My earliest Recollection of steam engines dates back to 1901 and a little return flue Avery that to me was the wonder of wonders as it was the only machine in our locality in those days capable of propelling itself. I was five years old and as the engineer was a friend of boys I was allowed to sit on the big drive wheel and enjoy the motion and the noise of the engine as it labored driving the old wooden separator with its web straw stacker, how I wished our threshing job could last longer, but in a couple of days the grand old machine pulled away and that was the end until another harvest came along.
Then in 1907 our thresher man bought a new 30hp. Case engine that was about the most wonderful sight I ever saw, with its gleaming paint and shiny brass, and the ease with which it did its work was amazing. I can shut my eyes and see that engine as plain as though it were only yesterday that I was mounted on the driver plying my old engineer friend with a thousand and one questions which he patiently answered and he also taught me to close the throttle if he were not close by and anything went wrong, and a little later he taught me how to start the engine. He also let me guide the engine while traveling from one field to the next.
I recall one hot afternoon as I was perched on my accustomed seat, I thought what a grand thing it would be if it were possible to have a small engine just like this big one that could be steamed up and run any time that I took the notion, but of course that was only a dream and could never be.
Mr. Hafer says, 'I am most interested in the Model Builders section as I have built two Model steam engines. One a small Case, 36 inches long and 15 inches high. It runs fine but is too small to suit me, so I built the one in the picture. Here are the specifications Rear wheels 30 in. diameter 10 in. rim; front wheels 20 in. diameter 4 in. rim; flywheel fifteen in. diameter four and one half rim; crank wheel 9 in. diameter 1 in. rim; cylinder bore 3 in. stroke 4 in. D valve coupled to Wolf reverse, tubes 22, 1 in. diameter 32 in. long, 3/8 in. injector also high pressure pump. Overall length 8 ft., height 4 feet. The engine was steamed up and running when the picture was taken also I was blowing the whistle. See Mr. Hafer's letter, 'A Boys Dream Come True'
Well, harvests came and went until I was 13 when a neighbor bought a Frick Eclipse center crank engine which he used to pull an Ottawa Cylinder corn sheller. I straight way got the job of engineer, and although I never cared much for this model of engine, I gained a lot of know-how from the experience of handling it, not to mention the financial advantages. I was paid one dollar per day and the days were plenty long. I remember coming home more than once after sundown and watching the sparks arc from the stack far out in the fields. How we ever kept from burning up the whole country I will never know. One afternoon we were merrily shelling away and a slit blew in the boiler about three inches long behind the cast rim that held the fire door to the boiler, that rim turned the hot water down so I did not get scalded, but that was the end of the old Eclipse. It was sold for junk.
When I was twenty-one I married one of the neighbor gals and started farming, owned a couple of tractors and a Case separator kept at it for over twenty years, then sold out and started a machine shop in Aurora, Nebraska, which is the county seat of Hamilton County, the place where I was born and have lived ever since. In this shop I have 2 welders, three lathes, 3 drills, 1 milling machine and one shaper what better place could one ask for than this to build a small steam engine? So I started hounding junk yards and scrap piles for material that could be made over into parts for my little steamer.
After one and one half years this picture shows the result, a model 8 ft. long and 4 ft. high of the old engine I used to drool over as a kid. It fires with coal and runs like a dream, and I am going to enjoy it thoroughly for the number of years I still have allotted to me.