Archive for Sunday, December 4, 2005

70 years after it sank, steam engine pulled from river

December 4, 2005


— Seventy years after a Case steam engine sank into the Republican River, some Clay Center residents hope to restore it to its original condition.

The steam-powered engine was used in 1935 to power a riveter at a bridge construction site west of Clay Center. A flood pushed the engine and most of the old bridge into the river. No one tried to retrieve it.

Eugene Baldwin owned the engine, taking it from farm to farm to thresh wheat, said Wilford Abels, 87, a lifelong resident of rural Clay Center who remembers the engine sinking.

"When it sank, I guess he didn't have any money or reason to get it out," Abels said.

Cory Stewart, co-owner of a Clay Center welding shop, said when the 1993 flood exposed part of the engine, he decided to pull it from the river.

Stewart, who collects antique tractors, and a friend, Ken Shivers, first had to get a permit from the Kansas Department of Transportation to work around the bridge.

Last weekend, Stewart, his father, two brothers and several volunteers used a bulldozer, trackhoe and shovels to free the 12-ton engine from 25 feet of muck.

The engine was on its side, covered in what Stewart said was the stickiest mud he has seen. After hours of work, the engine had been hooked onto the trackhoe and bulldozer with chains and pulled upright. Five broken chains later, the engine finally slid out of the hole.

A Clay County fire engine sprayed 2,500 gallons of water to clear mud off the engine.

Even then it wasn't clean, Stewart said. But he said the engine was in "surprisingly good shape" for having been buried 70 years.

The engine's wheels, nearly 6 feet in diameter, still turned. On Wednesday, the engine was towed to Stewart's shop, where it will be restored.

Stewart hopes to get the engine working again and use it at shows and events in the Clay Center area.


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