When Steam Was King CASE Was, Too!

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Chady Attcberry on the incline at Wichita, Kansas, 1955.
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131 Robin Road Blackwell, OK 74631

This 110 Case No. 29514 was formerly owned by Mr. Fighting Three
Hills, Alberta, Canada. It is now owned by Cecil and Kennith Kelly,
Pawnee, Oklahoma .The engine can be seen plowing each day at the
‘Oklahoma Steam Threshers Show’ in Pawnee pulling a twelve
bottom John Deere plow.

Over the years I’ve spent many hours visiting with some of
my old steam buddies about steam engines, threshing etc. A lot of
these men have passed on. I’ve always respected their opinions
and enjoyed the experiences they told me. Some of these men liked
one make of engine by far the best. Some were Russell, Case, Reeves
fans etc. One thing all had in common, they loved steam

If a man owned or ran a Advance, Reeves, Case, Gaar Scott, Port
Huron or whatever make and got along fine with the engine, it was
hard to tell him there was a better make. Most engines in shape and
with a good engineer, would put the power down to the separator and
do a good job. Steam traction engines were used mostly for belt
work. They threshed in the summer, then a lot went on to sawmills
during the winter months.

Some engines were designed mostly for belt work. Then there were
the all-around engines designed for both traction and belt. Then
some big heavy engines were built mostly for plowing and heavy
drawbar work.

A lot of eastern engines that did get out into this country in
small numbers were well liked. Case was the most popular! Case
built more than two times as many engines as any other
manufacturer. Case separators threshed more bushels of wheat in
Kansas than all other makes combined.

In the old days people were prouder of their machinery than they
are today. They were very loyal to the make of engine they owned or
ran. This is still somewhat true today with us steam fans. One
thing I have always noticed is that the others Advance, Rumely,
Russell or whatever makeall cussed the Case. Case was
everyone’s competition. If a man liked Russell for example, he
didn’t run-down Advance, Gaar Scott or what have you, but hated
the Case. Yes, I like Case engines but would get rid of my other
engines if I didn’t like them. I have a 20-75 double
rear-mounted N&S that is hard to beat. I also have a double
Keck that is as nice an engine to run, fire as I was ever on. The
best handling engine I was ever on is my friend Lyman Knapp’s
25 Russell No. 17105. But, I still think the late Case engines were
hard to beat if a man wanted an all-around engine, that was good
for both tration and belt work. Cases were strong, powerful,
economical, got around well and didn’t take half their
horsepower to pull enormous weight around.

Most Case haters either tried a Case and didn’t know how to
run it and failed, or else the Case beat them some time and they
just can’t get it out of their system. Years ago, I had a lot
of ‘hot’ contests on the prony brake at Wichita, Kansas
against Glen Garrabrant from Colorado. He ran Lyman’s 25
Russell. I’ll have to say that Glen is one of the best
engineers I’ve ever seen. He sure knows Russell engines and can
run and handle one better than any man I have ever seen.

Glen told me that he was taught a Case was about the poorest
engine made. He also told me after we had battled one another a few
years, that Case must be a lot better than he thought.

Since Case came out with the side crank, spring mounted, rear
double geared engine in 1898 they have been right up to or near the
front. A company that could build and sell more than two times as
many engines as any other builder couldn’t have done so without
having a good engine.

This 75 HP Case No. 24828 plows each day at the Oklahoma Steam
Threshers Show in Pawnee, pulling an 8-bottom John Deere plow. It
is owned by Kennith Kelley of Pawnee. Kennith got the engine from
Ray German of Oilmont, Montana Big Mac once told me that the old 25
HP Case which later became the 75 HP when Case changed the rating
plowed more acres than all other makes combined including all other
Case engines.

Double heading the Rumely to pull the incline into place,
Saturday, May 14, 1955. Chady Atteberry, engineer on 40 and George
Arnett engineer on Harold Ottaway’s 25 HP Rumely. Picture taken
at Wichita, Kansas.

Case pioneered a lot of things that became almost a
‘must’ in steam traction engine building in the late years.
They were not ‘followers’ as were alot of the others. Case
was first with a spring cushioned differential gear. They did not
have the first spring mounted engine; however, as for spring
mounting on any traction engine that has much to pull, I don’t
think it amounts to much. The springs on a Case engine should be
tightened down and the right one a little more so.

Case was ‘The First’ to use steel wingsheet construction
and do away with cast iron brackets fastened to the boiler with
studs and capscrews. This also made an independent mounting of the
gearing and saved much strain upon the boiler, as well as providing
a simple way af adjusting the mesh of the bull pinion with the bull
gear. Wingsheet construction, however, did not originate with Case,
as it had been used in England before Case adopted it. Mr. Davies,
who designed the side crank spring mounted engine, spent some time
in England before designing this engine. Another thing Case was one
of the first to adopt was the overhanging cylinder, which could be
easily removed from the engine frame without disturbing any
brackets. It was therefore, self-aligning. This was a feature of
the center crank Case also. Case did not originate the rear mounted
engine. However, there were not very many others being built when
Case began the center crank, which was a rear mounted engine in
about 1887.

Case was also one of the first to use what they called
‘Ferro Steel’ in their gears. Most others came to this
later in what they termed ‘Semi Steel’. Some made all steel
gears. They were usually cast steel and while they did not break as
cast iron gears did, they didn’t wear very well. So I think the
so called ‘semi steel’ or as Case called it ‘ferro
steel’ were really better adaptedto traction engine use, than
the all steel gears.

Case also always used the steel drive wheel and most others
except Port Huron adopted them in late years. Port Huron did build
a few extra high-wheeled engines with steel wheels but not

Most makes came to a rear mounted engine for plowing and heavy
traction work. Yes, even Nichols and Shepard, Gaar Scott and
Advance. Nearly all except Port Huron, Minneapolis. Russell built a
few road locomotives that were rear mounted. Avery was another one
that never built a rear mounted and their first undermounted
engines had a stationary axle and the drivers turned on it as they
did on the Gaar Scott rear mounted engines. However, Avery soon
found out that was not so good and they too adopted the revolving
rear axle.

The first Reeves engine of all sizes were single geared too, but
they only went to the 20 HP size. When Reeves tried plowing with
them they soon discarded the single gear for a double gear and then
became one of the best plowing engines. Reeves also came to the
wing sheet construction in their ‘Canadian Type’ engines. I
think some of the Canadian provinces made laws requiring this
manner of construction. A lot of American manufacturers could not
sell their engines in Canada. Perhaps the success of the Case
engine was responsible for the passage of these laws. The Canadian
Baker was called the ‘Decker engine’. Also Advance and
Minneapolis went together and bought the John Abell Company and
built the ‘American Abell’ which was known as the ‘Cock
of the North’ line. These engines were built to meet these
laws. When the 1910 Canadian regulations came out on the boilers,
Case was one of the first to build boilers to conform to them. All
Case boilers from 1911 on conformed to the Canadian regulations.
The butt strap was used on the 110 and was not required on anything
from 34 diameter on down. Of course, Reeves soon adopted them too
for their so called ‘Canadian Type Engines’.

The famous Winnipeg contest was the only offical accurate test
of farm power. Three Case engines were winners in this contest. In
the 1912 contest, Case 110 was the gold medal winner in its class.
The 110 also won the ‘Sweepstakes Honors’. The 80 and 40
horse power Case engines were also winners in their class. Case
really showed the others how to plow! Reeves never entered these
tests, however, most major companies did.

The 30 and 40 HP Avery under-mounts in the Canadian Special were
the same engine. The only difference was in the steam pressure
which was 175 lbs on the 30, and 200 lbs on the 40 HP. What a
cheating a customer got when buying their 40. The 40 was a
magnificent big engine. It gave the salesmen a lot to talk about.
They sounded good and had a look that appealed to a lot of people.
However, the 40 couldn’t compete with the other large engines
at Winnipeg. The Avery Company did put 8×10 cylinder on their 40
for a short time. They did this to try to compete with the other
big engines. However, they soon went back to the 7×10 cylinders
because of fuel consumption.

Years ago, Lyman Knapp and I stopped at Marcus Leonard’s
office to visit and talk a little steam. Marcus was a service man
for both Avery and Advance. He was also a salesman for those
companies and later worked for N&S. Marcus told us about the
Avery Company sending him out to a 30 HP undermount the customer
was having trouble keeping hot. He said, ‘When you go out to an
undermount, the first thing you do is take off your coat and get a
big shovel.’ The undermount would have been way down the list
of engines I would have bought, but I would sure like to have one

The Case Company put on the incline stunt at many fairs and
thresher conventions. The first Case inclines were a 42 percent
grade. Well, Reeves came over and went up the Case incline. Of
course, they took a lot of pictures. Soon after this

Case went to the World’s Fair at St. Louis. They built a
much steeper incline with a 56 percent grade. Then later a 50
percent grade became the standard Case incline that was used many
years. When we built the incline at the Wichita show in 1952, we
got the blueprints for the St. Louis incline. It was a 12 foot rise
in 21 ft. However, when we built the incline, it came out
12’6′ rise in 21 feet. This was very steep! E.C. ‘Big
Mac’ McMillan from Hoisington, Kansas did the stunt two years
on this steep incline. He used his 40 HP Case No. 31393. ‘Big
Mac’ was a real expert engineer, I would say the best I have
ever seen with a steam throttle. After two years the incline was
cut down to a 50 percent grade, which was much safer. The Case
Company used the old 15 HP engine or what later became the 45 HP on
the incline. It was a little better than the 40 for this stunt;
Case did use their 40 HP engine in later years and even used the 36
HP some back East on an incline not so steep. ‘Big Mac’ was
training me for the incline. I never went up on top of the 56
percent incline, but did the stunt several times on the 50 percent
incline. I now own the little 40 HP Case ‘Big Mac’ used on
the incline. I hope we can build an incline at the Pawnee show some

The only regular Case incline I know of now in the United States
is at the Tom Terning Show at Valley Center, Kansas. Tom built an
incline and ran his 40 HP Case on it. Tom let me run the 40 up once
before the show. This was the first time that I had been on a Case
incline in 27 years. Tom Terning is a young man with a lot of steam
knowledge. He did a fine job with his 40 HP Case and put on a nice
show. Tom and his family sure put on one of the better steam shows
I’ve seen!

If I was picking an all-around engine for out here in Oklahoma
and Kansas, it would be a 65 or 80 HP Case. They were powerfully
strong and not so heavy for their horsepower. If I were picking an
engine mostly for threshing and belt work, the 25 HP double side
mounted N&S would be my choice. There were several other real
good belt engines that got around good even in the larger sizes.
Dad always said, ‘There is a lot more difference in separators
than engines.’ I think this was true.

Chady on Big Mac’s ‘Elgin Watch 40’ No. 31393 on the
incline at Wichita, May 30, 1955. This was the 50% incline. The
engine is now owned by Chady Atteberry.

For an engine of large size to plow with or use for heavy
traction work it would be a 32 HP cross compound Reeves or a 110
Case. Both of these engines were by far the most popular big plow
engines. There is no question that Reeves was at or near the top as
a plow engine.

Keck Gonnerman never got into this country. I got a 20 HP D.R.M.
with butt strap boiler and balanced valves in 1963 out of Missouri.
I expect this is the first Keck in Oklahoma. Now there are two
more. Ivan Burns has a 20 HP D.R.M. and a 19 single S.M. I guess
Ivan is the steam engine king in Oklahoma, as he owns around 25
steam traction engines of all makes. I like to see a fellow like
Ivan who likes them all. Ivan is also president of Oklahoma Steam
Thresher Association.

In 1963 and 1964 I attended the American Thresher Show in
southern Illinois. I can sure see why they like their Kecks.

I guess from what I’ve heard the Advance was one of the good
ole threshing engines. I read where an old timer once said, the
best outfit he ever ran was a 30 HP Advance side mount and a
40-inch Rumely Ideal separator. I would agree with this. I know the
old Advance would sure hold its end up and the Rumely Ideal is my
pick of separators.

I corresponded with Charlie Harrison of Fredericktown, Ohio, for
over 30 years. Charlie was sure a fine steam man. He passed away
about three years ago. Charlie once told me that he asked our good
old buddie Lyle Hoffmaster what was a weakness of Reeves engines.
Charlie said, ‘You know how serious Lyle can be, and after
thinkin’ a while Lyle said, ‘You know Charlie, I just
can’t think of any’.’

I think it really boils down to what the old woman said, when
she kissed the cow, ‘Every one to their own taste.’

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