The Big Engine COMES HOME

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The crew of movers.
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One half of the flywheel (10 tons),
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The engine before dismantling in Wakefield, Michigan.
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The engine's new home being built over the engine.
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Setting the bottom half of the flywheel.
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The Nordberg on its new foundation at the White Pine Show.

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.

Arrangements had been made for a trucker to haul the dismantled
engine to the show grounds near McGrath, but he backed out of the
agreement after he arrived to pick up the first load on Sunday. So,
early Monday morning, John headed for Mora, hoping that Jim
Greskia, who had often hauled antique engines for them, would be
willing to haul this one too. Jim agreed, and Bill Langenbach
accompanied him on the first of the three trips needed to
accomplish the move. In the meantime, Doug and John each hauled a
trailer load home. The round trip was 424 miles and the last load
was delivered just one week from the day the dismantling had
begun.

Much of the summer of 1986 was occupied with the challenge of
reassembly, pouring the 54 yards of cement, and erecting a building
over the big engine. In 1987, they got a boiler from Robert Soule
of the Princeton Minnesota Creamery and mounted it. The engine was
finally in operation just one week before the show opened.

The Langenbach family consists of over 32 members, headed by
Bill and Sylvia, and range in age from 2 months to 71 years. Among
the thirteen grandchildren are Robbie and Jeremy, sons of John and
Nancy. Like all of this family, they carry their share of the work
load of maintenance and organization, from helping with the
engines, driving tractors, serving as guides for exhibits, tending
booths; and running errands. I remembered the fascination of
watching my dad tune his Model T Ford and wondered how these
children felt about their family owning this wondrously uncommon
source of power to which a Model T was only a very small mosquito
in comparison. I called the John Langenbach home one evening, and
Jeremy, age 11, answered. I asked him what he thought of the big
engine.

‘It’s pretty neat.’ he said in a very matter of fact
voice.

Then I asked if he was aware that not many families had the
opportunity to own an engine of that size and if he would tell me
how he felt about that.

‘I guess we are pretty lucky.’
‘What do you call it?’ I asked. ‘Do you have a special
name for it?’ ‘Oh, just Big Engine.’

I talked with him a little bit more and hung up, wondering how
many kids would have taken it so much in stride. But then, I
thought it was to be expected as the whole family seems to have the
attitude that they are just lucky to have it. I think the word to
describe it is humility.

For those of you who want to know more about the details of this
engine, we submit the following data:
Engine250 HP Nordberg18′ wide, 31’long. Flywheel 12′
diameter and approximately 18′ x 20′ thickness.
Piston21′. Stroke3′. RPM 150Operating on 150 pounds of
steam. Alternator375.3 Amp. 480 Volts, 3 Phase, 60 Cycle. Built by
Allis Chalmers of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Wrenches
used23/8, 2 5/16′, 2, 2′ and 5′
(weight 65 pounds).

These wrenches were brought by the Langenbachs to use in
dismantling the engine. After it was removed from the building, a
complete set of wrenches for the engine was found in the pit.

This engine can be seen at the White Pine Logging and Threshing
Show 21/2 miles from McGrath, Minnesota, on
highway #65, just 28 miles north of Mora on #65, each Labor Day
Weekend.

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