On one hand, Mark Davidson, RDO Equipment Co. Truck Driver based out of Webster, SD, will tell you he is no celebrity. But on the other hand, he is also the only person on the planet who has ever hauled a Case 150 steam engine over the road. It is the kind of remarkable sight that turns heads on highways and small towns. It is an opportunity Mark is grateful for, and one he earned through his professionalism and dedication.
Mark is a veteran of the transportation industry with almost 50 years of hauling experience under his belt. His connection to the Case 150 stretches back decades to when he first hauled equipment for Kevin Anderson, a South Dakota farmer and customer of what is now the RDO store in Webster. Mark built a relationship with Kevin back then and, most importantly, earned his trust and that of the Anderson family. The trust has endured over the years and, for Mark, resulted in the opportunity of a lifetime in 2018. It was then that Kevin’s son Kory completed his own lifelong dream of rebuilding a Case 150 from scratch.
The Case 150 is the largest steam traction engine ever created. Only nine of them were built in the early 1900s, and none of them survived the test of time. Over the years, the massive machines were all scrapped. But Kory, using original blueprints acquired by Case, brought one back to life, and when he needed to move it, Mark was only one driver he trusted for the job.
When Mark hauled the steam engine the first time, from Sheridan, WY, where it was built, to Kory’s shop in Andover, SD, he became the first person to ever haul it over the road — the machines were so large they could only be hauled by rail in the early 20th century.
The machine is a draw at festivals and shows around the country today, and Mark has had the opportunity to haul it a few more times since 2018, including to and from Rollag, MN and Bird City, KS, mixed in with a couple of stops at the RDO service shop in Webster. Other than requiring a bit more time to load and winch it onto the trailer, Mark said hauling the massive steam engine is not much different from the equipment he usually hauls, with one major exception: all those turning heads.
From impromptu traffic jams and spectators gaping from small-town streets to unexpected photo opportunities at weigh stations along the highway, hauling the Case 150 has proven a sight to behold each time Mark has hit the road. It has even drawn a bit of a fanbase.
“I was eating at a café in Worthington, MN,” Mark recalled of one of his hauls. “Another diner there saw my RDO hat and stopped to ask if I knew anything about the guy hauling the steam engine; he’d seen it from the highway. I told him that guy was me and we ended up talking for close to an hour!”
While it may result in him needing to keep a slightly closer eye on awestruck drivers whose paths he crosses on the road, Mark is grateful for his role in the fanfare and for his chance to be part of such a unique piece of history.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “To put it in perspective, after the first time I hauled the steam engine, another driver once told me, ‘Well, that’s got to be the pinnacle of your career, you might as well hang up your hat!’ And I guess that’s not such a bad way to put it.”