Pat’s Steam Dream Comes True at Last

article image
The death of close friend and fellow traction engine enthusiast Jim Link at the age of 56 focused Pat's mind.

We wish to thank the Kent Messenger Group Newspapers for
their permission to reprint this article and photo, which appeared
in their Kent Today April 9, 1992.

Mechanical engineer Pat Neilson has dreamed of owning his own
steam traction engine for 20 years.

Steam is probably the most emotive form of transport and power
ask any railway enthusiast who hankers for the days before the
diesel and electric train.

The mighty traction engines which before the Second World War
repaired roads, ploughed fields and provided the power to run farm
machinery, capture the essence of steam in a form that affected
everyone’s life.

And the enormous showman’s engines, with hundreds of
decorative colored bulbs, once a regular sight slowly towing
fairground rides from one town to the next, then carrying on their
labors generating the electricity to run the rides, symbolize
bygone days of innocent childhood, even in those too young to
remember steam.

Pat, 45, who lives in Kennington, Ashford, was determined to own
a traction engine and decided on a half-scale replica.

For the past eight years he has worked on building a copy,
organizing everything from one-off foundry castings to hunting the
correct gauge metal for a perfect replica.

‘But two years ago I realized the job was probably going to
take as long again to complete and I began considering buying from
one of the specialist builders,’ said Pat.

‘Steam engines are something I love and when Jim died I
realized how easy it was to plan for tomorrow, next month or next
year but the reality is that I may not be around to see
it.’

REPLICA

Pat is not a millionaire and the decision to spend a
considerable sum of money on a steam engine was taken only after a
long discussion with his wife Glenda, who shares his passion for
steam.

Once the decision had been made he turned to the United States
to buy his dream. ‘There are British companies building
replicas but I fell in love with a picture in a book and the idea
grew from there,’ said Pat.

The J. I. Case Threshing Machine Co., Wisconsin, is still in
business turning out all manner of modern farm machinery.

But 80 years ago the company built steam engines and Pat’s
is a replica of a 1914 65 HP Case.

Tom Terning in Kansas has been building Case replicas for
enthusiasts for 30 years.

In 1990 Pat found an article about Tom Terning. A transatlantic
telephone call followed by a couple of letters convinced Pat he had
found the man to build his dream.

‘Glenda was a little surprised when I sent money to a man
4,000 miles away who I had never met.’ said Pat. ‘But I
knew it was safe.’

A family holiday in Miami in May gave Pat a chance to see his
engine under construction.

‘Tom invited me to drop in,’ says Pat who found that one
of the welders working on the engine was English. ‘Just
dropping in though meant a flight halfway across the country.
America is a big place.’

Satisfied that work was progressing well, Pat returned home and
waited.

At the end of March a wooden packing case weighing more than two
tons arrived at Felixstowe docks and was transported to Ashford by
Kent Machine Services, West Malling.

Pat’s dream had arrived. He now owns the only Case traction
engine in Europe and the engine looks set to be a common sight at
steam fairs all over the country.

It is a working vehicle and will be put to use running handsaws,
threshing and maybe will even tackle a bit of ploughing.

Pat has also agreed to appear with the engine at several charity
events where he will give rides to help raise cash.

The Sellindge Steam Fair in May was its first appearance in
Britain.

But seven days after delivery Pat was still waiting to hear the
Case, christened Kansas Glen, running.

‘It has passed all the U. S. tests but before I can run it
in this country it needs to be checked again,’ he said. The
Case will be fully licensed to run on the road too.

Driving a steam engine is both difficult and easy at the same
time, says Pat.

‘You need to understand the engine,’ he said. ‘No
two boilers are alike and each vehicle has its own characteristics
and personality.’

EASIER

Pat’s other interest is a pristine Harley-Davidson
motorcycle, a 1200cc Electra Glide, built in 1970.

He has owned it for ten years and it reflects the love he has
for mechanical things.

The bike has been a regular visitor to shows and rallies all
over Britain during the past decade but it may have an easier life
this year when the Case steals most of Pat’s attention.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment