Rebuilding Barney | Octane Press

Rebuilding Barney

The Restoration of Steiger's Very First Tractor

Together with Aumann Auctions and the Bonanzaville Museum, we partnered to create a charity auction to support the restoration of Steiger's very first tractor, the historic hand-built "Barney." Though the auction has closed (as of April 10th, 2018), you can donate directly to the restoration of rare and historic tractors like Barney at the Bonanzaville Museum in West Fargo, North Dakota. See below for details. 

          Barney is the very first Steiger tractor. It was built by John Steiger and his two sons, Douglass and Maurice, in the winter of 1958 in a shop converted to a barn near Red Lake Falls, Minnesota. (Read about that here). The hand-built and home-designed tractor was an incredibly effective tool, and put in more than 10,000 hours working at the Steiger family farm.
The Steiger family would go on to found Steiger Tractors, and their heavily built tractors would be known as the “Cadillac of Four-Wheel Drive Tractors” by the early 1970s. The brand is still based in Fargo, North Dakota, and is now recognized around the world (and has been part of Case IH since 1986).
Steiger Number One is affectionately known as “Barney.” The machine was given a fresh coat of paint and put in a museum back in 1975, and the old tractor still makes appearances at shows and events. Sometimes, Douglass Steiger appears with him.
The Steiger #1 was built with a hand-built power divider and chassis fitted with used parts scrounged from mining and farm machines. The 200-horsepower engine is a used 426-cubic-inch GM six-cylinder diesel two-stroke salvaged from an Allis-Chalmers HD-14 dozer. Lee Klancher

Douglass Steiger with his creation at the Octane Press Booth at Big Iron in Fargo, North Dakota. Lee Klancher
Last fall, we spent some time with the man and the machine at the Big Iron Show in Fargo, North Dakota, and were told that Barney was badly in need of an engine overhaul. The old tractor simply can’t pull itself around safely anymore. Housed at the Bonanzaville Museum in West Fargo, North Dakota, the machine is cared for by Jonathan Haux and Dick Petersen, both former Steiger employees who donate their time to keeping this piece of history alive and well.
To help out, we decided to donate one of our Serial Numbered Collector’s Edition books to a charity auction for the museum. It’s the first book made, serial number 501, and you can read about that here and bid on the auction here.
When we told Jonathan what we were doing, he took the bull by the horns and transported Barney to a local repair shop. The crew figured the Detroit Diesel engine needed the valves redone and perhaps new rings. The repairs seemed easy enough—but then again, repairing a 60-year-old tractor is never a simple task.

Barney gets loaded onto the trailer, en route to the shop. Image courtesy Jonathan Haux
The first problem came when they tried to put Barney on the trailer. “The day we went to get it, we were hoping it would start. By golly, we got it started in the shed,” Haux said. “It ran poorly but it ran.”
He was turning the machine around to get lined up to load up onto the trailer when the tractor took off for the first time. The engine wound up to full power, and Haux quickly turned off the fuel shutoff switch to stop it.
They cleaned out the precleaners and the tractor ran fine, and they drove it up on the trailer and hauled it to the shop.
The engine fired right up, and Haux went to back the machine down off the trailer.
“The tach pegged at 2500 rpm,” he said, “And it took off like a rocket ship.”
This time he had to put a board over the open air intakes to shut the machine down. He believes the engine was running on unburnt fuel. He said his face was covered with soot pouring from the stack.
Haux said they didn’t start the machine again, and pulled it into the shop.

Barney's interior. Image courtesy Jonathan Haux

Image courtesy Jonathan Haux

Image courtesy Jonathan Haux
Once they had it in the shop, they tore it down and immediately discovered a broken rocker arm and two cylinders low on compression, and found that four of the six injectors were shot.
They popped off the head and cylinder, and discovered the crankshaft is worn out and various gear drives have small pieces missing.
The guys are looking for parts or a donor engine. They located a rebuild kit, but need a crankshaft and some gears for the camshaft as well.
The mechanics are donating their time, but money is needed for the parts. You can contribute to the restoration of this historic tractor by sending a direct donation to the Bonanzaville Museum—just indicate the funds are being sent to rebuild Barney. 
          To mail your donation, please send a check or money order to:
           Cass County Historical Society
           1351 West Main Ave
           West Fargo, ND 58078
           Or call at: 701-282-2822

Bonanzaville accepts donations to continue its mission to preserve the heritage and history of the region to be passed down to the next generation. It is a 501 (c)3 organization and all donations are tax deductible. The Bonanzaville Museum thanks you in advance for your generous donation.

A plume of smoke and a loud angry rumble come from Barney during a 2013 engine-start. Lee Klancher
We’ll be posting updates to the Octane Press Facebook page and Twitter—follow us on either to stay tuned in to the progress.
And drop a line to if you have tips about where to find parts, or can help Jonathan and his crew get this old engine back up to speed.
Once the old machine is back up and running, the guys will have it out on the show circuit, and Haux has plans to put the old girl out in the field plowing for a bit.
“I’ve got a 28-foot field cultivator and we’re going to take it out in the field and play with it,” Haux said. “The engine should get run anyway—we gotta have some run time to get it broken in. Barney will handle it just fine!”

Learn more about the collectible Serial Number 501 Red 4WD Tractors book (the first of only 100 made) and find all bidding details on the Aumann Auctions website
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