Elmer Gray Steams Up


| September/October 1989



The following story by Ronald J. Rice is reprinted with permission from the Great Falls, Montana Tribune. The photo on the back cover is of Elmer Gray, and the article originally appeared June 4,1987.

Sunday was 'steam up' day on the Gray Ranch on Little Belt Creek and friends came from miles around to watch 81-year-old Elmer Gray build a head of steam in the boiler of his one-fourth size model of a Case 65 tractor.

It was almost as much fun watching Gray stoke the fire box with dried chokecherry wood, monitor the gauges and check the fittings on his black, brass, green, red and silver tractor as it was to watch him run it.

Martha and Carl Mehmke, who have the Mehmke Steam Museum on US 87-89 between Great Falls and Belt, were among those attending the afternoon 'steam up' at the Gray Ranch, which is on Ewing Lane northeast of Belt. Rains had washed down the area during the morning.

When Elmer was asked if it was his toy, he answered, with a grin, 'Oh, it's worse than that. I was down in Stanford and I saw one of these. It was a two-inch (to the foot) scale model and it could pull two men so I decided I would build one which was three-inch scale.'

That decision was reached nearly 30 years ago. It was on July 16,1959, that Elmer went to the Great Falls Iron Works and purchased the material for the boiler. The Iron Works rolled the wrapper sheet and fire box sheet and cut the eight-inch piece of well casing to fit the length of the boiler barrel.