THE LEGENDARY 150 HP CASE STEAM ENGINE
by George Hedtke
The Farm Collector magazine, March/April
Case Road Locomotive 1906
(exerpted from original article)
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
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.
Return to the 150 HP Case story
See you at the Show!