Forrest Pense, known to many in the old-iron community as "the engine man," died Nov. 14, 2004, in Harvard, Neb. A Harvard native, he gave the town a spot on the tractor and steam engine map. Pense never married or had children, but as a young boy, he started his love for steam engines with his father's old Russell. But the engine that truly stole his heart was an Avery steam engine he and his father used to plow 2,000 acres in Montana. He was an avid Avery fan for the rest of his life - Pense and his friend Oscar Perl once jumped trains all the way to the Avery headquarters in Peoria, Ill.
Starting with local engines, Pense branched out to other parts of Nebraska until he was buying engines and parts across the country. Eventually, his collection became one of the largest in the United States. According to friends, Pense restored more than 50 steam engines of his own, and even more considering how many people came to his farm. They came looking for "the engine man" to help fix their engines.
Besides being a big name in the old-iron world, Pense was a talented roller skater, and skated until he was 92 years old. His friends said he could clear a 20-inch limbo pole and was as limber as a goose. He loved skating, but even more, he loved steam and the sound of the engines running.
One of his shining moments was in May of 2000. He wanted to pull a 1916 Avery steam engine out of the Republican River in Scandia, Kan. Pense first attempted to raise the engine in the 1960s to no avail. In 1999, the Nowthen Historical Power Assn. from Minnesota and Pense decided it was about time for the engine to sit on dry land. Using high-powered equipment, they succeeded. It was a 16 HP Avery, no. 49.
At Pense's eulogy, Rev. Stan Crawford said, "He still lives on in all his iron and steel scattered around the country … he will be remembered in the stories the collectors will tell of how he helped with their machines that will probably outlast all of us."
Submitted by Dusty Erickson, Scottsdale, Ariz. Information for this report also came from the Sutton, Neb., Clay County News.