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THE LEGENDARY 150 HP CASE STEAM ENGINE
by George Hedtke
The Farm Collector magazine, March/April 1987

Case Road Locomotive 1906

The first 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.

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 the Sater Copper mine. The 150 HP Case was to be used to transport wagon loads of copper ore on the 55 mile trips to Folsom. The Sater Mining Company didn't use the engine much, since the copper ore soon played out. The mine and engine were abandoned when the 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 . 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.

The eight Road Locomotives that Case made over the next four years were equipped with rear-entrance 'Contractor's Bunkers.' The serial numbers of the other eight 150 HP RLs are as follows: 17162, 18547, 18548, 18549, 18723, 18870, and 18871.

The second one (#17162) was built in 1906 and was shipped to Colby Kansas, to John and Lee Jeffries. It sat in bad repair at the rear of Frank Lewis' blacksmith shop after pulling a large 50-bottom Oliver plow for the war effort. It was scrapped after 1918 to help pay for it.

The next three (#s 18547, 18548 and 18549) were built in 1907 and shipped to the Case Branch at Brunswick, Ga. The next one (#18723) was built in 1907 and went to Louisville, Ky. #18848 was also built in 1907 and went to Watertown NY, and was owned by two young men who used it for hauling stone from a quarry in five wagons, each with capacity for 10 tons of stone.

#18870 went to Wauban Minnesota. #18871 was delivered to Tomahawk Wisconsin, and was owned by a man named Bradley who threshed with it. This engine left the country in the early 1920s, and no one remembers its fate. The other 150 HP Road Locomotives were the victims of dismemberment by the junk dealers' cutting torches, and some boilers were used as skid boilers for heating plants.

This proves that there were just nine Case Road Locomotives, 40 x 150 HP 'World's Largest Traction Engines', up to the end of the production of these giants in 1907. It has been argued that only three were built.

The two-speed gear arrangement led to the end of production because there was no available metal alloy good enough in those days to hold up on such huge engines. The engineers at the J. I. Case Company developed an alternative engine, the famous 32 x 110 HP Steam Traction Engine, of which 877 were to follow the first 40 x 150 HP (old Engine 14666).

The Case 40 x 150 HP Traction Engine was designed for heavy hauling, such as hauling ore from the Sater Copper Mine, or carrying lumber and freight loads up to 50 tons. It had a friction-power steering mechanism which operated when the engine was running. It had a 14-inch cylinder and a 14-inch stroke. It had a Wolf reverse. The fire box was 58-1/4 inches in length, 39-1/4 inches in width and 45-1/2 inches high. It had a 42-inch boiler barrel. There were 93 flues, which were two inches in diameter and 108-1/2 inches long. It carried a steam pressure of 160 pounds. It had a two-speed arrangement in the gearing which was designed to travel at 5.69 miles per hour in high and 2.64 mph in low. The flywheel was 50 inches in diameter and turned out 200 rpm. The rear wheels were eight feet in diameter and 30 inches across. The length of the Road Locomotive was 25 feet and three inches, and it was 10 feet wide. It had a reserve water tank of 500 gallons. The bunkers had room for 1,200 pounds of coal, or enough to run for three hours. The RL was an enormous engine, and the average man could walk under the boiler without bending over.

Engine #14666 sold for $3,600 in 1904 to the Sater Mining Company with one-half down in cash and the rest on credit. It was never known at Racine if the engine was fully paid for, since the mortgage was not dated or cancelled. The price was raised to $4,000 for the next engines.

E. C.'Big Mac' McMillan of Hoisington Kansas, a well known Case expert, went to the mine site years ago to find out about the fate of the old #14666 and found a small piece of the flue sheet lying on the ground there. He assumed that was all that was left of the big 150 and took it with him. He passed away not knowing that the boiler still remained intact, but had its flue sheets, thru stays (large rods inside the boiler that ran alongside the flues and tied the front and rear flue sheets together), and flues cut out. The boiler was sitting upright not too far from the abandoned mine site, used as a storage tank to water cattle. The smokestack was removed and, for some reason, a large section next to the firebox door was cut away.

Mr. Carl Logan, a Case dealer in Leoti Kansas, heard that the boiler of old #14666 might be near the mine. He and a friend drove to the copper mine site near Folsom to try to find the boiler. Fate led him down a road where he spotted a windmill, and there sat the boiler with the brass plate #14666 still in place. Carl and his friend called on the lady of the property. She, however, thought the men would take advantage of her and turned them away. Carl Logan and his friend returned home without the boiler.

Mr. Logan went to Racine Wisconsin, to the Case factory and there he found a set of large wheels and gears in an old building. He inquired about these pieces and was told they were from one of the old Road Locomotives that was disassembled and sold for a skid engine. No record was found to show which 150 HP engine this was. Mr. Logan made arrangements to purchase these wheels on his next busines trip to Racine.

In the meantime, the woman who had the boiler reconsidered, and contacted Mr. Logan and gave him boiler #14666. It was soon parked at his Case dealership in Leoti, Kansas.

When he made his next trip to Racine he found, much to his dismay, that the Case Company had just changed presidents and the old building was torn down and all metal scrapped. The wheels and gears had been hauled away to be cut up for scrap and were gone forever.

At this point, old boiler #14666 was neglected. It was even used as a culvert in a ditch where machinery drove over it. Eventually it was taken from the ditch and sold to Mr. Justin J. Hingtgen of LaMotte, Iowa. After Justin Hingtgen's death, the famous old boiler #14666 was purchased by myself, George W. Hedtke, and was moved to my Hickory Oaks Farm at Davis Junction, Ill.

Hickory Oaks Farm is the permanent site of the North Central Illinois Steam Power Show and Operational Agricultural Museum.
(exerpted from original article)

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