Maynard's Last Old Steam Engine Ride

Honoring Maynard Westgaard with a final ride on a restored Case steam tractor

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Maynard Westgaard (MD) from Bemidji, Minn., kept his hands busy working to bring old steam engines back to life with his friends. The “engineering team” fondly referred to one another by their initials: T.E. Thorson, A.C. Mack, M.E. Thorson, M.D. Froyd, A. M. Amundson, D. D. Tryon and M.D. Westgaard. 

In 1999, the team restored a 1921 single-cylinder, 65 hp Case steam tractor the Thorson brothers inherited from their father. The old steam engine was originally purchased new in Albany, Minn., and then sold to Iten Brothers in St. Mathias, south of Brainerd, Minn. From Iten’s, it was sold to Rudy Rudbeck of Pillager, Minn. In 1968 Ernest (Ernie) Thorson purchased the Case steam tractor, but by then the serial number tag was no longer on the old steam engine.

Maynard (MD) was the plumbing expert who bent steel pipe at precise angles for the water column, ensuring the threads were safe and secure. Precision was critical. It took MD three tries to get it just right.

The steam tractor restoration was featured on an entire page in the local Sunday paper, The Pioneer, on June 24, 2001, as “Iron Horsepower” with three colorful pictures of the gleaming old steam engine and the engineering team. They were all so proud of the tractor restoration, and deservedly so.

One wintry day in December of 2010, MD’s busy hands stopped working when he died of lung complications. The funeral was a litany of words of praise about an honest, hard-working man who would do anything for anyone. It was hard to hear all the fond remembrances with all the sniffling and crying.

Maynard’s family had one last request. They wanted the Case steam tractor at his final burial service. It would be tricky business to run an old steam engine on slippery slopes in northern Minnesota, so the decision was made to take Maynard’s ashes to the cemetery the following May.