Joe Prochaska (center) tells about use of corn to fire up in an interview with Rollin Scheider, extension safety specialist at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The one-fourth scale Case steam engine, built by Prochaska, burns ear corn or corn cobs. The boys are Joe's son, Frank, in railroad cap, and Galen Krenk.
Joe Prochaska, Nebraska farmer, was featured in a recent issue of Farm Journal magazine as he demonstrated use of ear corn and corn cobs to fire up his one-fourth scale Case steam traction engine.
Joe spent four winters making parts for the engine, and the fifth putting it together. It was modeled after a Case his dad had owned.
'I remember many a morning starting it up with corn,' he says. 'I carried a lot of cobs.'
His grandfather, who did custom threshing, burnt nothing but corn.
When asked by us whether he felt corn cobs and steam engines could help meet the fuel crunch, Joe commented that he did not see why not. Last time he priced coal, he said, he found the cost comparable with that of ear corn.
'Ear corn really burns hot, as well as coal,' he finds.
In October he took the engine to a nearby school to demonstrate. The children had never seen steam in operation.
Joe had his picture in Farm Journal's western edition because he presented a demonstration last July at the Tractor Power and Safety Day at the University of Nebraska Field Laboratory near Mead. The event is sponsored annually by the Institute of Agriculture and National Resources agricultural engineering department.
Joe, who lives at Abie, Nebraska, is an IMA subscriber and a member of the Brotherhood of Live Steamers. He shows the Case in parades and exhibits at threshermen's reunions in his state.
'We built a shop 30 x 50 and mixed the mortar with the engine,' Joe recalls. 'My boy Frank .did all the firing. It will run a cement mixer.' The steam, however, is mainly a hobby.
Prochaska farms 280 diversified acres--beans, wheat, oats, Milo (sorghum or maize or whatever others call it), cattle, sheep and hogs.