Collector’s Steam Engine and Equipment Collection Began With 1892 Aultman Star Engine
Collector amasses varied steam equipment collection on 41 acres
A Minneapolis steam traction engine
Somewhere in the Midwest lives a man – let’s call him “Jake” – who has collected with an unflappable passion all his life. Scattered over the 41 acres that make up his “yard,” sometimes in rows and sometimes haphazardly, there are steam engines, tractors, fixed engines, farm equipment, large cranes, ditch diggers, and almost anything else that could be imagined, all sitting silently, waiting. “I will not let them go to the scrap yard,” Jake says.
This man, single handedly in many cases, has moved pieces of equipment each weighing many tons to his property. Once, Jake even built a special transporter to move a large engine weighing over 80 tons. Imagine the dedication and work it took for him to accumulate this amount of history in one place. He has passionately and quietly given much of his life to gathering these remnants of the past.
Sheep graze among the historic steam engines to keep the weeds down, a llama walks among the sheep to keep the wild dogs and coyotes away, and so it has gone on this way for many years. “I bailed hay last Sunday and put it up to feed my sheep next winter, I ran out of hay this spring and had to buy some,” said Jake. “I wouldn’t need the sheep in the winter, but when spring comes you can’t find any sheep to buy.
“I got the idea to start collecting in high school days,” says Jake. “Around 1932, we had manual training in high school. We got old motors and tore them down and fixed them. Then is when I really got interested.”
Around 1935, Rural Electric Membership Corp. put in electricity around the area. People used electric motors to pump water or run a feed grinder, which left many old engines just sitting around and worth only junk price.
“In 1937, I made up my mind to get started when I saw this old engine sitting on a lot,” Jake says. “I went and talked to the guy, he said it was a 1919 International kerosene, 3 HP igniter engine and, yes, it was for sale. I bought it for $2 or something like that.” Jake took his old tractor and a farm wagon to pick the engine up. It was not easy – that engine weighed 300-400 pounds – and he didn’t have any help. “I finally got it loaded and went home. When I took the engine apart I saw it needed some repairs so I went to the International dealer and would you believe he had the parts on his shelf? Anyway, that was my start in collecting,” Jake says.
“I didn’t get into the steam engine business until the late 1940s. I guess I was about 25 years old when I got my first steam engine, which was the 1892 12 HP C. Aultman Star. I paid $300-350, and of course, had to get it right away,” Jake says.
The engine had been sitting in a briar patch for years and was sunk into the ground about a foot. “We worked our tails off,” says Jake. “All we had were pick axes and shovels to get that engine loose and out of there.” He took it over to his neighbor, Gus, who was an old thresher man and had steam engines for years. “He gave me some pointers and said my engine had hardly been used and it just needed a couple of flues. There really was not much wrong.”
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