November 30, 2023


Sapiens Digital

World’s Largest Steam Traction Engine Comes Back to Life

As technology rushes forward in leaps and bounds, it’s sometimes nice to reminisce about past inventions — even bringing some back to life after disappearing for over a century.

That’s precisely what Kory Anderson at his team in South Dakota did when they breathed life back into the world’s largest steam traction engine ever produced, also known as the 150HP Case.

This megalith of a steam tractor was first built in 1905 by JI Case Company in Racine, Wisconsin. It served as a heavy freighter to pull large and heavy loads over long distances between rail connections.

World's Largest Steam Traction Engine Comes Back to Life, With 150 HP
The replica 150HP Case on the move. Source: Kory Anderson/YouTube

Only nine 150HP Case road locomotives were built in the two years it was in production. After they stopped being produced largely, due to a lack of metallurgy at the time, their parts were sold off for scrap, per Hemmings.

The only leftover part was one boiler.

Anderson, who grew up around steam machines, decided to take matters into his own hands over a decade ago. He and his team visited archives to gather and copy the blueprints of the 150HP Case steam engine and engineered all parts of the steam tractor so they could be reproduced in the exact way the original nine 150HP Cases were built.

The engine alone was built over the space of 16 months, and each rear wheel required 640 rivets and weighed over 6,200 pounds (2,812 kg).

The end result is stunning. 

World's Largest Steam Traction Engine Comes Back to Life, With 150 HP
Kory Anderson on the 150HP Case. Source: Kory Anderson/YouTube

As the team explainsThe 150 Case RL weighs in fully loaded at 37 tons, and is 25 feet (7.6m) long, 14 feet (4.2m) wide, standing over 12 feet (3.6m) tall. The engine burns both wood and coal to maintain its operating pressure of 180 psi steam. The bunkers have a capacity for 3 tons of coal and the water tank will hold 600 gallons (2,271 liters) of water.”

In low gear, it moves at 2.64 mph (4.2 km/h), and in high gear, it can reach up to 5.69 mph (9.1 km/h). 

The replica 150HP Case was first debuted on September 18, 2018, in South Dakota. At the debut, two John Deere plows were assembled together to make 24 bottoms, and the steam engine showed zero hiccups, pulling it with ease. The team thinks it might showcase the engine pulling 50 plows someday.

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