Lifelong interest in vintage steam engines puts a Missouri woman at the wheel
"It's just an incredible piece of machinery," Valerie Bruns says of the 1915 20 hp Illinois Thresher Co. steamer. "The engine's smoke stack is not original, but was on the engine when Leonard Bruns bought it in 1973. The engine - one of just 63 built - has a 9-inch bore and 11 3/4 inch-stroke. The illinois was built in Sycamore, Ill., by William N. Rumely, son of Meinrad Rumely, founder of the Rumely company.
Valerie never misses the Missouri River Valley Steam Engine Assoication Show at Boonville, Mo., where the Bruns family is a fixture. She is shown here with her father, Leonard Bruns.
The biggest challenge of steam for Valerie? "When you show a steam engine, it takes a lot of caution, being with it constantly, taking care of it," she says. "You want to protect against something going wrong, somebody getting hurt. We're always very careful."
Where it started: Valerie between the spokes on the back wheels of the Illinois in 1976, preparing them for new paint.