Most of the members are older men who retain nostalgic memories of threshing grain with the chugging steam engine sending clouds of smoke over the countryside. There are a handful of past and present railroaders who consider the introduction of diesel power a personal insult to the steam locomotive. There are professional heating and power engineers who enjoy experimenting with the force which so many of them harness in their daily work. And there are men from almost every . other profession who simply enjoy watching water boil up and handle tasks ranging from sawing logs to making a teakettle whistle.
June was a big month for the steamers. Early in the month the Live Steam Club held its first state field day. Staged on the Edward McNamara farm south of Richland, the event drew 2,500 spectators and a loud and smoky collection of steam contraptions.
McNamara, by the way, is a man who carries his hobby into his work. He actually uses two steam traction engines in his 360 acre farm. He operates a grain dryer and fills his silos by steam power.
Another member who uses live steam in his work is Sam Willson of Hickory Corners, who has operated a steam powered portable saw mill for 50 years.
The last week in June saw about 20 Kalamazoo area members of the Live Steam Club attending the annual national steam club convention in Montpelier, Ohio. Just in case you wonder how many people love steam engines, the national meeting lasted three days and drew more than 10,000 spectators and a whole farm full of equipment.
What do they do on these field days and conventions? They just stoke up their boilers and make steam until all the coal is burned up. The big engines are hooked together with chains in tug-of-war contests; others haul plows over fields or run threshing machines. There's no particular atmosphere of competition. A steam fan gets as much kick out of watching someone else run an engine as he does when he's firing his own.
Unlike the great army of golf widows who wait for their men to come home, most of the wives of the steam fans get right into the act. At meetings and field days you'll find them in the kitchen preparing meals for the hungry engineers.
Using pressure cookers, naturally.