Author Topic: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small  (Read 9511 times)

Offline cedge

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Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« on: May 13, 2009, 10:02:46 PM »
I attended a small rural farm tractor and engine show a couple of weekends past. It was one of those last minute things that I had spotted in an obscure post on an engine web site. I went mostly to get out of the house, not expecting much more than a light diversion. When I arrived, I found there were a couple of guys showing small model hit and miss engines.

One of the guys was a bit secretive and didn't seem to want to discuss his engine building much, so I wandered over to the other guy's display. We struck up a conversation and after about an hour, he leaned in close and quietly invited me to another show that was being held the following weekend, within 30 miles of my home. He went on to explain that it was a "by word of mouth invitation only" show that had not been advertised anywhere. Just a bunch of tractor and engine guys who gather on one of the member's farm to enjoy each other's company and to run the owner's "toys". The conversation ended with an exchange of email addresses and phone numbers, along with my promise to attend the upcoming event.

The following weekend arrived and I dragged me out of bed and headed down the highway to find the unknown fellow's farm. I wasn't expecting much more than a few tractors and such, but I'd been assured that the people who attended this function were indeed, engine people. I arrived to find a farm pasture full of cars, coal smoke in the air and steam whistles breaking the silence in numbers. Folks.... let me tell you.... I'd found an early morning slice of heaven, almost in my own back yard.

A 4000 square foot or better shed sat at the bottom of a rolling slope, emitting black coal smoke with a true vengeance. Whiffs of steam could be seen emerging from the shadows within and someone was playing at a bank of steam whistles, mounted atop the tin roof, as if they would ward off the devil himself.  Peafowl were everywhere you looked and the coal smoke was doing battle with a variety of good smells coming from over around the cook shack. Add all this to the large Case traction engine that rumbled past as I got out of the car and a big red and white double decker bus that crested a hill from the other direction and you can almost imagine the scene that unfolded before me. Yup... like living a good man's dream....(grin)

As I wandered down to the steam engine shed, I was simply amazed at what I saw. Not one, but two large Corilss engines were happily steaming away, separated by a small beam engine and a fairly large slide valve engine, both running at a nice slow clip. The space that was left was filled by a couple of Bottle body verticals and a boiler that was doing all it could do to keep up with the demand for steam. Standing at the door of the fire box was a small gnome of a man who looked like be belonged in front of a firebox door. He was feeding the boiler sawmill slabs of hard wood trim.  We're talking about a man sporting a Cheshire possum grin and a shock of snow white hair, who was obviously in his very own kind of happy place.

I was greeted by several of the men who were tending  the various engines and was invited to get up close and personal with the engines. Touch them, climb up on the operators platform, want to help fill the oilers?...were the first comments I heard, along with hearty introductions filled with good humor and even a bit of male ribaldry. In short, these guys were having fun and it was obvious the friendships were both comfortably easy and genuine. When I mentioned that I had a collection of small handmade model engines I was immediately surrounded and herded up the hill to meet our host.

The owner and I were introduced and someone informed him of my collection, which got me a firm handshake and an invitation to bring my engines to the next event which is scheduled for the weekend of July 4th. He also invited me to join them for their regular Sunday breakfast. It seems the owner cooks breakfast for a fairly large crew of people, each Sunday morning and then they all go play with the engines or do repairs to those needing attention.

As I wandered over the farm, I discovered another 200 ft long shed full of Fairbanks Morse internal combustion engines. There were about a dozen of them, ranging from 5 HP to a large 120 HP vertical that was under repair. Everywhere you looked there were hit and miss engines, old steam engines some intact while others were awaiting their turn at the hands of the repair crews. In one shed was a full machine shop, in another a model T flatbed truck undergoing restorations, another held a fire truck, and nearby was a small locomobile under steam. The saw mill and grain mills were in another shed, up the hill, next to a large well appointed building full of antique cars, printing presses, gas pumps hit and miss engines and a plethora of other old items that adorned the walls and corners. Outside sat two of the largest gas powered traction engines I'd ever seen, both ticking over as the drivers discussed where to take their riders next.Did I mention anything about discovering Nirvana within a few minutes drive of my house?

As noon arrived, every steam whistle on the place was blown. The crowd of about 250 people began to move toward the cook shack and form a line. I was invited to join in. As the line went through the door, there was enough food for a small army which I soon learned was provided by the owner and the regulars in pot luck fashion at, no charge. I looked around to find a tip jar or somewhere to contribute, but none existed. Country people sure do know how to put on a real feed.... let me tell you....(grin). Nothing beats sitting in an old barber's chair while eating fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, greens, fresh tomatoes and melon, all washed down with a river of iced tea. The desert table alone was a enough to induce sugar coma. The day ended about 3:00 pm, as equipment was put away and fire boxes were emptied. Clean up would begin in earnest, Sunday morning, right after everyone had their breakfast.

The fellow who had invited me to this event was unable to be there that day, but he called me the following monday to see if I'd gone. After telling him how things went, he assured me those invitations were not given to just anyone, especially the highly sought after breakfast invitation. He then laughed and said that since I'd already passed muster with the guys, I needed to come to his shop and visit, which was what I did yesterday. We spent a while at his shop, along with another engine builder who came up from Georgia. We shared his current IC projects and we all swapped a few stories and shared some of the heart racing mistakes we'd made. The little Water pressure Engine and the current Victorian build were with me and seemed to serve as my bona fides with this group of close coffee shop buddies.

Then we loaded up and drove deeper into the rural countryside, until we came onto a small private air strip. We drove down a road next to the taxi way and into a drive way leading to the rear of an attractive home. As we got out of the truck it was hard to miss the Piper Cub aircraft which was sitting in it's own huge bay of the basement. The other 1/3 of the basement housed a very well appointed machine shop.  Here, I met a true model engine machinist of the first caliber. He pulled out his 9 cylinder radial engine and ran it for us. Now, if you ever want to be impressed, I can tell you that the work one puts into one of these little engines will certainly do it. He then shared the small V8 engine he's currently working on. I take my hat off to all three of these guys, but that little V8 engine is going to be something special. I'm looking forward to seeing it as it progresses.

After we all adjourned to the local diner for a long and leisurely lunch, our party split up, with three of us going back to the first shop for even more stories and the cooks tour. My host has a nice set up with everything a manual machinist could ask for with lots of room to use them. Can you say "shop envy"?...(grin). As the visit came to an end, I loaded my little engines back in my truck. As I turned around, my host was coming up the hill with his hand truck which carried a 3 1/2 x 30 inch piece of cast iron round bar and a 40 pound hunk of 2 inch thick flat cast iron. He alos handed me a piece of new 2 inch Durabar cast iron which he gave me for the cylinder of the Victorian project. He then wouldn't take payment for the metal, saying "I've got plenty extra and you might need those.... you take them with you". He then invited me to join them again, saying they tried to get together about once a month. You can bet I'll be taking them up on both of the invitations to join the fun.

After years of wondering if I was the only engine fanatic in the state, it seems I've hit the mother lode. I've been invited to display my stuff at the "Farm" in July and now at another well attended local event that takes place at the end of May. There will be a group of about 25 people showing their model builds and they've asked me to join them. All this from a simple lark that took me to a small country show in the middle of nowhere. Like I said.... you gotta love engine guys, in whatever flavor they come.

Steve
« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 10:38:47 PM by cedge »

Offline PTsideshow

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2009, 10:13:21 PM »
 :beer: :beer: :beer: Good for you sometimes, it turns out to be a winner!  :D :) :D
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Offline Brass_Machine

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2009, 10:28:29 PM »
Very nice Cedge... Sounds like a surreal engine lovers dream. I would love to encounter something like that. I almost did... at my last place of employment (the pharmaceutical that got bought shortly after I arrived) the was a guy who was into large scale steam trains. He had invited me to come up and run one during the summer. Unfortunately I am not there anymore.

Sounds like a fun time!

Eric
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Offline cedge

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2009, 10:43:45 PM »
Eric
Surreal is an excellent description of the event. It was almost too perfect and was one of those "pinch me I gotta be dreaming" moments... all day long...LOL. I kept expecting to wake up to find it was all a dream. I called my wife and she brought one of my young grandsons down to see it all. He was a bit more taken with collecting the pea cock feathers that were littering the place everywhere you walked. The engines didn't turn his crank much, but having grandpa walk him around to collect those feather put me pretty high on his good list....(grin)

Steve

Offline SPiN Racing

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2009, 11:27:50 PM »
Ya know..... I have run across things like that a very few times in my life.

THAT sounded like a twilight zone episode! I kept waiting for you to tell us you were dreaming and woke up... :doh:

I am also stunned that that group of people is here in the states as well!!!

I know they exist someplace.. because of the insane number of traction engines and steam farm implements I saw as a kid in Ohio. Machines like that just dont go away after being restored to those levels. SO they have to be somewhere.. It looks like you found some!

The closest thing I have seen in FLorida, is a guy with a hit and miss running some sort of mill at the state fair.. or possibly the strawberry festival a few years back.

There WAS a big traction engine on display on the side of the highway on my way up to NC a month or so ago.. but I was unable to get off the road to go look at it.


Congrats on a find of like minded friends who are enthusiasts!
SPiN Racing

Offline cedge

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2009, 12:51:42 AM »
Spin
What if I could assure you of an even more jaw dropping engine venue that is within "driving distance" of you? The "farm" was mostly surreal in that it was so close by. I'd never heard of the place until attending the small show, so it was a total surprise, even though they've been doing it for almost 5 years.

The event that just blows everyone completely away is held in Carthage NC. each fall. Ken Eder is a railroad contractor who collects full sized steam engines. Now that is what you'd call your average world class classic "understatement". You see.... his personal collection includes over 300 traction engines of both steam and hit and miss varieties. Estimates go as high as 500, but no one has yet to get what is accepted as an accurate count and Ken ain't saying.  His web site has not been updated to give this year's date for his annual open house, but you can keep an eye on it at  http://www.edervillenc.com .

Plan on making the trip. I can promise it will not be a disappointment, especially if you are into the big iron mechanical stuff. His model engine collection is nothing to sneeze at either. I could try to describe the event, but words just aren't adequate for painting this picture with anything but a pale shadow of the reality.  you can see a few photos that I took a couple of years ago at http://cedesign.net/steam/nc-steam ..... and they show next to nothing, as he adds on more each year.

Steve

Offline usn ret

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2009, 01:02:30 AM »
There is a similar event that takes place near Moorpark, Ca the last weekend of Oct on a pumpkin farm and the general public is invited. I went with grandsons last yr.  Many ancient tractors, farm implements, some steam and some hit n miss engines.  And of course pumpkins and other items for sale.  They have a parade of 20 to 30 tractors that is impressive.  CAL-OSHA would have a coronary if they showed up. :thumbup:
Cliff :beer:
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Offline sbwhart

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2009, 06:06:30 AM »
Hi Steve

Sounds like a great comunity, you know what we want from your next visit

 :worthless:

Have Fun

Stew
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Offline Bernd

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2009, 08:25:21 AM »
Cedge,

Nice find. Glad to hear a lot of that old iron is still around. Much of that was lost during the war years to scrap drives. It gladens the heart to know places this exisit to preserve the old iron. Just wish it was a bit closer for me.

Thanks for taking the time to write such a lenghty entery. I was thinking the same a Scott, that you were having a dream and was gonna' wake up.  :)

Bernd
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Offline PTsideshow

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2009, 08:55:07 AM »


For those that don't know about it, It is for Here in the States and Canada. IT is as complete a listing as you will find any where. For example there are 22 shows in Cal,72 in Mich, and 97 in Ohio. The total number of shows are down slightly this year. As the low turn outs last year put some in the red and out of business.
The biggest problem is the cost of insurance when you charge admission to the general public.
Some shows carry on as you have described as open houses, or invites only.
http://www.farmcollector.com/shopping/detail.aspx?itemnumber=3836 Seems they have reduced the price by 50% it figures I got my copy 2 weeks ago  :lol:

It covers toys, full size and models and farm equipment and any type of show relating to early days.
It also covers most national and local clubs, groups and parts and badge suppliers along with a section on the shows advertising of what they have and will be doing.

Quote from: usn ret
CAL-OSHA would have a coronary if they showed up.


California Code of Regulations, Title 8 is the boiler and pressure vessel code that covers them in that state.

Ever since the accident in Ohio in 2001 most states went to tighter requirements for inspection and operating of traction engines and antique boilers. More so when the general public and the paying of admissions or donations is involved.

As somebody in the Michigan boiler division said when it hits the fan and the parties involved have shallow pockets. The lawyers tend to come after the state for dereliction of duty in the inspection angle.

I have been in phone contact with the Michigan boiler division trying to get the latest clear code changes. As we are shifting our boiler code to be come more in line with the National Boards view of boiler codes. And the states attitude towards hobby boilers is changing.
"The internet just a figment, of my imagination!' 
 
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Raise the Dead!
        Walk on water!
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and I'm working on the first two!
glen

Offline Stilldrillin

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2009, 09:54:04 AM »
Steve,

I wouldn`t know whether to laugh, cry, or hope never to wake up again.......  :scratch:

You lucky, lucky man.......  :clap: :thumbup:

David D
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Still modifying bits of metal... Occasionally, making an improvement!

Offline CrewCab

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2009, 10:43:25 AM »
Looks like you've hit the big time now Steve    ............ no doubt once they see the water engine they'll elect you president  :clap:

Nice one

Dave

Offline TFL45

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2009, 09:27:39 PM »
Suspect that you're probably aware of this group, but just in case:  http://www.roughandtumble.org/index.asp

Their sandbox is located in the famous Pennsylvania Dutch country and you just missed - today - their first Steam School for 2009 and a bit earlier this month their Spring Steam Up!

Keep promising myself that I'll travel down that way to see what they get up to - whatever it is, it looks like fun!  :ddb:

Floyd
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Offline Brass_Machine

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2009, 09:56:36 PM »
Suspect that you're probably aware of this group, but just in case:  http://www.roughandtumble.org/index.asp

Their sandbox is located in the famous Pennsylvania Dutch country and you just missed - today - their first Steam School for 2009 and a bit earlier this month their Spring Steam Up!

Keep promising myself that I'll travel down that way to see what they get up to - whatever it is, it looks like fun!  :ddb:

Floyd

That's less than 2 hours from me. Haven't been there yet!

Eric
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Offline SPiN Racing

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #14 on: May 19, 2009, 09:05:49 PM »
Ohhhhhhhh NC. Just was there a month or so ago.... And told SWMBO... and she said "Have Fun!"

Sooo Looks like it will be the boys and I this fall   :headbang:

THANKS for the link!!!
SPiN Racing

Offline ChooChooMike

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Re: Ya gotta love the engine community, big and small
« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2009, 06:00:00 PM »
There is a similar event that takes place near Moorpark, Ca the last weekend of Oct on a pumpkin farm and the general public is invited. I went with grandsons last yr.  Many ancient tractors, farm implements, some steam and some hit n miss engines.  And of course pumpkins and other items for sale.  They have a parade of 20 to 30 tractors that is impressive.  CAL-OSHA would have a coronary if they showed up. :thumbup:
Cliff :beer:

I'm a little late to this parade, so to speak ... :) Cedge posted this same very neat story on HMEM too, think that's where I 1st encountered it.

There's another museum here in So California :

Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum

in Vista, California, just north of San Diego. It's a working museum with an impressive collection of bulldozers, tractors, at least 5 working steam traction engines (1 or 2 more in restoration), machine shop, gas engine row containing a slew of large hit 'n miss engines, Fairbanks-Morse diesel tied to a generator, steam engine row - with 2 running Corliss engines and a raft of running smaller steam (horizontal, vertical, simplex, duplex, couple new boilers from a hospital and an old vertical boiler) and LOTS more agriculture-related equipment. There's a whole building full of hit 'n miss and other engines.

Each spring and fall, they have their Harvest Festival, now called Tractor show. This fall's dates :

http://www.agsem.com/calendar-of-events.php

Oct. 17, 18, 24 & 25, 2009

Folks bring out their old refurbished and restored tractors, dozers, ALL kinds of hit 'n miss engines, old washing machines, ice cream makers, there's usually a bunch of model engines, Sherline has been showing there the last couple of years since their factory is in the neighborhood. They have a parade of vehicles (dozers, tractors, car, steam traction, etc.), fire up much of the steam engine row (both Corliss engines' running), many of the large gas engines too. Lots of eye candy !!

Definitely worth a look-see if you're in the area :) I usually go once a year to whet my appetite  :)

Mike