Jerome Increase Case got his start as a businessman selling groundhogs. In 1842 at the age of 23 he bought six of them on credit and headed west from his home in New York for what was then the frontier territory of Wisconsin. His business acumen was quickly vindicated as he sold five of them at a tidy profit before he reached his destination at Rochester.
At this point you're probably thinking; " Why would anyone buy an obese rodent with orthodontic issues?" The answer is that these groundhogs were a primitive threshing machine. You can see how primitive by looking at a picture of one. They appear to be little more than a cylinder with spikes protruding from it that's attached to a couple of gears. That aside, they were a quantum leap ahead of beating the grain out with a flail which hadn't changed much since the dawn of agriculture. Jerome used his remaining groundhog to establish a threshing business and began working on an improved machine of his own design.
It wasn’t long before Case moved again, this time to Racine Wisconsin where he rented a small shop and began producing his improved threshing machine. Since no one enjoyed slinging a flail all Winter, his threshers found an eager market and his business thrived. His early machines were powered by horses. In 1869 Case expanded it’s product line to include steam engines. The first Case steam traction engines followed in 1876.
The traction engine featured in this post is engine number 29478, a 40 horsepower model built in 1913. It is owned by the Berry Family of Saluda, South Carolina and was exhibited at the Richland Creek Antiques Show in 2016. It is one of the 35,838 steam traction engines that Case built before production ended in 1924.
Per the specifications listed in a Case catalog dated 1916 the boiler barrel measures 28 inches in diameter holding 32 tubes 84 ½ “ long and 2” in diameter, with a heating surface of 144 square feet. The firebox dimensions are 34 ¾ “ long by 25 ¼ “ wide with a height of 30” above the grate.
Steam at 150 pounds per square inch is connected by short pipes from the steam dome to the steam chest. Note the sediment on the canopy roof and the steam whistle.
The 40 hp model has a simple cylinder that measures 8 ¼ “ by 10”. Engine speed is regulated by the flyball governor that opens and closes a valve that admits the steam to the chest.
The steam is then directed alternately to each end of the cylinder by the steam valve thereby pushing the cylinder back and forth to transform heat into mechanical energy that is transmitted to the flywheel through the crosshead and connecting rod.
The contractor's fuel bunkers were available by special order for an additional eighty dollars. According to the Case 1916 catalog they would hold about a half day's supply of fuel. The water tank is located beneath the bunkers and the operator's platform. Another add on option was the canopy, priced at fifty dollars.
Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck