A Trip To Montana

40 HP Gaar Scott

Content Tools

Box 92 Portersville, Pennsylvania 16051

The author engineers Austin Monk's 40x120 HP Peer less at the Barnes Steam and Power Show. This engine pulled the 20 bottom plow almost effortlessly on 150 lbs. of steam. Behind is a 22 HP Minneapolis owned by the Barnes family, pulling a 6 or an 8 bottom Avery plow, Ward Barnes engineer.

Every steam engine buff can recall their most memorable trips to look at engines or their favorite shows. In August of 1994, I took one of those most memorable trips to Montana.

I left home on the 20th and first stopped at the Dover, Ohio, steam show, which is always a good one. Then on Sunday night, I embarked on a 1,160 mile journey to the 'Big Sky' state. My first stop was in Billings, where I visited Oscar Cooke's Dreamland. There are not too many places where you can see a 110 HP Daniel Best engine! There are many rare and unusual tractors and machinery at Oscar's. After an enjoyable day there, I got a room for the night and set out for Yellowstone National Park the next day. I must say that Montana has the most beautiful mountains, forests and scenery that I have ever seen in my life. I didn't realize there are over 350 miles of road and 1,000 miles of hiking trails in Yellowstone! I drove through 125 miles and saw much wildlife, including elk, American bison, mule deer, and pronghorns. Regretfully, I turned around and headed for Belgrade which was the main reason for the trip in the first place. I arrived that evening on the 25th and was greeted by Virginia Barnes whose entire family puts on the Barnes Steam and Power Show. I also met my friend Gary Yaeger whom I met for the first time at the 50th N. T. A. Reunion in Wauseon, Ohio. After a good night's rest, the show began on the 26th. That morning I met Austin Monk whom I've known since the Tri-State Historical Steam Show in Finleyville, Pennsylvania, back in 1987.

Austin had told me way back in '87 that I should come to Belgrade, and seven years later I was quite happy to meet him again at 'his' show. Around 10:00 a.m. it was time to plow. Oh boy! This is what I've wanted to see! Austin's 40 x 120 HP Geiser Peerless and a 20-bottom John Deere plow. John Schrock of Mason, Michigan, was the engineer on the first round and Gary Yaeger of Whitefish, Montana, fired the Peerless all eight rounds. The Peerless seemed to pull the 20-14' bottom plow effortlessly on 150 lbs. of steam. Then Sunday afternoon I was the engineer on the Peerless! It was an absolute thrill to plow with this engine that I've wanted to see since I was a 14-year-old boy. Many other steam men got to plow with it, including Dale Richardson, Jim Schrock, Carl and Kim Tuttle, Kenneth Kelley and Michael Yaeger. After I got done plowing, I walked over to Austin and shook his hand and patted him on the shoulder and thanked him over and over again.

Later on that day, Laurie and Lanceine Barnes threw everyone they could find into the water tanks. As I slowly tried to walk away, they got hold of me and threw me in as well! Actually, it was quite nice after a hot, enjoyable day of plowing.

It was hard to say goodbye to the many friends I made at Belgrade, but this trip was far from over. Next, it was on to the Carl Mehmke Museum 10 miles east of Great Falls on Highway 89.I arrived that morning, on the 29th, and was greeted by Carl and Martha. Later on we were joined by John and Jim Schrock of Mason, Michigan, Bill and Renee Kennedy of Grafton, Ohio, and Vic and Delores Johnson of Napoleon, Ohio. They also attended the Barnes Show.

Carl has an outstanding collection of steam engines, gas tractors and machinery. We pulled out the 20 x 70 Nichols and Shepard and the 1907 32 HP Case. The 32 HP Case was bought by Carl's father, Walter, in 1922 I believe, and was used to plow from Great Falls to the Belt, Montana, area. Carl recently restored the 32 HP Case and his 1911 110 HP Case as well. I also wrote Carl some years ago and have wanted to visit his museum too. The day was certainly enjoyed by all of us. I sure hope to visit with Carl and Martha again. They were wonderful hosts. My next visit was to the Max Tyler Ranch. Driving across the Judith Basin from Great Falls to Moore, I could just imagine a 32 HP or a 40 HP Reeves plowing these wide open spaces. I pulled into the Tyler Ranch and there sits a 40 HP Gaar-Scott double cylinder, tandem compound steamer. It is the only one in the United States and there is one in Canada somewhere. It is an awesome looking engine I would say. It was an honor to meet Max Tyler. Max grew up with Reeves engines. The 32 Canadian C. C. with those 4 ft. drivers and friction guide power steering was an engine hard to beat in that area. There is also 32 HP U. S. C. C, a 30 HP double cylinder, double geared Minneapolis, a 22 HP undermounted Avery, a 20 x 70 Nichols and Shepard, and the best collection of Caterpillars I have ever seen. I learned a great deal from Max about 32 HP and 40 HP Reeves engines. I would like to visit Max again as well.

40 HP Gaar Scott double cylinder tandem compound owned by Max Tyler, Moore, Montana. Only one in U.S.; there is one in Canada somewhere.

Next, it was on to Don Bradley's place in Forsyth, Montana. Upon arrival, Don was busy taking apart his 50 HP Case. I kind of expected Don's place to be outside of town, out in the middle of nowhere, yet his place is right in the nice little town of Forsyth. His 1910 110 HP Case was parked outside so I knew this had to be the right place! His 30 HP Avery Undermount was most impressive, being assembled with parts from 18 different engines. There is also a nice 30 HP Case, 75 Case and a late 80 HP Case there as well. Don is a first class person I met back in 1988 at the Kinzers, Pennsylvania, Show.

It was great to visit with Don but I had to leave so I could make it to the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion at Rollag, Minnesota, on Labor Day weekend. I have always enjoyed this show ever since the first time I attended in 1990. I helped on Danny Roen's 1910 110 HP Case which was on the Briden -Roen sawmill. The 110 powers the 66 inch saw blade and an 80 HP Skid engine powers the cut off saws and other machinery apart from the main saw. It was an enjoyable four-day show once again.

Now it was time to finally head back to Pennsylvania. I surely did not want to leave Minnesota or Montana, but wait! The Tri-State Steam Show in Finleyville, Pennsylvania, is only three days away. So by the time I got home and did three weeks worth of laundry, it was time to go to Finleyville and run the steam engines there. And the best part of all was that Austin and Mildred Monk and Carl and Martha Mehmke were there too. So ended this trip that I never wanted to end.

1913 30 HP Avery owned by Don Bradley, Forsyth, Montana. This engine was assembled from parts of 18 different engines.

As long as I can take trips like this and run steam engines, meet with old friends and make new ones, there is nothing wrong with this world! I hope many of you will write a story about your most memorable trip to that certain show or place. And if you don't, then shame on you for six weeks!