The Big Engine COMES HOME

| September/October 1988

PO Box 447, Maple Plain, MN 55359

The huge piston slid silently in and out with a faint whisper of sound; its 84 tons of metal was an awesome sight to behold. But, even more inspiring than this giant source of power is the story of its travels from Fairmont, Minnesota, to the White Pine Logging and Threshing Show via Wausau, Wisconsin, and Besemer and Wakefield, Michigan.

This behemoth, a 250 HP Nordberg, was designed and built for the City of Fairmont, sometime between 1901 and 1907 to provide power for their community. It was used until 1944, when it was retired and sold, finally ending up at the Connor Forest Industries, Inc. at Wakefield, Michigan in 1951. It was stored there until 1957 when it was set up and used to generate power for a sawmill.

It was in June, 1985, that the Langenbachs first heard of this engine that now resided at Wakefield. The owners, Connor Forest Industries, were willing to donate it to the Langenbach Museum if they were willing to undertake the moving of it. Bill and Sylvia made many trips to look at the gigantic hunk of power and wondered how they would ever get it apart and moved. Their sons were willing to tackle the job which was a real challenge to them as they had never attempted anything of quite this scale before.

The big adventure finally got underway in October of 1985, after Bill and Sylvia had gone to the shipyard in Duluth to buy a 65 pound wrench taken from a boat in a junkyard there. This was needed to remove the four flywheel bolts which weighed 125 pounds each.

Bill, Sylvia, son John and Steve Kari, a friend, arrived in Wakefield on Friday and were joined by Mike Mahnke, who lived near there. They started work at noon and kept at it until 10 PM. John Gustafson, a fork lift operator from Connors, helped move the pieces out of the building. Another son, Todd and his wife, Diane Langenbach, arrived on Saturday as well as another son Doug, and grandson Steve, who were accompanied by David Haas. All hands worked again until 10 PM. They resumed work on Sunday morning and had all of the pieces out by 4 PM, including the 20 ton flywheel.