ANDOVER — The dream either started a decade ago or more than a century ago, depending on how you look at it.
“I was just five days old the first time I was on a steam engine,” said Kory Anderson.
The Andover native is 35 now and has just finished building from scratch a 150-horsepower Case road locomotive, a model that has sometimes been billed as the largest steam tractor ever made.
It’s a task Anderson took on when he was not busy running one of three farm and machinery businesses.
In its day the Case 150 was created to haul heavy freight. Only nine were manufactured from 1905 to 1907, Anderson said. The monstrous tractor — which looked like a train engine, but moved on land — quickly met its demise as railroads laid track through the Midwest. The beastly size and heft quickly made the Case obsolete when trains started hauling freight across the nation.
But that practicality is no matter to steam engine buffs. Anderson drops the names of steam hobbyists like someone else would baseball heroes:
• George Hedtke of Davis Junction, Ill.
• Jim Briden of Fargo, N.D.
• Gary Bradley of Sheridan Wyo.
• Rich Tworek of Racine, Wis.
“I grew up in the steam engine hobby, with mentors, friends and these guys taught me a lot,” Anderson said.
When he was 10, he went to a Case expo in Rollag, Minn., and met Hedtke.
“He had brought this boiler. I remember being this kid wondering why he hauled this boiler all the way from Illinois. It was the only remaining piece from a 150 Case. I spent a lot of time with him. He’d tell stories about the 150s. After the 150s were gone, in the ‘40s and ‘50s, there were guys like George looking for any remaining parts that would be around.
“As a boy I grew up on the (Case) 110. I couldn’t imagine there was anything bigger than that. As a boy you’re curious anyway. It just became kind of a dream of mine. And as I got older I thought, well, probably the only way I’d get to run a 150 is to build it myself,” Anderson said.
In the meantime he worked on other Case models under the guidance of his father, Kevin Anderson, and Briden. It helped him learn and hone his craft of re-creation.
The dream really started to become tangible when Kory Anderson wound up at a conference in Racine, Wis., in 2007. Racine has been home to the Case headquarters since 1842. Anderson decided to ask about patterns, and Tworek directed him to the archives. Anderson was in luck. He found designs for the Case 150.
He started designing parts using computer-aided drafting and, before casting, wood patterns because each piece had to be “made by scratch,” he said.
Anderson estimates about 50 people, $1.5 million and 4,000 hours have been invested in his project. It’s taken about seven full years for the bulk of the work to be completed. Some of the cost was donated via labor, material or parts from those excited to see a piece of agricultural history in motion, but the Andersons covered most of it. They run Anderson Industries, Horsch LLC and Dakota Foundry, a metal casting shop that was bought, in part, for the Case 150 undertaking.
The last year and a half or so the engine was taking form in Wyoming in Bradley’s metal casting shop. That’s where Kory Anderson focused on getting the largest ductile iron pieces cast and the engine put together in time for this year’s James Valley Threshing Show, which is this weekend in Andover.
“His mother asked me, ‘Are you guys gonna have that done?’ Bradley said. “I held my own end up and if Kory’s got his, I’ll get everything done.
“Let me tell you something, I was glad to see the damn thing go,” Bradley said with both a sigh of relief and an sense of accomplishment.
He has been asked by friends if he’ll be at the threshing bee helping run the 31-ton contraption.
“I said, ‘Hell no, it’s too damn much work. You young guys do it,’” Bradley said. “I’m 73, I want to stand back an watch.”
On Tuesday, Anderson was taking a lap around Threshermen’s Park in Andover on the Case 150. It had a bright coat of red and green paint as the belching exhaust left a tail of gray puffs smoldering behind it. Up close it had the shiny gold number plate from the first Case 150 ever built. Anderson was sure to get all the details right in the casting, complete with raised pattern number on the pieces.
The locomotive was chugging along at top speed, about five mph. But it was still being broken in. Anderson was a little on edge in anticipation of the road locomotive putting on a show for the three-day threshing bee.
“It wasn’t built as a museum piece. It’s got to perform,” he said, as he decided to call in a flatbed semi to haul the Case to Webster for some last-minute tweaks.
Folks can see the towering tractor during the threshing bee this weekend in Andover. The three-day festival starts Friday and will include demonstrations, concessions, vendors, a spark show at dusk each day, a daily parade and more. Admission is $10 per day for adults; children 10 and younger get in free.