The Legendary 150 HP Case Steam Engine

An overview of the legendary 150 HP Case steam engine.

| March/April 1987

  • J. I. Case steam engines
    In 1904, #14666, the first of the 150 hp J.I. Case steam engines was tested by being called upon to pull four 15 hp new engines (weight 57, 600 pounds) up the 13 percent grade at the rear of Case Company's engine assembly building in Racine, Wis.
  • George Hedtke; his dog ''Casey'''
    After years of neglect, the #14666 boiler (in background) was recovered in New Mexico and currently resides at George W. Hedtke's Hickory Oaks Farm near Davis Junction, Ill. In this photo it draws an interested crowd composed of George Hedtke; his dog 'Casey', who for many years was the canine guardian of the farm but died in 1985; and a visitor from Maryland, Helen Case Brigham, great-grandaughter of J. I. Case.

  • J. I. Case steam engines
  • George Hedtke; his dog ''Casey'''

The first 40 x 150 HP Case steam engine was developed and built at the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company Engine Works at Racine, Wis., in late 1904. This was not designated as a Road Locomotive (R. L), but was called a 'Sample,' or experimental engine. The serial number was 14666, and I have compiled the history of this great engine through the years and conducted much research, including the gathering of information on the eight more 150 HP Case engines that followed and were called 'Road Locomotives.' It (#14666) was billed as 'The World's Largest Traction Engine' in 1904.

I will now go into detail about the history of Case 150 HP engine #14666. The story is quite lengthy and I have verified the facts through several sources. I will follow up with the known history of the other eight 150 HP engines.

In 1904, #14666, the first of the 150 HP J. I. Case steam engines was tested by being called upon to pull four 15 HP new engines (weight 57,600 pounds) up the 13 percent grade at the rear of Case Company's engine assembly building in Racine, Wis.

Old #14666 was completed at the factory in late 1904. The engine was equipped with a 500-gallon water tank on top of the boiler, with a boiler jacket, headlight and short cab. These accessories were left off for shipping and do not appear in any pictures. It was tested at the factory at the rear of the engine assembly building, pulling four 15 HP new engines weighing 57,600 pounds up a 13 percent grade on April 21, 1905, and popped off steam near the top. It was then purchased by the Sater Copper Mining Company at Folsom, N.M.

The engine was first equipped with round-spoke rear wheels and, during the initial testing, they proved to be too light under the load and were replaced with stronger flat-spoke wheels before shipping. It was then shipped to Folsom, N.M., a small town about 55 miles up the Dry Cimarron River from where the copper mine was located. The 150 HP Case was to be used to transport the wagon loads of copper ore for the 55-mile trip to the rail siding at Folsom. The Sater Mining Company didn't use the engine much, since after a few trips the ore played out. The mine and engine were abandoned when the Sater Copper Mining Company was liquidated. On one of the few trips it made over the 55-mile haul, the engine slid off a narrow canyon road and was damaged. The gearing was wearing out very rapidly, since the metal alloys available in that period were very inferior to the strong materials which can be used today for gearing. After its mishap, the engine was brought back to the mine where it powered a sawmill to cut timbers for the mine.

The old #14666 150 HP Case Steam Engine sat abandoned at the mine site until 1918, when a junkman broke it apart for World War I salvage. All of the fittings, castings, parts, wheels, etc., were gone; but the boiler clearly marked with #14666 cast in brass on the smoke box side remained. This first 150 HP Case engine had coal storage bunkers and water tanks at the rear with side steps to enter the operator's platform on the left side.

George McKenzie
1/13/2011 3:25:26 PM

I have been collecting machines for many years in Northern Alberta over 250 machines .I have about 45 tractors ,Combine collection , Plow collection from one bottom to a Case Satley steam engine plow,Military ,cars and trucks .I like things with their history known like my 60 CAT crawler ,The first cat in Northern Alberta .Some of my collection contain the only one of it's kind left in the world .I built the Brownvale North Peace Agriculture Museum Look under" Big Things" on the "I net" I put a big bull in the museum George


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