954,
from Big Mac McMillan. I know you fellows who knew Mac will enjoy
it and you younger people who didn’t know Mac can get some idea
of the way he wrote and talked. In the early Fifties, many times, I
received two letters a week from Mac.
I’ll fill you in on some things he mentioned in his letter
so you can better understand it.
Mac speaks of the Berling 65 and Lyle Timberlake. The Berling 65
was at the early Bird City, Kansas, show. She had extension rims
and was a top engine. This was the main plow engine on the
12-bottom plow. Lyle Timberlake was a wonderful steam friend from
Illinois. It seems strange when you can name a lot of Case,
Russell, Advance, etc. fans. I know there must be strong
Minneapolis fans up north. They were fine old engines always had a
soft spot in my heart for a Minneapolis.
Mac liked compound engines, in fact he was very high on them as
you can tell. Of course Mac liked simple engines also and owned
several, all Case.
There could be a mistake in the figures Mac gave on Case engine
specifications, but I doubt it. I am sure Mac was doing just what
he said, writing this letter and recalling the specifications from
his head. I have never known anyone that had even close to the
knowledge Mac had about Case engines.
Thomas Stebritz of Algona, Iowa, once told me that Mac stopped
by to visit him and his dad. Tom is a Gaar Scott fan, but has
outstanding knowledge of all makes. In their conversation, Tom
mentioned that a certain Gaar Scott had a certain specification I
don’t remember what part they were talking about. Mac said, no,
it was a different figure. Tom told me that he was the Gaar Scott
man so he would get the catalog and prove to Mac he was right. When
he looked it up, Mac was right. Like Lyman Knapp said, ‘You
didn’t often catch Mac off base.’
Mac mentions H.I.O. That’s Harold Ottaway from Wichita,
Kansas. Harold’s 110 is now at Crosby, North Dakota.
Mac mentions putting his Elgin Watch 40 up on blocks. In those
days, few of us had the nice steel buildings we now use to store
engines. In our state 98 percent of the engines are stored inside
today. Forty years ago very few were stored in a building. Times
have changed. It was in the late Forties when I first met Mac.
Lyman Knapp and I stopped at Mac’s house at 564 West Broadway,
Hoisington, Kansas. We were driving a 1935 Studebaker.
Notice that Mac had two 40-horse Case engines#31393 was the
incline engine that has a double-row, riveted, butt-strap boiler
and his lap joint small-boilered 40, #31697. Note that the
small-boilered engine is a later number than the butt strap. I
think most of you know that the late 40-horse engines had triple
riveted butt-strap boilers.
Also during that period, we did most of our restoring out under
an elm tree. We didn’t have the nice big machine shops of
today, or the money to restore engines.
Mac speaks of the old fellow in Arkansas. Lyman Knapp and I were
in the heart of the Arkansas hills. We had gone after a wooden,
hand-fed separator and were driving Lyman’s 1936 Chevy farm
truck. We saw a man along the little narrow blacktop road with
several coon dogs, so we stopped and asked if he knew of any steam
engines in the area. The man told us his brother had a steam
engine, but he couldn’t tell us where his brother lived. He did
give us directions as to where we should turn off the road and ask
directions. I remember we turned off the main road and headed east.
We soon came to a farm house a lady was in the front yard so we
stopped to ask directions. The lady called to her husband to come
out and give us directions to Uncle Bill’s house.
When they fired up on a weekend during the Fifties, this is
about the way people dressed. The engine is a 15 HP Case. Picture
taken at Spearville, Kansas September 1985. I think all the men on
the ground and the man on footboard are the. Slattery brothers.
Their father purchased an 80 Case new and I think it’s still in
the family. Big Mac on engine. The Slatterys greatly supported me
when I was running the 75 Case in the hotly contested brake tests
at Wichita in 1953.
The husband said, ‘Go straight ahead two hollers and take
the fork to the right. You’ll come to a small creek that you
can ford. After crossing the creek, take the next fork to the right
and that will lead you to Uncle Bill’s house.’ We did like
the fellow told us and found a house on a very steep hill. The
porch was head high to have the house level. A very old man came
out. It was almost dark. We asked about the engine. He said he had
one up the holler a ways. He said, ‘I’ll get a
lantern.’ We followed him up the holler with our two
flashlights. By this time it was dark. There sat a small boiler 40
Case on the mill. A small stream was just to the left of the left
drive wheel. The injector was plumbed into the stream.
To me there is something very special about finding and seeing
an engine in her work clothes in this setting. It must be something
like heaven. I know we had to be very close to God that night.
When you see an engine painted up and shining like a new one at
our steam shows, it’s not nearly as impressive as this little
gal in her natural habitat, where she had served her master well
and faithful so many years.
In the hill country people don’t take right off with
strangers. The old fellow said, ‘Normally I am leery of
strangers, but I could tell you boys were okay.’ He knew that
two strangers wearing overalls, shop caps and driving a 1936 Chevy
truck must be okay.
Mac mentioned the old fellows like his 40 Case better than his
Russell. He claimed the Russell used a lot more fuel. Of course I
enjoyed this as Lyman was the Russell man. Like Mac said, something
was wrong with the valve and rings because we all know a Russell is
Mac mentioned Professor Vaden Stroud. He was one of our steam
buddies and a director of the early Wichita show. The Professor has
passed on to his reward.
Excerpts from the letter from E. C. ‘Big Mac’
October 11, 1954
‘Your nice letter telling me all about the trip to Arkansas
duly received and read through three or four times.
‘Am truly sorry to hear of Lyle Timberlake’s passing. I
thought he was a fine fellow. He run the Case 65 the first day
plowing. (Berling Engine), and I run it in the second day. Ed
Nelson run it the last day.
‘So you saw a good Case 75 there at Sulphur Springs, too.
That is nice, would have liked to have seen it too. I like Case
steam engines. Did you suspect that? According to my records this
engine #26271 was a 75 HP compound traction. It wasn’t a
compound yet was it? Suppose if it had been, you would have noticed
it and mentioned it. Of course, it being quite an old engine in a
sense, it could have been converted to a simple subsequent to its
leaving the factory. They were building quite a few compounds yet
at that time especially the 75s. However, some birds that
didn’t know much about engines in general and compounds in
particular didn’t like a compound and so some of them converted
them to simples. Very foolish thing to do. We converted a little 12
HP simple to a compound with very gratifying results.
‘I would like to have a good Case 80 HP compound. I notice
that you say it has a balanced valve of some type. Could this be
one of those Baker piston-valve conversions that the Baker Valve
Company built to convert Woolf compounds to simples with the Baker
Valve as the main part of the conversion? Leroy Blaker has one in
one of his Port Huron Long fellows. (24 HP) You know this would
really give a Case 75 a good deal of power. In fact it would be
entirely too much power for its small crankpin and crankshaft which
were really too small even for the regular 11′ x 11′ simple
cylinder or the regular 9′ x 13’ compound. Too bad they
didn’t at least have as large a shaft and pin as the 65s. Same
size crankshaft as the 50. Only 37/16‘
and the same size pin, 2’ diameters but about ‘ longer than
the 50 and all other engines below the 65. The 65 has a
311/16‘ crankshaft and a 2′ x 3’
crankpin, and the 80s except prior to #26641 (which have the same
crankshaft and pin as the 75s) have a
315/16‘ crankshaft and a crankpin of
3′ diameter by about 3′ long. The 110s prior to either
#27319 or #27646 had a 3′ x 3’ crankpin. The 110 has always
had, as far as I know anyhow, a 43/16‘
crankshaft. The Road Locomotive had a
45/8‘ crankshaft but I don’t know how
large the crankpin was on them. Am quite sure that the R. L. only
had a 315/16‘ countershaft and that was
what the first 110s used, but didn’t use it after 1907 as they
say in the repair catalog. They term it the 4’ countershaft but
the chart in the repair catalog gives it as definitely
315/16‘. The 110 always had the 6′
rear axle and the R. L. had a 7′ rear axle. The crankpins on
all the smaller engines below the 65 are 2 x 2’ except the
little 18 HP portable which is 17/8‘
diameter I believe. The first few 75 prior to #9490 had the same
size crankshaft and pin as the 45 and 60. A
33/16‘ shaft and they also had only a
33/16‘ countershaft and had the same
connecting rod and crosshead and the
17/16‘ piston rod. After #9490 they had
the same sizes as now, 37/16‘ crankshaft
and also same for countershaft. Much better. Also had the longer
connecting rod and longer crankpin and the
19/16‘ piston rod. But like I say, it
would have been lots better if they had had them the size that the
The late 110s like H.I.O.’s has a 3′ x 3′ crankpin,
and after 1907 they all had a 47/8‘
countershaft. I am giving you all this dope without looking in a
catalog or anything either. Wish you had time to spend a good long
time with me and we would go over the Case catalog etc. and also
the repair catalogs. One can glean lots of very good information
from them. However I would like to have the famous ‘Big
Books,’ that the Case Company has there at Racine. Could put in
months going over and through them. Of course I know quite a bit
about the Case side crank, spring-mounted steam traction engine,
but there are still some things that I would like to know that I
‘I have been writing somewhat in general about Case engines,
but will now write a little about one particular engine that is the
most famous of all. It is known as the ‘Elgin Watch Case
40,’ #31393. I had it fired up yesterday, up and down the alley
a few times, took a few kids a ride and then backed it into its
stall and got it up on some old pieces of planks to keep the wheels
out of the ground. Surely too bad that such a famous and good
engine doesn’t have a good, clean, tight shed to be kept in.
Ought to have for any engine and especially any Case engine for
that matter. I had some kindling in the shop that I had been
wanting to get rid of for quite a while anyway and some wood piled
outside and it was fairly dry too, so I did n’ t have to use
any coal. Think I have about 25 lbs. of coal but will save it for
another fire-up, as well as some more wood, and want to fire up the
45 HP compound before long and move it a little out of the dirt as
much as I can. Also would like to get the heater and some of the
valves and pipes on the little 40 #31697 and fire it up and get it
up out of the ground. (It has settled down about 5′ or 6′
in the two or three years it has been sitting there.) Also want to
wash its boiler as I never have washed it yet. I need a good pump
so bad and also a tank, but guess I could use the tank that came
with the little 40. If I had a good pump that would put on at least
50 or 60 lbs. pressure75 would probably be better. Might use 100
lbs., but 50 or 60 would be pretty good if it would maintain that
with the regular Case washout nozzle which has nearly a
3/8‘ hole in it.
‘Am planning to work a little on my old Case 50, #31890 next
trip in, if the weather is fit. The wind has nearly torn the cab
off of it. The wood part is getting so rotten it won’t hold the
nails any more. I will take it off and may replace it with the cab
that is now on the little 40 as it is too long for the engine with
this little short boiler anyhow, or may try to put in some new wood
parts and put the same one back on. Then when we have the cab off,
we will remove the crankshaft and eccentric strap and try to fit it
up good so it too, will run ‘smooth and quiet, like an Elgin
Watch.’ That is the way Joe May described the way his 50 ran so
I wanted my 40, #31393 to run the same way so fixed it up to do so,
hence the ‘Elgin Watch’ name.
Looks like an early Case outfit. These early pictures are
interesting to study. I bet the man standing by the left drive
wheel is the boss. The auto I am guessing is a two cylinder. It has
no windshield or front doors.
‘Have had the old rocker arm pin removed and a new one made
and the arm bored out, but don’t have it in yet. Sure wish I
had you to help me on these jobs. We could surely fix up some other
pins and bushings in the valve gear so it should make it pretty
good in that respect.
‘I had the piston out and the rings seem good yet and want
to take the valve out and examine it, too, before I use it again.
Before I tore it down it had over lost motion between the eccentric
and the valve. That is, I could take hold of the valve rod and move
it back and forth lengthwise over ‘ with the engine standing
still, yet I pulled eight 14’ moldboard plows with it in 1951
so if I get it all fixed up it should do it easily and with less
fuel and water and not rattle so much in the valve gear either.
‘So the old gentleman down in Arkansas had a nice little
Case 40 and likes it better than a Russell. Tsk. Tsk. Too bad he
had to tell Lyman that. I, too, thought the 16 HP Russell is a good
engine. Well, I don’t know about the valve. I didn’t think
they had much trouble with the Giddings valve that Russell used and
they do certainly work nice and easy and with the double ports. You
know that these Russells are mighty powerful. Surely with fairly
good water and proper lubrication one should have little difficulty
with the valve on a Russell engine. Maybe someone had run that 16
HP Russell without oil or with very poor oil and cut the valve.
Surely it shouldn’t use two tanks more H-2-0 than a Case, per
day, unless something was badly wrong with it.
‘Is this director’s meeting definitely set for October
23, or 24? Where will it be held? Expect it should be at Wichita
this time as we have had it at the Prof’s farm two or three
times now and should not have it the same place every time. I want
to be there if I can reasonably. Had a letter from Stroud recently
and I think he still wants to have the reunion in August. Well I
don’t, and I so wrote him. He could get off from his school
Saturday and Sunday and wouldn’t have to do the PA job and
could run an engine and have a better time than the way it has been
and would not be so hot on him or anyone else. If we don’t
change it and it is hot again one more year, it will just about be
the end of our reunions. Several people have told me that they
could not stand it, and didn’t expect to ever go again if it
was so hot, and why didn’t we have it later in the year when it
was cooler? I had to agree with them too, Anyhow I don’t know
of anyone else that wants to have it in August anymore. And we
can’t punish ourselves and the people that want to, and do
come, to see it just on account of one man even if he is the
As Ever, McCase.