Smoke, soot and steam filled the air at the 56th Annual Threshermen's Reunion sponsored by the Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association (RTEHA) of Kinzers, Pa. The event drew spectators and exhibitors from around the country. The featured machines for 2004 included Caterpillar and Sheppard equipment, but International Harvester, John Deere, Rumely, Huber, Frick and many other petroleum-powered tractors were present in numbers enough to appeal to every palate.
As with every Rough and Tumble reunion, steam was the order of the day, powering everything from an Erie shovel to a 1905 Chase shingle mill. Paul Stoltzfus, Norman Gay and Jeffrey Doncette had their hands full running an 1895 8-inch bore and 10-inch stroke Frick steam traction engine (owned by Dave Adams) pulling an Adams leaning-wheel grader, while other Rough and Tumble volunteers moved a pile of dirt from one place to another with Ray Fleetwood's 1922 Erie Model B steam shovel. Not all steamers were involved with the working demonstrations, though.
Jamie Hall of Churchill, Md., fired his family's beautifully restored 1915 50 hp Frick Eclipse engine just to take it for a spin around the grounds. "The engine has been in the family for many years," Jamie says. "They used horses before that." Jamie takes pride in the condition of the Eclipse and looks for every opportunity to run it.
Amos Zimmerman of Meyerstown, Pa., tended a pair of steam engines at the show: An original 1913 Case and a half-scale working model of it that he built. Amos has been around steam engines for most of his life, and he can't imagine another way.
Education and safety are also an important part of the Rough and Tumble mission, particularly with regard to steam engines and their operation. The organization offers seminars and courses every year to keep steam operators up to date on codes and testing procedures, and to train new engineers. The organization is fully committed to keeping the legacy of steam power alive.
"Steam school isn't just for older guys," says recent graduate Andrea Glenn with a sooty smile as she adjusts valves and eases one of the organization's Eclipse traction engines into motion. "I have been around them for most of my life and now I can finally run one." Fifteen-year-old Andrea and fellow steam school graduate James Kroa worked together to safely pilot the smoke-belching steam engine around the Rough and Tumble show grounds last August.
"It is good to see the younger generations take an interest (in steam)," Amos says wistfully. "I'd hate for it all to be lost." With young enthusiasts like Andrea around and with the help of organizations like the RTEHA, Amos needn't worry.
- For more information on the RTEHA and their 2005 schedule: Rough and Tumble, P.O. Box 9, Kinzers, PA 17535; (717) 442-4249; www.roughandtumble.org