The Steam Bug Bit


| September/October 1988



Case engine

Frank Hilliker in Denver, Colorado in 1988 with 1'', 2'', 3'' and 4'' scale Case engines.

1170 Independence Street Lakewood, Colorado 80215

My interest in Case Steam Engines dates back to 1922. A Mr. Henry Tate had a Case steam custom threshing outfit in Ontario, Canada. My father owned a 125-acre farm south of Burgessville (near Norwich). He had about 30 acres in grain. There were 7 farms on our road that exchanged help at threshing time. Mr. Tate would do the threshing for these farms using the Case steam engine until 1923 when he got a gas tractor. My father still wanted him to use the Case engine to do our threshing and for the next two years paid him an extra $15.00 a day since it took more time to get the equipment ready and longer travel time. I remember, at the age of eight I would watch by the hour the crank travel back and forth. I loved to get up on the platform and pull the rope on the whistle at noon and evening. The steam bug had bit me!

I moved to the United States in 1935. After my discharge from the Navy in 1945 I had a neighbor, Frank Dee, who was building model train locomotives. He wanted me to build the 3/4' scale, but as we were renting our home I didn't feel I should put down a track not knowing how long we would be there. I located Arnold's Frank Hilliker in Denver, Colorado in 1988 with 1', 2', 3' and 4' scale Case engines. catalog on the 1' scale Case steam tractor so, working with his and Cole's castings I was able to build the 1'.

I needed more than a hammer and screw driver to get the necessary machinery to set up a shop so I took a second job. I was working for the Navy 8 hours a day on swing shift. I was able to get a 4 hour job in a pattern shop. Then I bought a 9' x 36' South Bend lathe. Drill presses were scarce right after the war so when Sears advertised in the Oakland paper that they had three 17' bench drill presses without motors, I figured I could switch the motor from the lathe temporarily. My wife and I with our one year old son went by bus to purchase one. Now Sears would deliver this on Monday but being a man without patience, I wanted to take this 85 pound drill press home with me on the bus. We had brought our son in a metal stroller and I decided it would be just the thing to transport the press. My wife, being easily embarrassed, would have no part of it and walked home carrying our son quite some distance. I proceeded to the bus stop and when the bus arrived the driver asked what I was going to do with that thing. I told him. He, being a kind hearted man, helped me on with it. Since then I think I have developed more patience or else my wife has become used to my antics!

I finished my 1' scale Case in 1946, then built the 1' scale Case thresher and water wagon, finishing them in 1948. The next several years were required to establish and run my own business. This has kept me busy until I semi-retired in 1985. I then started the 2' scale Case, finishing it in 1986. Next came the 3' completed in 1987.

I have just now completed the 4' Case steam tractor, however, haven't been able to fire it up yet. I have had a reoccurrence of melanoma cancer on my heel which was operated on 3 weeks ago. The Lord willing, I hope to be back on my feet soon. I am anxious to steam up this last engine. I know this 4' scale will be the climax of my dreams!