My Very Own Engine


| September/October 1996



80 HP Case

80 HP Case owned by Rory and Marcia Esch.

7050A S. 27th Street Oak Creek, Wisconsin 53154

I guess you could say I'm just a youngster when it comes to steam engines and old farm machinery. Actually, I have been involved with this stuff for almost all of my twenty-six years of existence. My grandfather, Carl Bruss, was a big influence for me in the hobby. He had quite an extensive collection of gas engines, as well as tractors. It was with him that I started going to tractor and engine shows back in the Seventies. I was always fascinated with the big gas tractors, and especially those big fire-breathing steam engines. Over the next twenty years our family became heavily involved in the hobby of collecting old tractors. With the help of my grandfather, dad, and brother, we have restored several tractors and engines with names such as Allis, Oliver, Case, Silver King, Centaur and Haas, just to name a few. There was only one problem I still had a very strong desire to own a steam engine.

In 1992 I became good friends with another youngster in the hobby by the name of Dean Meissner. Dean was much like myself, in his mid-twenties with a great desire to own a steam engine. Dean had the one thing that I didn't have yet and that was the knowledge of how to handle a steam engine. It was through Dean that I was able to get to know some of the people involved with the steam hobby, and had the opportunity to get behind the controls of some of these monsters.

It was at one of the late summer shows of 1992 that Dean and I were talking about steam engines, and he suggested that we should pool our money together and buy an engine. My eyes immediately lit up, and I said, 'Sure.' After all, this would be the perfect opportunity for me. You can always use an extra set of hands when running an engine, and best of all, the cost of buying and restoring the engine would be split in half. As the winter of 1992-93 progressed, we kept our eyes and ears open for any leads on engines.

Dean had remembered a 50 HP Case near Oshkosh, Wisconsin, that belonged to a widow. Dean had looked at this engine prior to our partnership idea, but at that time the lady was not ready to sell. Both Dean and I had already agreed on the amount of money we would spend on a steam engine. In February of 1993, we decided to take a ride to see this engine perhaps she might be ready to sell. If nothing else, I would have the chance to see another steam engine that I had not yet seen. We spent a good part of the morning looking over the engine. We both agreed the engine was in good shape. It did, however, need some work, but it was nothing that couldn't be fixed.

We decided on a fair price for the engine and proceeded to the house to talk with the owner. At this point we were not even sure she would sell the engine. After talking with her for some time and finding out some of the history of the engine, we asked the big question. Would she be interested in selling it? She thought about it for a short time and said, to my surprise, 'I suppose. It's not doing anyone any good sitting in the shed.' Within a half hour we all agreed on a price and Dean and I became the proud owners of a 50 Case.