The following article is reprinted with permission from the Watertown Public Opinion daily newspaper of Watertown, South Dakota 57201. Roger Merriam is a staff writer of the newspaper.
Don Redlin of Watertown heats up his steam powered, one-cylinder tractor in preparation for a test run. Redlin unveiled his contraption at the Fourth of July parade at Kranzburg, SD in 1985.
Getting steamed up is Don Redlin's favorite hobby.
Redlin, who operates the Redlin Mobile Home Court in Watertown, recently spent 2 years building a steam-powered, one-cylinder engine tractor from scratch.
'It's a hobby, a very interesting hobby,' Redlin told the Public Opinion. 'It's fun to chase parts down.'
The parts for his contraption came from all across America. The boiler's from Kearney, Mo.; part of the engine's from Clarksburg, W. Va.; the flywheel was made in Rushville, Mo.; the governor's from Warren, Pa.; and the grates and smoke box door were cast in Webster.
Most of the parts were advertised in the Iron Men Album, a magazine.
Other parts came from equipment once considered the top of the line during its time. The wheels came from an old Case threshing machine; the gearing from an old McCormick tractor; and the tool box from an old Russell steamer.
It was fitting that Redlin first unveiled his completed product at the Fourth of July Parade in Kranzburg.
'It cost about $9,000 to build, not counting labor,' Redlin said. 'But I wouldn't sell it for less than $15,000.'
Redlin pieced the steamer together without the benefit of instructions.
'Case puts out a lot of books that help you understand,' he said. 'But this was just in my head.'
He's dabbled with one-cylinder engines before. After seeing a one-cylinder engine mounted on a three-wheeler in Florida, Redlin built a replica himself. His inclination to fix vehicles came as a child.
'I've always monkeyed with engines. I started with a Model A Ford automobile...we'd overhaul them,' he said. 'We had to do that because we never bought anything but a used one.'
His steam engine doesn't start near as quick as a typical automobile, taking up to one hour and 15 minutes to work the steam up to operating pressure. The top operating pressure is 140 pounds, but the engine will work at 100 pounds.
There's rubber padding planted on the wheels for road use, but it's unlikely Redlin will ever get any speeding tickets.
'The top speed is 2 miles per hour,' he said. 'It's copied after a lot of big steamers. It's the same as a big one (steamer), none of those ever went over 2 miles-per-hour.'
Time-consuming tasks like piecing-together ancient equipment from memory can be tedious and mind boggling, but it's the finished product that makes it worth the wait.
'It's the satisfaction knowing that you got it to run,' Redlins said. 'I knew from the first day I started that it would.'
As long as it stays running, Redlin will keep burning up steam.