My Hobbies Especially Steam

| November/December 1973

  • Steam engine
    My latest edition of a steam engine. It is a 1/2 scale model of a 65 Case. I spent over two and a half years of spare time in its making. Courtesy of Sig Bakke, Adams, North Dakota 85210
    Sig Bakke

  • Steam engine

North Dakota 58210

My interest in steam engines dates back to early childhood. My first attempt at one was when I was about 14 years old and that's over 50 years ago now. This was quite a crude affair but at the time, it fascinated me immensely. It was a stationary engine. I started by building it on a board 2' x 12' x 18' long. Being very simple it consisted of a fly-wheel, crankshaft, eccentric, cylinder, and a couple of petcocks. A three foot long copper pipe connected the cylinder to a one gallon oil can placed in the forge. My first few attempts at getting it going were futile - the fly wheel being too small, it wouldn't carry over, as steam was fed to the front end of the cylinder only. By replacing the flywheel with a bigger one, I thought it would carry over, which it did and my hopes were renewed. I pumped the forge bellows to get more steam. It made a few puffs under its own power and I was up on cloud nine for a few seconds and then with a big bang everything became dark in the shop with coal dust and rubble. After the dust settled, I found out that my oil can boiler had gone dry so it had exploded and all that was left was the iron in the fireplace of the forge. Fortunately, I was not hurt. I found the remains of my engine in the far corner of the shop. Seeing the dust emerging from the shop, my mother came to investigate as to what was going on. When I told her what had happened she said in no uncertain terms, 'This is enough to this. Its time for you to get out in the field.' This was the end of my first steam engine.

Money at that time was not plentiful at our place. We were a family often so we all had to pitch in to make ends meet. Our Dad passed away when the oldest one was 15 and the youngest about five. Grain prices in the thirties besides drought didn't make farming very profitable.

I have had other hobbies over the years, the first being Ham Radio. My call is WLWX. I got my first license in 1938 and have had lots of enjoyable hours talking to people all over the U.S.A. and other countries. Amateur photography is another hobby. We have over a mile of 16mm movie film and a number of 35 mm slides taken on our travels. Later, our interest turned to antiques. We have collected antiques of all descriptions - hanging lamps, carnival and custard glass plus most anything that our forefathers used in their homes. We have an old country schoolhouse moved in to house these old time treasures. We've had visitors to see these from all over including Norway and Canada.

Steam engines always had a spot in my heart. In threshing time I would rather be close to the engine than haul bundles or grain. My interest was rekindled when my wife, Lillian, gave me the book, 'Days of Steam and Glory' by Dona Close Jennings.

On our way home from Los Angeles one winter we stopped at Murdo, S. Dakota and we went through the Museum there. Among other interesting things we saw was a 1/4 scale Case Steam Engine made by Olaf Bakke of New England, North Dakota. This made us decide to go by New England as I wanted to talk to him in person. They were very hospitable people and insisted that we stay with them overnight which we did. We discussed steam engines, etc. and had a very enjoyable visit.


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