576 Murray St. Owatonna, Minnestoa 55060
I have loved steam engines ever since I blew the whistle on one during a Labor Day parade about 20 years ago. Naturally, I thought, like most young people (I am 27) who like engines, it would be a long time before I could ever own one.
Well, in September of 1990, I went down to Glenville, Minnesota to look at a 65 HP Case steamer that I had heard was for sale. After looking it over and seeing the great condition that it was in, I decided to talk to my wife to see if she had any use for a steam engine; she had a birthday coming up and I thought it might make a dandy gift for her. Well, we decided to buy the engine and on January 12, 1991, Case steam engine #35382 was hauled from Glenville, Minnesota to Webster, Minnesota to the farm of Larry and Francis 'Butch' Malecha where the restoration was to take place. Their farm is the site of the annual Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Show every Labor Day weekend, and the permanent home of the engine.
The restoration started in January, 1991 with some re-piping and trying to free up the piston which the previous owner's son said had been stuck for years. While working on the engine, we were overjoyed to find that the crosshead slide was the culprit and not the piston, which was as shiny as a gun barrel.
One of the larger parts of the restoration was re-tubing her. I could tell that the tubes were not in the best shape when I bought her, and I was the recipient of a very cold bath when seven of them let loose when I gave it the hydro test for the first time.
I decided to replace all seven tubes and naturally had to pick the hottest, most humid day of the summer to do it! In early July, Larry and Butch Malecha, Smoky Cross and I started cutting tubes out of the engine. It was reassuring to see that the barrel and the front and rear flue sheets were all in good shape.
When this was done, Smoky and Terry Cross (a father and son duo of chief engineers), and I set at re-tubing the engine on a 98 degree day at the Malecha Brothers shop. Terry and Smoky are expert at this and they not only did a great job, but they had me doing a lot of it also, thereby learning how it was done. Their help during the retubing was invaluable in the restoration of this engine. There were only five leaky tubes when it was hydroed after the retubing, and Smoky and I were able to get those stopped right away.
The magic day came later on that week when Smoky, Larry, Verne Juaire (another friend from Faribault, Minn.) and I fired up #35382 for the first time in 20 years. I was on the platform and ran the throttle as I watched the piston move for the first time. The feeling that I had when that happened will never be duplicated if I live to be 100. We drove the engine around the yard and parked it after about an hour of getting used to it. The steamer ran smoother than 1 ever dreamed it would.
The next month was spent on the cosmetic portion of the restoration including the sand blasting and painting, which took up literally every night and weekend for five weeks. With the new paint job and the decals, #35382 was ready to show. The engine was exhibited at the J.I. Case Collector's Convention at the Le-Sueur Pioneer Power Show at Le Center, Minnesota on August 23 through 25, and also at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Show, Labor Day weekend at Webster, Minnesota. I have used it on the sawmill and for threshing.
She runs at 140 lbs. and puts out plenty of power for whatever we're doing with her. I also acquired a 1913 Case water tender in mint condition last spring, which I show with the engine. The engine and tender are absolutely my pride and joy!
I could probably sing a nice song about how hard I worked to restore my engine, or how many hours I spent or what have you, but the real credit goes to all of the previous owners. For 62 years, three previous owners took excellent care of this machine, so that other people might enjoy it today. They are all deceased but my thanks go out to them all. My thanks also go out to my friends Larry and Butch Malecha. You can't buy friends like them for a million dollars. Their equipment, tools and labor were a large part of this restoration's success. My thanks also go out to Smoky and Terry Cross of Faribault, Minnesota who helped with the re-tubing and restoration work. Finally, my thanks go out to Jim Mollenhauer and Rudy Adams of Lesueur, and Dale Leine of Lakeville, Minnesota, for their help in teaching me to be a safe engineer and for putting up with all of my stupid questions.
We are without doubt in the best hobby for meeting wonderful people that there has ever been. I have met more great people at shows this year than I thought I ever would. I met another young man my own age named Bill Thurman from Archie, Missouri, who got his Peerless and now we've already made eight hour trips to see each other's engines and shows. The people in this hobby are the greatest.
In closing, I just want to say if you are looking at buying a steam engine or dreaming about it, do it before you talk yourself out of it. Running a steamer is a feeling absolutely unlike anything else! Remember, dreams can come true!
The following text is on the sign I take with my engine to shows:
This 1922 Case steam rig is owned and operated by Gary Jones from Owatonna, Minnesota. The restoration of this engine began in January, 1991 at the Malecha Brothers farm of Webster, Minnesota. The engine is housed there year-round as it is the sight of the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Show every Labor Day weekend. Special thanks go out to my wife Judy, who cannot figure why anybody would want one of these things, but apparently likes to see crazy people happy. Also thanks go out to Larry and Francis (Butch) Malecha of Webster, and Smoky and Terry Cross of Faribault without whose help this project would not have been possible. The one single thing that I love more than anything else about steam engines is the fact that they work exactly the opposite of people. When people are young they are usually thought of as an important part of our society. When they are working they are thought of as important and then as they get older they are kind of taken for granted, the knowledge they have is often not wanted. Then they are usually taken for granted more and more as they age until their years catch up with them and they die.
With a steam engine it works completely opposite. When it was made it was merely a tool for work. It was a nice piece of machinery and was treated as such. Nobody thought any more of this back then than they would of a piece of construction equipment today. Then as they started to put on a few years there were fewer and fewer of them. Then World War II came along and claimed many more of them. As the years came and went, instead of being taken for granted they became more and more sought after until now, when they are virtually priceless, and with proper care they will last forever. I have more friends over 75 years old than I can count and even though they won't last forever, they are priceless to me!
Don't even ask if it's for sale, if you could step back to 1922 for a day at a time, would you sell the ability to do that?
This 1922 Case steamer and the 1913 Case water tender are proudly exhibited in memory of the owner's grandparents, Henry and Lillian Matzke and William and Isabella Jones, all of rural Owatonna. This is in honor of them.