The Story of big 12

| June/July 1997

Told by Dennis Kornwolf 7133 Michna Rd Racine, Wisconsin 53402

In 1914 the Associated Engine Company of Waterloo, Iowa, produced a 12 HP gasoline engine #900116. She was a magnificent machine, mounted on a sturdy steel cart, standing six feet tall and weighing almost 3 500 lbs. Her shining red paint glistened in the Iowa sun as she was loaded on a train headed east to a small farm in Wisconsin. She arrived at Caledonia Station in Racine County. Her new owners, Joe Peterka and Bob Hoffman, helped to unload her. She was pulled by two of Joe's big draft horses to the Peterka farm. She spent the next decade shredding corn, baling hay, sawing wood, and providing power to many of the local farmers.

By 1924, tractors were becoming a more popular source of farm power. It wasn't long before draft horses, pulling huge engines from farm to farm, became a thing of the past. Big 12 sat by the barn unused until her owners decided to trade her in on a silo filler. Frank Renak, a local blacksmith and John Deere dealer, sold the Papec silo filler which was distributed by John Deere. Big 12 was pulled the two miles to the blacksmith shop and traded in on a new silo filler. She was pushed to the rear of the shop where she sat until the summer of 1928.

Frank Renak's son, Del, graduated from high school in the spring of 1927 and joined his father as an apprentice blacksmith. Del asked his father if he could get Big 12 running again. Permission was soon granted, and Del began to 'restore' the engine in his spare time. By 1930, the engine was overhauled and sported a new coat of shiny green paint. Del decided to. put Big 12 to work sawing wood so he purchased a mandrel, bearing boxes, and a 28 inch saw blade, and made a sturdy buck saw with a swinging table. Big 12 was belted to the saw and for the next 36 years sawed wood for the blacksmith shop and the homes of the men who worked there.

In the fall of 1966, Del and his uncle Charlie were sawing wood when the connecting rod snapped into three pieces shattering the piston and putting an end to a lifetime of service by Big 12. The bronze rod had crystallized, weakened, and finally broken while under power. Del removed all parts that might be damaged by corrosion, put them in a box and stored them in the barn. He then coated the engine with heavy grease.

Big 12 sat behind the barn for the next 25 years. Trees grew up through her cart, thick brush surrounded her and rust destroyed the box steel that held her to the cart.


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