Steaming the 110hp Case Skid Engine

Discussion in 'Briden-Roen Sawmill' started by CaseyD, Oct 8, 2007.

  1. CaseyD

    CaseyD B & R Sawmill Crew WMSTR Lifetime Member

    For my English Composition class, my assignment was to write a two-paged descriptive essay about anything. I decided to write about my experience Monday while being fireman for the entire day. The essay quickly became 4.5pages(double-spaced) and I was only far enough along to use the blower! Mike McWilliams was my teacher/helper for the day, but for the sake of simplicity the essay is written in first person.

    Here are some pictures to go with the story; for those who have not seen the engine.(I say 'not seen' because it's hard to forget:biglaugh:)

    The workday in the steam-powered Briden and Roen Sawmill starts long before the sun comes out to announce the start of its day. Boiler operators like myself trickle into the sawmill under street lamps, anxious to begin another day in the antique sawmill that we call home for the four days of the Western Minnesota Steam Thresher's Reunion. Our foremost task is the cleaning and operating of the horizontal, cylindrical-shaped steam boilers that form the heart and soul of the mill. With boilers, though, cleaning always comes before operating.
    The first early morning task for any fireman is to 'punch the flues' as it is called. Inside the both boilers, there are nearly 80 tubes that carry the fire over 15 feet through water before steam drives it out the stubby, partially rusted smoke stack. After a day of firing, each of those flues have a thin, black coat of dusty soot lining them from the firebox to the smoke box. My job was to use an unwieldy, long steel pole; longer than the flues, with a radial-shaped scraper on one end designed to carry all of the soot out to the smoke box.
    The smoke box is not exactly a box at all, it is just an empty space where the fire's exhaust changes direction from sideways in the flues, and skyward in the smoke stack. Although most of the leftover soot in the flues is drug into the smoke box, some is left suspended in the air, coating my face and giving the area a distinct, burnt smell. The flue-scraper's handle also gets a gets a reasonable amount of soot on it, which then finds its way to my clothes like a birds to a feeder. Since the boiler was just run the day before, the 1,200 gallons of water covering the flues keeps all of the metal parts at about body temperature, making the flue-scraping a hot, sweaty job. When I had rammed the scraper through all the flues and emptied the smoke box of the black powder, I replaced the old, burnt board that held the smoke box door shut. There is a metal latch meant to do the job of that leaning board, but it had been broken off and lost some time in the last 96 years.
    Now that my body had enough soot on it to resemble a walking lump of coal, it was time to make preparations for the fire. The fire grates still carried the leftover, chalky ashes from the previous day, and needed to be swept down in between the rows of slits that let air through to the fire. This makes sure that nothing is stuck in between the metal holding the fire up, otherwise a lack of air will both prevent the hottest fire possible, and keep air from going through the vents in the grates to cool them as it feeds the fire's insatiable appetite for oxygen. If the grates don't get the cooling they need, they heat up to a cherry-red, melt, and the 400 pounds of superheated cottonwood and coal ends up sitting in the ash pan.
    Since the grates are now swept off, the restless task of throwing firewood through the firebox door the size of a school lunch tray begins. Only the driest, seasoned wood is used for the initial heap of wood in the cavernous firebox, big enough for a person to lay down comfortably for seasonal cleaning. The only other fuel used to start the fire, besides dry wood, is enough diesel fuel to run a tractor for the better part of a day. Since diesel fuel will not explode or even light very quickly, all it takes is one match to light the monstrous fire.
    Before the fire is even thought about being lit, the water level in the boiler must first be checked. On the left side of the boiler, towards the middle, a strange, alien-looking metal apparatus that is tubular in shape, standing vertically with three valve handles spiraling up one side. The valves are the main way to verify exactly how much water is in the boiler at any given time. That is important to know, because if a boiler runs dry, the metal will overheat, become weak, and eventually cause the entire boiler to explode. I decided I would try my best to avoid that, so I opened the bottom valve. Water dripped out. Then, I opened the second valve, and water dripped out.
    Now that I know beyond a doubt that there is enough water in the boiler to begin firing for the day, I reach over to the wall near the boiler and grab a box of ordinary kitchen matches from a shelf. I took one, struck it, and as it flared I threw it right on top of the firewood that had been prepared just for that one match. Just like all other living things, the fire starts out small, fire traversing the peaks of the slab wood mountain on which it was placed. As soon as the wood itself begins to burn without the help of the diesel, I continue the frenzy of stacking as much wood on top of the fire as possible. At this point, though, the fire lacks any real motivation; it is just placidly consuming more firewood than a pickup could comfortably carry at any given time.

    First lighting the fire.

    Stoking the fire with as much wood as the box can handle--A LOT!:D


    I continued to stoke while Mike gathered up any scraps of wood left over from the previous day's milling.

    Once the entire firebox floor, the grates, is covered by a thick layer of wood and flames, it is important to keep the firebox door closed as much as possible, otherwise air is not pulled through the fire – just over it. Now that there are flames to light the interior of the firebox, the flues are seen composing the rear wall of the firebox, carrying the flames through the water filled boiler. The flues seem to be pulling the flames into them as a vacuum cleaner would do, and upon closer inspection, the flames never really touch the metal as they dance through the flues; they balance their way down until they deplete themselves. Although a sizable fire is lit deep within the boiler, it will take a little while before the water gains enough heat to boil and produce any pressure. So, that is a great time to round up an oil can of 'steam-cylinder oil' as it is called, since it can handle high temperatures and mixes with water well.

    Mike filling the steam oiler as I stood on the ground below, watching.

    Finding steam oil in an antique sawmill is not very hard to come by, so my next objective was to climb atop the seven foot tall boiler and oil every single contact point on the engine. When given the job of finding every oiler on these engines, it seems easy to be discouraged just by the sheer number of areas that need oil. Eccentric crank, both main bearings, all three metal balls of the governor, the steam oiler, the gear-driven feedwater pump - all these need a good dose of oil several times a day, as prescribed by a steam engineer. The only moving part of the engine that does not need oil is the main crank bearing, or the crankshaft, one might say. Since that is a bearing that gets the most abuse from each push – or pull – of the steam cylinder, it uses a spring loaded grease cup to push grease through the bearing the entire time the engine is running.

    Be sure to check out Part Two in the Briden-Roen Sawmill topic--the project was too long for one post!

  2. CaseyD

    CaseyD B & R Sawmill Crew WMSTR Lifetime Member

    Steaming the 110hp Case (pt 2)

    Here is the second half of my story...I never would have guessed that there is a 10,000 character thread limit...Hopefully it is not too boring to read! Good thing I quit after the initial preparations of the boiler and left out the remaining day that I had planned to write about!


    Mike made sure I didn't miss any oilers! In this picture, I'm oiling the governor.

    Greasing the main crank bearing

    Double acting steam engines are unlike any other piston engine, because the piston is pushed in both directions, doubling the power for the same displacement engine. The only disadvantage to this application is that a cotton packing is needed to keep steam from coming right out the round hole where the piston's push rod comes out of the expansion chamber, the area where pressurized steam is admitted to push the piston. This engine happens to have some scratches on its shiny, cylindrical push rod which enable a small, white cloud of steam to exit after every power stroke on that side of the piston.

    Steam cylinder and steam dome

    When the the engine is completely lubricated, I hop back down to the ground to heap some more wood in the firebox. Latching the door, I gaze up to the pressure gage in hope of rising pressure. I cannot see anything from where I stand, so I walk up the left side of the boiler and stop to check the water glass - a glass pipe that has steam on the top, and water on the bottom; and I remember that I hadn't 'blown it down.'
    On the water glass, there are also three red-handled valves: one admits steam to the top, one admits water to the bottom, and a third, smaller globe valve drains what is in the glass. To blow it down, I close the lower water valve and open the drain valve, pushing the water out, then a small hiss of steam follows it. Not a huge amount, but enough to sound like a teakettle was ready for use. There was finally some pressure! I quickly closed the drain valve, opened the water valve, and the water reentered the glass and bobbed up and down a couple times. That tells me that I can trust the water glass, and do not need to use the other three drain valves, or try-cocks, as they are called. Looking at a glass tube is an easier way to read the water level than to walk over and open a try-cock every time I need to know, which is about as often as I use the accelerator while driving a car: constantly.
    Finishing my business with the water glass, I continue towards the front of the boiler to open the blower valve. The blower is a small, round handled valve that directs steam from the boiler out and up the smoke stack to pull more air through the fire. Right now the blower just seems to sigh when it is opened; there is not much steam yet. When that is opened up, I go back to my usual place on the boiler: the 'boiler head.' The boiler head is a large piece of metal nearly seven feet high in the middle and five feet wide. The top is rounded, with tightened hex nuts the size of a fist coming through to hold everything together under the 150 pounds per square inch that the boiler is designed to hold. or rear of the boiler where the firebox door and water controls are, and begin loading wood into the firebox as fast as I can, until the flaming heap of wood touches the top of the firebox.

    As the fire heats up, it needs to be constantly checked for holes.


  3. Jerry Christiansen

    Jerry Christiansen Mega Poster WMSTR Lifetime Member

    Hi Casey,

    Let us know what your teacher thinks of your paper. I think it looks pretty good.

    Jerry Christiansen
  4. CaseyD

    CaseyD B & R Sawmill Crew WMSTR Lifetime Member

    As for my grade, I got a C+; she said that I could have organized it a little better and met the page requirement closer :)
  5. M Kerkvliet

    M Kerkvliet WMSTR Past President Administrator WMSTR Lifetime Member


    I moderated your thread(s) to condense it into one so it would be easier to follow. Your "part two" is now the second post in this thread. The 10K limit is per post, not per thread...

    Interesting read! I would have given you a better grade, but I guess if you did not follow instructions (4.5 pages!) that could hurt you! Did you include the pictures in the story you turned in?

    Are you going to continue on with the story, to tell about the rest of your day?
  6. CaseyD

    CaseyD B & R Sawmill Crew WMSTR Lifetime Member

    Thank you, Mark. I guess going this route did not occur to me :) For my class, I did not include any pictures--the assignment was merely an essay; but I am considering on bringing pictures to school to show my teacher after words. Every writing assignment do for school has something to do with Rollag, so I might continue with this topic later.
  7. Lee

    Lee Mega Poster WMSTR Lifetime Member

    A C+ seems a little low. It was very easy to read and follow. Makes you feel like you are right there and isn't that what a good writer is supposed to do. Please continue and post some more essays.
  8. Todd Hintz

    Todd Hintz Mega Poster WMSTR Lifetime Member

    I thought this was excellent...I'm still a novice when it comes to steam and looking to learn more, and this was an easy read. It may not have been what the teacher wanted, but you do have a gift for writing, Casey. Keep it up!
  9. Mrs.B

    Mrs.B Junior Poster


    Hi, Casey,
    Thanks for emailing me this site with the pictures and the essay! I enjoyed looking at them together. The pictures really enhance the essay, which is well written. I know the grade does not seem all that high, but you are a very good writer. Keep up the great work! I am looking forward to reading your next essay. :)
  10. M Kerkvliet

    M Kerkvliet WMSTR Past President Administrator WMSTR Lifetime Member

    Thanks for chiming in Mrs. B!

    We really enjoy Casey's company at Rollag. He is a real asset to our organization, and a really good young man... as is his younger brother who also has helped out on the show grounds. The world needs more young people like him. Seems the news media is always quick to point out the bad kids, and side step the good ones! Maybe Casey doing so well with our group has something to do with his education :confused: :D!

    Stop by from time to time to keep an eye on him!
  11. CaseyD

    CaseyD B & R Sawmill Crew WMSTR Lifetime Member

    Shh! Don't tell Mrs. B, but I just got done writing another essay about boilers! :) I tried really hard to get away from the subject, because I know my teacher has no interest in them at all, but the difference between a Straw burning boiler and a Coal/Wood burning boiler was the only topic I could think of that would give me two pages for a compare/contrast essay. I will try to find some pictures and make it into a story/book like this one in the near future.
    Again, Thank you, Mark, for your kind words. Rollag also needs more people like you! Without you, how would my brother or I have become so involved out on Steamer Hill? You might not have realized, but you were the person I relied on to guide me to where I needed to be to help out the community; I'm sure you have done the same with others, too. This forum is a great example: look at how much it has helped direct the productive resources of the volunteers! Now people who live to far away to just 'pop in' or do not have enough connects to make the long drive can be assured that here will be something going on the weekend that they decide on for a "Rollag Day."

  12. Mrs.B

    Mrs.B Junior Poster

    I agree!

    Hi, Mark,
    I agree that we need to focus more on the great kids like Casey. The media definitely spends too much time on the negative side of things when it comes to young people. I really enjoy having Casey as a student. In my job, I learn as much from my students as they (hopefully) learn from me. It sounds like you have been a good mentor to Casey, which he clearly appreciates.
  13. 40avery

    40avery Mega Poster Super Moderator WMSTR Lifetime Member

    Good job Casey,

    The essay is a great read and detailed enough for people that do not know and understand steam to understand. Keep it close to you because I can see a potential in the future for you to polish it up and use it for a collage english essay. I am very sorry I did not have much time to spend on the hill this summer or to talk to you during the show. The few times we passed on the grounds you always had a smile so I could see you were enjoying yourself.

    Keep up the good work.:bannana:

  14. Colin

    Colin J I Case Steam Enthusiast

    Skid 110 pic, in the rough

    Hi Casey, good paper:thumb:
    I figured you and some of the guys on here would enjoy seeing what that skid engine looked like before Jim bought it. Dad knew the owner (Allan) since the 60s, met him a few times at a show out west here, then kept in touch for many years. Allan never did know for sure if it was a skid or not. some guys said it was, and others thought it was a traction. even after he sent us some pictures we still didnt know for sure because we couldn't see the authentic crows feet on the bottom...
    I can't remember if it was dads or Jims idea to start to pursue this engine...but they both figured it would look good in the sawmill shed :) So dad finally contacted Allan and got him to send pictures.
    i always thought that was neat that they are dated 94 12 25... Christmas day:) (thats assuming his camera was set right) Allan dated the pictures Feb 15 95. and by later that March we had the ball rolling enough to fly down there. So dad Jim and I got on a plane in Winnipeg Manitoba and flew to Toronto, Ont. then drove up to Orillia. we were happy when we finally got to see it and determinded it was a true 1913 110 Case SKID engine. it did have traction wingsheets and lever shelf. but it had the crows feet, single valve motion and RH bearning train of a skid. finally after many years we knew what it was! :bannana: It was a fun trip and Jim ended up making a deal before we left.

    Later that fall Jim drove through the US and up to Orillia to get it. and came back through canada, stoped at our place for our fall plowing day, then headed back to Fargo ND. I think he worked on it that winter and year after, and had it going in the Spring of 97? if you look in the lean to shop of Larson Welding i think you can still see where there was a hole cut through the roof for its stack to stick out when they fired it for the MSEA meeting:D
    Danny loved the unstopable power of two 110s hooked tandem on the Mill. What other show in the US or Canada can see 2 engines putting nearly 300HP to the blade like you can At Rollag. :cool:
  15. CaseyD

    CaseyD B & R Sawmill Crew WMSTR Lifetime Member

    That is amazing restoration work! If you did not tell me, I wouldn't have guessed that these pictures are of the same engine. Seeing that lets me know that anything is possible with Larson Welding ;)
  16. GBoomgaarden

    GBoomgaarden Junior Poster

    Are the serial numbers for those engines in the sawmill, or any others for that matter available? I would like to add them to my list.

    Gary Boomgaarden
  17. Colin

    Colin J I Case Steam Enthusiast

    THe Skid 80 is a 1914, # 30930 im pretty sure. weird how that odd # is easy to remember:). the skid 110 is a 1913- last year of the 110s. i think i have its boiler # somewhere. but the serial # was never able to be found.
  18. GBoomgaarden

    GBoomgaarden Junior Poster

    Thank you Colin
  19. Alyssa

    Alyssa Junior Poster

    Casey, this was really good...why did she only give you a C+ though? Oh, well. I thought it was well organized, but she's a professional lol! I didn't get good grades on my papers when I was in her class last year either...I passed it without the credit for college haha! Anyway, I hope you keep doing was good. :D
  20. Katy K

    Katy K Intermediate Poster Moderator WMSTR Lifetime Member

    Casey, I really enjoyed reading about one of your many days at "the hill". You are a great writer as it appears to me! With your passion for Rollag, the energy for getting things done, willingness to learn about all aspects of the show and drive to HELP out wherever needed how can WMSTR go wrong. I will pray for more young people like you for the future of "The Show". I look forward to reading your book someday, telling more about your days at Rollag.
    Oh, by the way, it sounds like you may have a case of Rollag Fever. There is only one cure for it...Being There!

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