Making Recordings Of Steam Engines

Steam Engine Records

Joe Fahnestock in his studio making Steam Engine Records. It is interesting to note what equipment it takes to do this work. The studio is located at Union City, Indiana. See the article by Joe in this issue of the ALBUM

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Union City, Indiana

Here is an article that we believe you will enjoy. Most of us know Joe and his efforts to give us good recordings. This is the story of it Elmer

A WORD TO ALL THOSE kind folks steam lovers all who've been sending in their orders for Steam Engine Recordings. 'It's a pleasure always to hear from each and everyone of you, most of the letters bear glad tidings from men whose hearts thrill at the pulse of laboring stack. However, now and then arrives, a slip of correspondence from a lover of the reciprocating pistons a bit anxious to receive his platters before 'we' can get them made in their due order. Please remember that these steam engine recording are not mass produced, like Elvis Pressley renditions (thank God), hence are made up individually as ordered. This entails more than merely reaching over to some shelf and plucking off a disc that some plant has fabricated by the tens of thousands.

Actually it means the re-cutting of each engine sound into a new, uncut disc, from a library of steam engine and calliope sounds which I have been compiling for over a period of seven years, since that first year Rev. Ritzman (you all know 'im) invited me to bring my recorder up to Alvord ton and see what I could take down on a disc.

First of all it is not easy to get good original steam engine sounds and a fellow's got to keep trying year after year. Believe it or not it was seven years before I got a satisfactory sound recording of a Baker engine every time I'd try previously, a leaky steam pipe or a breakdown would ruin that good, sharp bark that thresher men would walk a mile, or order a record, to hear.

And then if it isn't some pipe that's leaking, then it's the loudspeaker on the fairgrounds that louses things up causing yours truly to throw more and more of those hard-to-get record discs away time without end Amen.

And there in lies a tale dear steam friends as to why some of those recording you ordered didn't always arrive when the postman did. For the inroads of tape recording has cut into the profits of the disc recording manufacturers, forcing some of the smaller plants to the wall hence for a time I was left holding the bag from my supplier for three months before I learned the awful truth that he was no longer in the business of making the shiny black platters.

But everybody's been mighty kind and patient a sterling quality along with honesty and truthfulness, that I've noticed most thresher men are blessed with. For being a newspaper writer and photographer, besides, which in itself keeps me on the run much of the time, not to mention that I'm also a bachelor hence reserve the right to see my grandmother to the movies once in a blue moon sort of explains just why I cannot always answer each and everyone's fan mail. (Could be I need a stenographer ask Elmer).

I believe almost every order I get even the second ones from the same parties order a Case recording anyway it seems I'm always reaching for that Master platter labeled 'Case'. Then Port Huron is very popular, as is the Avery (Louis David' s remember?) And fellows, when I put the needle down, merely by chance, to record the chugs of that old Rumely Oil Pull a couple years ago well, I didn't think it would be so popular. (Keeps me reach in'.)

But too, the Baker Master disc is also holding out fine considering the many hundreds of times I've reached for it and that Steam calliope disc is a popular one too, as are some of the locomotives.

So fellows, if you use the right kind of electric record player and needle, those steam engine records should never wear out, only don't ever try playing them on the old-style crank type acoustic phonograph. Never stack these steam engine records on a changer, either, like you would Elvis's for these are extra-special ones to steam engine lovers, and besides you can buy Presley pressings for less than a buck (which is still too much in my book).

For men if you're like me, and the sound of stack music, either of the steam traction or that great American institution known as the Iron Horse (it doesn't matter they're both great guys and they've both built our Nation) sets you on edge, well a recording of such is worth having around at any price. And my prices haven't 'riz' even if the cost of mak in' 'em has doubled and that includes Uncle Sam's postage as well!