Andover man sets world record plow-pull with antique tractor
An Andover, South Dakota man set a new record last weekend pulling a 50-bottom plow with his rebuilt 150-horsepower Case steam-powered tractor at the James Valley Threshing Show in Andover this weekend.
It is the largest plow known to have been pulled by a steam engine tractor. Anderson built the 150 Case from the original plans.
Why a 50-bottom plow?
This year's record-breaking pull of a 50-bottom plow bests previous records set by Anderson in 2021. Anderson has pulled progressively larger plows each year starting with a 24-bottom plow in 2018. Two years later he pulled a 36-bottom plow in 2020 and a 44-bottom plow in 2021, both times at the James Valley Threshing Show. Each feat has been a record for the 150 Case.
In hooking the plow to the tractor, multiple chains are hooked up to the plow at various points and then connected to the tractor hitch. Since plows of that size aren't manufactured, Anderson said, several smaller John Deere plows were used and connected together to make the larger plows. Since the plows weren't made to connect together, Anderson said, the connectors were specially manufactured as well.
The 50-bottom plow spans 60 feet long, Anderson said, which is more than double the 28-foot wide plow he pulled in 2018.
Anderson said the 50-bottom plow will not only be the largest plow a 150 Case has pulled, but it's also the largest for a steam engine tractor, he said.
"That's about as big as you can scale," Anderson said.
A 50-bottom plow is a plow that features 50 individual blades that dig into the soil. It also features a series of levers that control the blades. During the demonstration, several operators will be standing on the plow manning those levers, but Anderson said those operators jump off before he begins to turn.
That's because the extra weight of all those operators can cause unwanted twisting in the plow, which was something they ran into when they started the 44-bottom plow run in 2021.
Running the tractor itself is a two-person operation with Anderson at the controls and a fireman feeding coal into the fire to maintain pressure for the engine.
Anderson said this will be the first recorded pull of a 50-bottom plow; although there are stories of a 50-bottom pull in Kansas, no official record or photos of that pull can be found.
Assembly was an 18-month process
The 150 Case was rebuilt over an 18-month period by Anderson, owner of Dakota Foundry and Anderson Industries. In that time, he made 250 unique castings for the parts needed to assemble the machine in Sheridan, Wyoming. Gary Bradley, a friend of Anderson, offered his shop as a space to build the 75,000-pound tractor.
That meant alternating between week-long stretches where he was fabricating parts in Andover and weeks where he was assembling the tractor in Wyoming. And, he said, although it was eight hours away, it created some needed separation from the day-to-day operation of his businesses.
The finished tractor made its debut appearance at the James Valley Threshing Show in 2018 and drew a record crowd that was five times larger than a typical crowd at the event. He's expecting 6,000 to 8,000 people at this year's show, where the 50-bottom plow will be pulled.
Idea to build the tractor started when Anderson was 8
Anderson, who is now 39, said the idea to bring this machine back to life first struck him around the age of 8, when he learned about the machine and its short-lived history.
The 150 Case is the largest steam tractor ever produced. Originally manufactured in 1905, Case built nine, none of which survived. Anderson rebuilt the tractor he shows today after obtaining the blueprints from the manufacturer.
At 18, Anderson said the desire to build the machine set the trajectory for the career he chose. That started with the engineering degree he pursued at North Dakota State University and continued with mentors who taught him different trades in the industry.
"Once I decided this is what I wanted to do, I knew I needed to learn all about it," he said.
He later founded Anderson Industries in 2006, which operated out of his garage for the first three years before moving to the former KO Lee Factory in Aberdeen. It operated there from 2009 to 2014. That's when he had the opportunity to buy Dakota Foundry in Webster.
He worked with the company, and not only did he want to see it continue to operate locally, he said, but he knew that company was what he needed to manufacture the casts for all the tractor parts he would need.
He then spent the next eight years reverse engineering the designs into a 3D CAD system.
In 2016, he went 'all in' on the 150 Case
By 2016, he decided to build the tractor. He knew his mentors who had taught him so much were getting older and he wanted to give them the opportunity to see the tractor.
"I wanted to finish this in time for them to see it and enjoy it," he said.
Since then, he's also showcased his machine at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota. He's also shown the tractor in Kansas City. The Rollag show, held over Labor Day weekend, draws a crowd of about 200,000 people. It was there he demonstrated a four-engine pull uphill in 2019.
Anderson said that demonstration recreated a test done by the manufacturer after the first 150 Case was built in 1904 to test the machine's power and the torque. The four-engine pull is where the 150 Case pulled four engines up a hill with a 13% grade.
"It's an immense amount of power that engine creates," Anderson said of the 150 Case and its one-cylinder engine.
"It creates 8,000-foot-pounds of torque," he said explaining that's about double that of a modern tractor.
But, while taking it to a show definitely draws a crowd, Anderson said, since the tractor is both over-width and overweight for road travel, relocating it requires both a permit and a pilot car.