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Redfield’s persistence pays off when steam engine is finished
Award recognizes unique project
Refield is seen in Clayton Township shop
RICK REDFIELD'S DREAM came true when he build a small steam engine from brass and steel he machined at his rural shop in Crawford County. The completed project has won him recognition in the form of a first place award in the 'Metal My Way' competition put on by Metal Supermarkets.

CLAYTON TOWNSHIP - At Rick Redfield’s property in rural Clayton Township, a lot of dreams have come true over the years.

Rick created and operated a successful auto repair shop in the 80s. He returned to the property years later, set up and operated a woodworking shop with the help of his wife Becky and son Cory.

There were a few other dreams that came true along the way. Rick is a talented and ambitious kind of guy-that’s pretty obvious. At another point in his life, he served as paramedic in Chicago and then a physician assistant at a hospital in Evanston, working in orthopedic surgery.

Despite all those dreams and projects that came to fruition over the years, one accomplishment that happened recently may have been the longest of all in being realized. It happened last year and has been recognized with an award recently.

How long did it take to complete this project? Well, about 55 years…the 70-year-old Redfield took on the project of building a steam engine from scratch as a 15-year-old boy.

Rick’s father, Bob Redfield, was a well-educated and accomplished electrictronics engineer. The family lived in the northern suburbs of Chicago. At some point, Nick Fishnick, an engineer friend of Rick’s dad, turned over a steam engine project to Bob Redfield. Fishnick said that he felt it was a project he would never finish.

Rick’s dad turned it over to his son. Among other things, the steam engine plan called for precise brass and steel parts to be manufactured on lathes and milling machines. Rick started the ‘cool steam engine’ project at the age of 15.

Over the years, Rick reviewed the plans for the two-cylinder vertical steam engine. Those plans were taken from a 1946 Model Craftsman Magazine. Every part in the plan was measured in precise fractions and all of that eventually needed to be converted to numbers with decimal points that could be used by modern machinery.

At some point years ago, Rick put together the small steam engine out of parts he had made. Unfortunately, the parts weren’t precise enough and the steam engine wouldn’t run.

However, the dream to follow the plans and build a working steam engine persisted. Remember every part needed to be made. There were no castings or kits, just the plans. Rick had to buy the brass and steel and cut it himself.

Rick’s brother Bill Redfield later stepped in and made the conversion of the fractions to decimals with the help of an auto cad program.

Along the way, Rick acquired high quality industrial-grade lathes, a milling machine and more high-grade equipment. It’s all in his machine shop now.

In his rural Crawford County shop, Rick Redfield began using his machinery to make the necessary pieces to the precise sizes and tolerances required to build the steam engine. He ordered his materials from the Metal Supermarket.

Redfield's steam engine
REDFIELD'S STEAM ENGINE was built using the plans from a 1946 Model Craftsman magazine, some brass and steel he purchased from Metal Supermarkets, and some high quality lathes and a milling machine.

About six months to a year ago, he finally assembled the steam engine. Although the engine can definitely run on steam, Redfield does not have the necessary boiler to create the high pressure of steam need to run the engine, so he used compressed air available in his shop.

Guess what? The dang little steam engine ran and it ran perfectly. The complicated little thing worked.

Rick called his wife Becky and son Cory to the shop for a demonstration. He demonstrated it to more friends and neighbors.

Rick Redfield laughed as he remembered  the demonstrations.

“You can’t really visit without getting a demonstration,” Rick said. “I’ve demonstrated it to Tim Jenkins and Jane Keeley and just about everybody else.”

Tim and Jane are among Rick’s many old-time music friends.

On Monday, it was the Independent-Scout’s turn to see Rick’s model steam engine run, and run it did.

Rick’s ‘steam engine dream’ had come to pass.

One day while online at the Metal Supermarket, Rick noticed a contest being advertised. You could submit projects you made to be judged in different categories. Our local dreamer submitted his steam engine project and was awarded first place.

Metal Supermarkets, the world’s largest supplier of small-quantity metals, announced that Rick Redfield was the winner of the 'best industrial project' for the ‘2022 Metal My Way’ competition.

Rick learned the prize was a tool box. He was a bit surprised when the UPS driver delivered a large heavy box with a countertop-high solid metal toolbox.

It sure was nice to see Rick Redfield recognized for his work in making a 55-year-old dream come true.

And yes, it was a hoot seeing Rick run his steam engine in his little rural shop earlier this week.

“It was great just to see it run,” Rick said, as he smiled with satisfaction. “It’s the ultimate in a hobby project.”

Dreams can come true!