Village displays ND man’s Case Steam Tractor model

Submitted Photo A model of a Case Steam Tractor is on display at the Ward County Pioneer Village.

One interesting artifact we have on display at the Pioneer Village Museum of the Ward County Historical Society is a man-made, 1/8th scale working model of a Case Steam Tractor. This model, made of steel, was built as a smaller version of the Case Steam Tractors used in the early 1900s in North Dakota and the Upper Midwest.

This scale model was built at Coteau, near Bowbells, by a farmer, Alfred Olsen, who lived and farmed with his brother Harvey. Coteau is northwest of Minot.

Alfred was born on September 29, 1899, in Verdi, Minnesota. He attended school through the third grade and was self-taught on how to succeed in life. Alfred was very hands-on and was very adept at building things, including furniture and grandfather clocks. Alfred Olsen passed away in December, 1984, at 85 years of age.

In Alfred’s early years he helped operate a real Case Steam Tractor. The scale model pictured is the second one Alfred built as the first one was lost in a house fire. It took Alfred four years to build this scale model. He had a metal turning lathe and made most of the parts from scratch. For fuel he used charcoal briquettes that he soaked in gasoline to speed up the heating process.

Alfred’s will originally designated the N.D. State Historical Society as the recipient of this model. His attorney and heirs asked that it be given instead to the Ward County Historical Society, and the State Historical Society agreed in 1985 that instead of storing it, it should be admired and displayed at Pioneer Village.

Jerome I. Case founded J.I. Case in 1847. Case Steam Traction Engines were manufactured between 1884 & 1925. The J. I. Case 25-75 steam tractor refers to the engine developing 25 horsepower at the drawbar and 75 horsepower on the belt. It could plow and power belt machinery such as a threshing machine. While a man with a good team of horses could plow two acres of land in a day, an engine this size could do eight acres traveling at 2.5 mph.

With a price tag of $3,600 in 1910, not every farmer could afford one. With water in the boiler and 1,200 lbs of coal stored on board in two “fuel bunkers” behind the rear wheels, this Case Steam Tractor weighed in at 25,923 pounds or a fraction below 13 tons. The engine’s boiler created 140 pounds per square inch of steam pressure; the flywheel 250 revolutions per minute; the front wheels were 12 inches wide and 44 inches tall; the rear wheels were 24 inches wide and 5 feet 6 inches tall.

In 1906 J. I. Case had branch offices in the following N.D. towns – Carrington, Casselton, Cooperstown, Devils Lake, Fargo, Grand Forks, Harvey, Hillsboro, Park River and Wahpeton. Pioneer Village, at 8181 2/52 W, Burlington, has it on display.


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