A Minnesota Family's History with Steam Engines

Dwight Boomgaarden recalls the role steam engines have played on his family through the years.

| January/February 2000

Steam has been a part of my family for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Ellsworth, a small town in southwest Minnesota. One of my first memories of my uncle's 80 HP Case was of my father (George) and uncle (Jake) changing the valve from a slide to a balanced one. However, the history of steam in the family actually started with my grandfather. He was one of the early ones to be licensed to operate a boiler under the state of Minnesota laws. He had several engines, both steam and gas. He used those for threshing runs and grading roads around Ellsworth. He passed away at an early age, when my father was very young. My Uncle Jake raised my father and taught him most of what he knew about life and of course, steam.

Jake's 80 was well recognized in the local area. We ran it in parades up and down the main streets of just about every town within a 50-mile radius. Many of the times we would make a spectacle of it by pulling the water tank and the separator behind it. Instead of trucking, we would drive it to the neighboring towns. My cousin Gary, brothers Allen and Randy, and I would switch back and forth from driver to engineer.

The engineer got to be the showman, always adjusting and oiling something whether it needed it or not. These "adjustments" happened more frequently when there were onlookers.

In the meantime, our family had moved to a small farm in Florence, another small Minnesota town 55 miles from Ellsworth. On three different occasions, we made the two-day trip on the 80. When it was close to dark, we would stay overnight in some farmer's yard. We held yearly threshing bees on our farm and these became a focal point for the town of Florence and for our family, which by this time was scattered across this country from coast to coast.

In 1975, my dad purchased a 40 HP Case #10160 from Swede Ageson in Lester, Iowa. On August 2nd, 1975, Mona and I were married. The next day was also the last time the 80 would thresh in Florence. The 80 was sold, and after some much needed repair work, was on display at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show for several years. It was sold a couple more times after that and I no longer know where it is.

The 40 HP boiler had major damage to it. The front flue sheet was bulged, the crown sheet was pushed down. Half of the stay bolts were pulled out of the sheets, but we had a steam engine. With little money but big hopes, we knew that somehow Dad would find a way to get a boiler.

Gail Richardson
7/10/2009 6:04:31 PM

Hi, I am just checking comments