Sept. 1982. Reproduced by IMA with permission.
Sometimes, what one generation uses, another views in museums. Take Herman Bearman's tractor, for example.
In 1911, Bearman decided he needed a revolutionary piece of farm equipment that would operate in his fields without the benefit of horse or mule. Eagerly, he purchased a steam driven Case tractor, manufactured by the J I Case Threshing Machine Company (now Tenneco's J I Case Company) in Racine, Wis.
During the heyday of the 'Age of Steam,' the Comfort, Texas farmer used the steam tractor for a fraction of its useful life before putting it out to pasture and buying more modernized equipment.
The 'Age of Steam' has long-since disappeared, and Bearman has passed on, but his decaying 90-horsepower unit has been removed from its graveyard and been given a second life.
The Center for Transportation and Commerce at Galveston recently purchased the tractor for its new museum. And, though the tractor's working days are over, it now stands as a classic representation of early 20th century machinery.
Set in a garden area, the Case tractor is one of several pieces of steam machinery on display. The Garden of Steam salutes early uses of steam power, including a steam fire engine and a 'gumbo buster' (another piece of steam machinery) used in Pearland, Texas, oil drilling operations years ago.
The Garden of Steam is only one facet of Galveston's newest historical attraction, which opened in July 1982. Built by the Moody Foundation, the museum glorifies the years when Galveston was a transportation crossroads of the world. Steamships lined up at the docks. Steam locomotives moved in and out of the Santa Fe Union Station there with cargo and passengers to Texas and beyond, connecting with railroad networks that crossed from one coast to the next.
Visitors are greeted at the museum's entrance a replica of that 1875 station with the sound effects of steam engines, whistles and boarding calls. The room's wain scoating and pot belly stove complete the scenario of boarding a train.
Five audio-visual theaters provide a capsule history of Galveston from Cabeza de Vaca's discovery of the island in 1528 through the Golden Age, when Galveston's Strand business section became 'the Wall Street of the Southwest.' (The Strand was restored two years ago with funds donated by Tenneco Inc. and other businesses and local citizens.) It concludes with a look at the city in the 1980s and in the future.
Next stop is the 'Peoples' Gallery' the focal point of the museum located in the old Santa Fe terminal building, which was recently restored to the way it looked in 1932. There 39 life-size travelers made of plaster are poised as if they are waiting for trains.
These figures, which appear almost ghost-like, are positioned around the train station. They include conductors impatiently watching the time, businessmen waiting for the next train to Houston, a beauty queen posing for a reporter, sailors, old-timers and children.
The museum also displays 35 restored railroad cars, some of which can be toured. Included are four steam locomotives, boxcars, baggage cars, mail cars, parlor and Pullman cars, a caboose and the 'Anacapa,' a 1929 private palace car then described by the New York Times as 'the most elegant private car on the rails today.'
Other features of the museum include an exhibit that explains how equipment like trains and tractors operated on steam power. It also has a group of box cars that feature rail road art, a railroad theater, train sounds and a display that answers questions concerning rail history from 1830 to 1980.
Admission to the museum is $4.00 for adults, $2.00 for children 4 to 12 and $3.00 for senior citizens. There is a 50-cent discount on reserve tickets for groups of 20 or more.
Visitors to Galveston should turn north on 26th street to reach the museum, located behind the Sheam Moody Plaza at 26th and Santa Fe Place.