| November/December 1982

  • Case Steam Engine
    scale Case Steam Engine
  • Watching the whistle blow
    Old timers watching the whistle blow.
  • Case sawing wood
    scale Case sawing wood at the Biesdorf farm.
  • Case belted to the saw rig
    scale Case belted to the saw rig.

  • Case Steam Engine
  • Watching the whistle blow
  • Case sawing wood
  • Case belted to the saw rig

Box 334 Owatonna, MN 55060

It all began way back one sunny August afternoon in 1920. My boyhood buddy and I were playing together in our old hometown a dozen miles from where I am writing this. Suddenly we heard a blast of steam whistle from a farm at the edge of town signaling the start of a threshing rig. I still remember the two of us running at top speed to the scene of the action. There at the edge of the farmstead alongside of a grove of willows was a Case 12 HP engine belted to a Case separator and a wood water tank wagon beside the engine. We spent the remainder of the afternoon there soaking up an impression that has remained with me all through the years: the beautiful sound of that little engine doing its work, and the beginning of a love for steam power.

The following year my parents moved to a farm where we lived the next quarter century. One of the highlights of the year was the threshing season with a 30-90 Russell engine pulling the Avery Yellow Fellow separator. The young boys in the threshing rig got together to enjoy the food and festivity which was part of the threshing routine. All too soon it seemed we had grown up enough to drive a bundle team and wagon hauling the bundles to the machine which had such a capacity that ten teams and wagons were required along with four field pitchers. We threshed that way until 1938 when combines and smaller threshing rigs took over. The old Russell lost its life in the WW II scrap drive. But it left an enduring impression on me and a lifelong admiration of steam power. Nothing was done about these boyhood dreams until 1953 when I put together a steam car.

By 1946 I was already engaged in manufacturing and had a fairly complete machine shop. Sufficient spare capital had been accumulated to acquire a 1924 Stanley steam car engine and rear axles which were later mated to rear wheels and brakes of a 1951 Willys station wagon. The Willys engine was removed and a water tube boiler of my design and manufacture went under the hood. Stanley controls were used and it was fired with a gun-type burner rewired for low voltage. It worked well and provided a lot of pleasure and satisfaction for my love of steam.

I was forced to sell it in 1955 when I sold that business. But that is not the main point of this story, just background information.

The present story begins in 1979 when I accidently bought a -scale traction engine at an auction. After a thorough restoration, I fired it up and the old joy of steam came back like a ghost out of the past. The little -scale had little practical usage except to excite a desire for more. Looking at the big steamers at auctions and steam shows only served to convince me that I could not get much day-to-day, year-round fun with them. Too heavy to move to the scene of action with my limited equipment. Too big to store in my facilities. I probably couldn't find a chance to do any useful work with a big engine except at a steam threshing bee, and then after spending a couple hundred dollars to get it hauled there and back. Then a friend suggested a -scale Case which was available. Small enough to haul on my five-ton trailer, yet big enough to do useful work. How right he was!


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