Farm Collector

The Nettesheim Frick: A FAMILY AFFAIR

P. O. Box 6, Germantown, Wisconsin 53022

Welcome to the 29th annual Threshing Bee. As you enter the park,
please allow our members and their machines to take you on an
adventure into yesteryear. Back to the turn of the century when
these devices supplied the power for the farm. The sight of four
mammoth steam engines will excite you as they go about the duties
of threshing oats or sawing lumber just as they did when they were
new and their owners were younger. This story is about one of these
steam engines, a 1921 Frick and owned by Alan Nettesheim of
Waukesha, Wisconsin.

In the late 1950’s the Frick was used on the Conrad
Nettesheim farm located on Springdale Road and North Avenue in
Brookfield. After the sale of the farm the Frick was moved to the
Harold Ney’s residence where it sat for twelve years. In the
early spring of 1972 Reiner Nettesheim moved the steamer to
Hartland, where he lives, and disassembled it. Reiner had hopes of
rebuilding the Frick, but that day never came. Alan had discussed
purchasing the Frick from his uncle Reiner and did so in February,
1985, for the price of a dollar.

The snow was deep and the yard had to be plowed in order to get
the boiler and wheels loaded on Alan’s truck. The engine was
retrieved from another snow bank that was covered in canvas. For
several months Reiner collected parts from his basement and garage
and took them to Wisconsin Industrial Machine Service, where Alan
works and where the Frick would be rebuilt. If Alan would have had
any idea what was in store for him, he would have asked for change
from his dollar.

First the engine was worked on, all parts were removed from the
carriage and examined. Every piece had to be re-machined, welded,
or remade. Everyone at the shop helped in the restoration, just
imagine the amount of time needed to turn a rusted tight hulk into
a precisioned tuned machine. Alan would finish work at 3 P.M. and
then start working on the Frick which took him until 10 P.M. every
night. His wife, Sandy, often brought his dinner to him and the two
children played in the sand pile next to the shop just so they
could see their daddy.

There were several rough spots that required more time and
patience from everyone, but the worst was when Alan closely
inspected the crankshaft. A crack was found, his heart fell,
knowing he could never afford to buy a new piece of steel and turn
it down. The restoration project was halted. Alan came home from
work early that night, quiet and troubled, Sandy knew something was
wrong. After supper he placed a call to his father in Colorado,
telling him about the crack. Gene Nettesheim once owned his own
machine shop and was an excellent welder, he explained thoroughly
what had to be done.

The next day Alan proceeded to follow his dads’
instructions, a couple more phone calls to Colorado and the
crankshaft was fixed.

Some steam engines are rated by the size of their cylinder, this
Frick was a 7 x 10, but because of corrosion done to the inside of
the two cylinders by mouse excretions, they had to be bored out of
an inch. This gave the engine a rating of 7 x 10, gaining 56 cubic
inches, thus increasing the horsepower to 60plus.

When summer arrived, Alan started sand blasting the boiler and
wheels at his father-in-laws place. Slowly, these pieces left Sam
Italiano’s farm and were brought to the shop for assembly. The
boiler was hydro-tested at 225 pounds of pressure, all fingers were
crossed, a little prayer was said; the boiler held and the stay
bolts did not leak, everyone cheered. A total of fifty new flues
and six new rocking grates were installed. The smoke stack had to
have a brass liner braised in because the back side was gone,
babbit was applied but later removed as it could not withstand the
heat. The smoke-box ring was rewelded and straightened. Chrome
plated piston rods and valve rods were made to cut down on wear. As
each piece was finished, Uncle Reiner applied the primer coat. A
final coat of red paint was put on selected engine parts, wheels,
steering shaft, and flywheel. High temp black paint was applied to
the boiler, and all trim and pin striping was done in yellow by

Time was running out, the Frick had to move out of the shop as
an increase of work was coming in. Memorial weekend arrived, all
last minute adjustments were done. Old rubber truck tires were cut,
sized, and holes were punched in so they could be placed between
the iron wheel lugs, thus preventing damage to road pavement. On
Sunday, May 25, 1986, the Frick was lifted from its’ spot by
the overhead crane and lowered into the truck bay, slowly it was
towed out of the shop. Sun beams bounced off the stainless steel
cylinder jackets as the steamer made its’ way out to an
awaiting crowd of people. Cameras clicked, emotions were high,
everyone was excited. Water filled the boiler, a match lit the
kindling in the firebox, and soon the pressure guage was reading
125 pounds. Alan and his uncle Reiner drove the Frick around the
parking lot, whistles blowing, the steamer performed as Alan
directed. The total restoration took approximately fifteen months
or 2000 man hours.

On Monday, May 26th, the Frick was about to embark on its first
test, a two and one-half hour trip to Sam’s place. With water
tank wagon in tow, extra wood for fuel and a caravan of pickup
trucks, the Frick made its’ way down highway JJ to Silvernail
and into Sam’s yard. All who helped in the restoration had a
chance to operate the steamer, and spirits were high. Stops were
made along the way for minor adjustments, but everything went well.
Upon arrival to Sam’s yard, Sandy handed Gary Gebert a bottle
of champagne and while Alan, Reiner, and Sam looked on, Gary
christened the Frick. Alan called his dad in Colorado and blew the
whistle for him. Gene was very proud of his son.

In mid August Merlin Smart invited Alan and the Frick to do the
honors at his yearly threshing bee. Frick demonstrated its’
power and threshed all day until there was no grain left. But
threshing is not a true test for the governor because the speed
remains constant, Alan needed to test his engine on a sawmill. Gene
arrived from Colorado and gave Alan a chime whistle with four tones
that he made for the steamer. Listen closely to the sound of this
whistle, as one might think a train is coming through the show

Plans were finalized and Frick was loaded onto a trailer and
taken to Lake Mills to saw lumber for Jim Tesch. As each log met
the saw blade the governor was slow to respond to the engine’s
call for more power. The trouble was traced to the springs, after
replacement, no further difficulty was seen.

The Frick does not sit idle during the winter months, Alan fires
it up and with the family gathered around, takes pictures for the
next years Christmas cards. Alan will continue to improve on the
Frick in the future making it the best steamer it can be, making
that dollar well spent.

Alan comes by his mechanical and pattern making ability
naturally. Grandpa Conrad and Uncle Bernard made wood patterns by
hand, Uncle Reiner gave his guidance, patience and thoroughness in
completing a job, Uncles Henry and Joe contributed their knowledge
in engineering, Uncle Victor and his father Gene gave their expert
ability to weld and their superb experience with engines.

The club salutes you, Alan, on a job well done.

  • Published on Nov 1, 1987
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