A Minnesota Family's History with Steam Engines
Dwight Boomgaarden recalls the role steam engines have played on his family through the years.
Mona and I taking a moment to congratulate each other.
Steam has been a part of my family for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Ellsworth, a small town in southwest Minnesota. One of my first memories of my uncle's 80 HP Case was of my father (George) and uncle (Jake) changing the valve from a slide to a balanced one. However, the history of steam in the family actually started with my grandfather. He was one of the early ones to be licensed to operate a boiler under the state of Minnesota laws. He had several engines, both steam and gas. He used those for threshing runs and grading roads around Ellsworth. He passed away at an early age, when my father was very young. My Uncle Jake raised my father and taught him most of what he knew about life and of course, steam.
Jake's 80 was well recognized in the local area. We ran it in parades up and down the main streets of just about every town within a 50-mile radius. Many of the times we would make a spectacle of it by pulling the water tank and the separator behind it. Instead of trucking, we would drive it to the neighboring towns. My cousin Gary, brothers Allen and Randy, and I would switch back and forth from driver to engineer.
The engineer got to be the showman, always adjusting and oiling something whether it needed it or not. These "adjustments" happened more frequently when there were onlookers.
In the meantime, our family had moved to a small farm in Florence, another small Minnesota town 55 miles from Ellsworth. On three different occasions, we made the two-day trip on the 80. When it was close to dark, we would stay overnight in some farmer's yard. We held yearly threshing bees on our farm and these became a focal point for the town of Florence and for our family, which by this time was scattered across this country from coast to coast.
In 1975, my dad purchased a 40 HP Case #10160 from Swede Ageson in Lester, Iowa. On August 2nd, 1975, Mona and I were married. The next day was also the last time the 80 would thresh in Florence. The 80 was sold, and after some much needed repair work, was on display at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show for several years. It was sold a couple more times after that and I no longer know where it is.
The 40 HP boiler had major damage to it. The front flue sheet was bulged, the crown sheet was pushed down. Half of the stay bolts were pulled out of the sheets, but we had a steam engine. With little money but big hopes, we knew that somehow Dad would find a way to get a boiler.
I am sure a lot of you will remember Bill Mayberry from Nebraska. In 1963, my uncle Jake sold him a 30/60 Aultman-Taylor with a 42-inch Case separator. Bill had many engines. He put on quite a show back then, so Jake sold him the outfit with the understanding that Jake would join Bill each year, and run the 30/60 for Bill's show. Dad often went along, and while he was there one year he noticed a boiler sitting in the weeds. It was Case boiler #33180, a 50 HP butt strap boiler. He approached Bill about purchasing the boiler and explained to him our dilemma. Bill declined Dad's offer, deciding against selling the boiler. Dad's hopes were dashed for the time being, but he was never one to give up easy.
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