A Firefighter’s Steamer
(Page 4 of 10)
Next, permits were required because it is exactly 6 inches over width.
The trucking company did a great job, and one day later it rolled into my driveway. I thought I was prepared to roll it off and had a forklift there to, once again, raise the firebox end and roll it off. No dice. The forklift wasn’t big enough to do the job. So I brought out a John Deere MFWD tractor to drag it off. Still no dice. The driver was a patient man and the bill had been agreed on in advance.
I figured the next best thing would be to start the disassembly of the stuck parts right then and there. So, that’s what we did. Fortunately, we found in short order that the rear wheels would move, and by disengaging the drive gears from the spur gears we could roll the engine back. And that’s how we discovered that all the drive engine parts were totally rusted together. But the first step was complete, the Case now sat outside of my shop. Little did I realize it would sit in that spot for the next two years!
It wasn’t that I didn’t work on the 1912 75 HP Case; in fact, it was just the opposite. From the day it arrived, it seemed that I was working on the engine. I quickly found there were many times that two or more people were required to disassemble something, and one of the real charms of these old pieces of iron surfaced – folks just loved to help.
Whether it was a neighbor who came by or the UPS man seeing me struggle with a heavy part, it seemed there was always a helping hand when it was needed. Along with the hand usually came a story and 10 minutes of work could easily become an hour, but that was part of the fun. Very little of the restoration would have happened were it not for the chance meeting of a true steamer’s friend.
When I purchased the Case I flew to Billings, Mont., and on my way from the airport we drove by the D&H Spring shop. I noticed a variety of steamers sitting outside and stopped to meet the owner, Corky Staudinger. How fortunate I chanced upon Corky, for he was the catalyst that sparked the whole restoration effort. I had never worked on a steam engine before. In fact, in southern Oregon they are a pretty rare item and I had seen only one or two actually under power before. Although I had worked on many pieces of farm equipment, I found this one a bit intimidating. Obviously all the running gear had to come off, but I had no idea where to start.
I called D&H and in no time Corky had me squared away. Bit by bit I disassembled it all, from flywheel to flues. In fact, I found out, unlike modern steel, if something was stuck I couldn’t just apply more force. When I tried that on the old Case, things simply bent or broke. Even bolts as thick as my thumb sheared off if I used a big enough cheater bar to make them move. So the steamer taught me the lesson that Corky had first spoken about – patience, and lots of it.
Over time, though, it slowly became a pile of parts and after a few months I had boxes of parts ready to send to Corky. You can probably imagine how anxious I was to get the parts back, but it took more patience (about a year’s worth) before all the pieces arrived. Corky had resleeved the cylinder, machined new surfaces on the valve box and balance valve, and rebuilt the governor. He rebuilt the cross slide and machined a new piston rod. He also calibrated the oiler and sent along a half dozen replacement spokes for the rear wheels. But the most important thing Corky did was share his experience and the right attitude to adopt when taking on a project like this, and I thank him for that.
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