They bought 16 tons and what did they get?

By Staff
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Our Engineer, Artie Kortof, Edina, Minnesota.
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We thank Bill Paulson, Butterfield Advocate Newspaper,
Butterfield, Minn. for the article and pictures.

I must confess it was my idea to buy the steam engine.

You see, watching threshing bees the last four years I’ve
developed this compulsion to own an absolutely huge piece of

When I learned an 80 horsepower Minneapolis steam engine was for
sale I laid plans to fulfill my dream. A steam engine was perfect.
Not only did it represent an almost extince source of traction, but
it was big, big. The Minneapolis weighed 16 tons!

The asking price was much too steep for my pocketbook, so I
started putting together a carefully picked partnership. The first
man I approached was Clarence Hovdet while he was out on his farm
laying fence. He sort of giggled when I told him of my plan, but
confessed real interest because we’d often talked of buying a
big tractor together. He was very critical to the partnership
because of his motto, ‘I’ve never seen anything I
couldn’t drive.’

The third carefully picked partner was my neighbor, Chuck Bisel,
who happened to be leaning on the nearby fence when I asked,
‘How about going in on a steam engine?” His quick
‘OK’ reflected the frustration of a snowmobiler looking for
something novel to ride during the off season. And I suspect his
devotion to this union was further heightened with the knowledge a
steamer has no spark plugs to change.

The fourth partner proved easy to persuade, too. I just pointed
out to Arnie Friesen that a steamer, unlike the stock market, was
an investment he could lean on. Surprisingly, he agreed before I
was able to blurb out the rest of my argument which was a lie about
all the opera singers who own steam engines. I was especially
excited about his acceptance because he has a steam fitter’s
license and knows something about steam.

So, with a partnership formed, Bisel, Friesen and I traveled to
Mankato for a look at the steamer. Hovdet was too busy for the
trip, but told us ‘Anything you guys decide is fine with

Our impression of the huge engine standing in its shed was
overwhelming. Bisel noted the steamer had more faucets than his
whole house. Friesen looked for some small flaw in its
reconstruction as a point of negotiation, but without success. I
naively pleaded with its owner for a test run. He frowned and told
me it took three hours to build up enough steam to run the

The next week Hovdet did get up to see the steamer and in the
ensuing negotiations we became owners of the Minneapolis.

Calling our partnership the ‘Minneapolis Four’, we were
anxious for that first Saturday after our steamer was trucked down.
Not only had we purchased an engine we had never seen run, but we
didn’t know how to run it.

Around Voss Park on Saturday the chances of running into an
experienced steam engineer are as good as stepping on grass. So
Cornie Fast and Clip Clipperton took it upon themselves to start a
fire in our firebox, put 500 gallons of water in our boiler and
tenders and get us up a head of steam. Most of all, we were
thankful when the clutch was thrown and the 16 tons lumbered
forward. From then on, the afternoon was spent in learning all
about its operation.

As time went on, the partnership of the Minnesota Four has
proven remarkably compatible. Hovdet’s job is to steer the
monster, while Friesen operates the clutch and throttle. Bisel is
official oiler and coal tender with the promise of an occasional
chance to blow the whistle. I am official group photographer.
Privately I admit to being the brains behind the operation, but
I’m still waiting for one of my partners to ask me for

Don’t let this organized chaos scare you. The former owner,
a licensed engineer, was at the controls when it really

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