Sawmilling in Bridgewater, Virginia. 60 HP 1922 Frick owned by Cecil Craun, Weyers Cave providing power. Joe Funk, Singers Glen, Virginia, is the sawmill operator. Bridgewater Vol. Fire Company Steam and Gas Meet. Courtesy of Charles Clemmer, Dayton, Virg

Content Tools

Hampstea, Maryland 21074

The Annual Maryland Steam Show for 1976 was held in September on the Arcadia Carniva Grounds at Upperco, Maryland along Maryland Route #30.

The first two days were very poor in attendance because of heavy rains which cut down the crowds and the inclement weather made it unfit to operate the equipment. But, on Saturday, the sun dried up the muddy ground and everything got moving again, which drew the crowds again.

We had about sixteen large steam engines on the grounds, plus a great assortment of tractors and associated equipment. This year there were over 100 gasoline engines on display, everyone of which was operating.

Also, three large stationary engines and a steam-powered sawmill added to the attractions. Several nice model steamers were also shown. There were also some antique motorcycles on display.

The large Flea market on the grounds drew a lot of attention with so many beautiful and unusual antiques for sale. This always draws a crowd and especially the ladies who like fine china, clocks, etc.

Also, on the week-end, the antique automobile owners from the nearby communities had their beautiful autos on display. There was a Stanley Run-about which was in excellent condition.

There were also helicopter rides available on the show grounds. As usual, the food stands were continuously busy, with hot sandwiches, drinks and homemade soup prepared on the spot.

President Gilbert Wisner and all of the directors and members of our club wish to invite you to our 1977 Show in September 15-18. Come and join us this fall - admission and parking - Free!

Some time ago my son presented me a birthday gift of a subscription to Iron Men Album Magazine and I have now received three issues.

I want to express my appreciation to I.M.A. for the many fine articles and pictures of each issue. It sure has taken me back to the early twenties and my experience as operator and owner of steam engines and threshing machines.

My interest in steam engines goes back to my early childhood. When about four or five years of age, my father said one morning that my Uncle was coming that morning with his engine and sheller to shell corn. I remember taking a place near a window overlooking the farm yard; soon the engine with sheller behind came into the yard. I was amazed at the big machine slowly coming thru the yard with black smoke pouring from the stack. My amazement soon turned to terror as my Uncle blew the whistle loud and long, the big screaming monster was too much and I ran to Mother's bedroom, crawled under the bed, where I stayed till noon, according to my mother's story.

After they had dinner my Uncle took me out to the engine, told me to pull the whistle string; it was a little scary, but fun. The rest of the afternoon I sat watching the engine run, intrigued to no small degree by the whirling balls of the governor, and thus my love of engines was born.

However when I was 10 or 11 years old, that love of engines was almost extinguished. My same Uncle was baling straw on our place and I was on or near the engine most of the time. My Uncle had to go to the baler to make an adjustment and he showed me the throttle lever and that I was to push it forward if he gave me the signal to stop the engine. The signal soon came and I jumped at the opportunity to stop the engine. Being a little short, I grabbed a pipe at the rear of the boiler so I could reach up farther. The pipe, unfortunately for me, was the hot pipe to the injector and the palm of my hand was literally fried to the pipe; quite a blow to a budding ambition to operate a steam engine some day.

A few years later at the age of 17 my father sent me to the threshing run in our community with a bundle rack and team. This was quite a thrill for me, for now I was taking a man's place and contact with the threshing machine crew the steam engine and separator.

Through the several years that followed I looked forward each fall to the threshing run, the big meals for 18 or 20 men mostly neighbors and hired men; the good-natured banter among the group; also of course my love and interest in the threshing rig. I used every opportunity to observe and question the crew about the operation of engine and separator.

In the spring of 1919 my Uncle asked me if I would be interested in a partnership with him in a threshing machine venture. I leaped at the idea, but worried about the finance of the project.

We ended up buying a new 20 HP Minneapolis engine and a slightly used 36-54 Advance separator.

This outfit was used for many years in my home community and proved to be quite profitable. Besides our threshing run we moved many buildings and filled silos. After we finished our Community threshing in 1921, we shipped the threshing rig to Cheyenne county, 20 miles south of Sidney, Nebraska. This was new country and wheat was real good. Most fields were at least 160 acres and we would set in each 40 acres, all shock threshing. Four big Bethlehem trucks, big for that day hauled the wheat 20 miles to Sidney, Nebraska. We had instructions not to stop threshing if a truck was not there, so many times the wheat would pile up on the ground under the separator.

We got 12 cents per bushel for threshing and that was good money for that time. I would sit up on the separator and every time the weigher dumped the half bushel I figured there was six cents for my partner and the next one, six cents for me.

My Uncle and I almost met disaster there one afternoon in a severe thunderstorm. We had covered up the separator with a tarp as the storm approached and then ran for the farm house one-fourth mile away. About half way there lightning struck very near and all at once I found myself on my knees and my Uncle in the same position beside me. The next morning on our way back to the machine in the field we found four of five shocks of grain just charred ashes, how close it struck we'll never know, but too close for comfort.

One fall after finishing our threshing run we got a contract to pull an elevator grader with the steamer for a road builder. It was a hard task guiding the steam engine to make the right cut for the grader, but we got good pay for the hard work involved. One morning a rather amusing incident happened. There were ten dump wagons pulled by mule teams that hauled the dirt from the elevator grader and as we pulled into the grading area one cold morning, the water gauge broke, with a roar of steam and water. Before we could get it shut off, six of the teams ran away. It took about two hours before those mule skinners could get their wagon under the elevator.

Another rather amusing incident happened when pulling a house with the engine for a house mover. One of the moving trucks broke through a small culvert and while we were jacking the house up to get the truck out, a convoy of trucks of mobile artillery over took us. The road was blocked and an angry Army Major climbed on the engine and demanded I pull the house in the ditch so the army could pass. I told him the house mover was my boss, talk to him. The house mover told him to go back one-fourth mile and he could by pass the block. The indignant Army Major said the army does not turn back. By that time the house was jacked up ready to go. To my embarrasment I found that in the excitment I had let the steam level go down and the engine was unable to move the house. In about 15 minutes it was able to move up to a cross road and the Nebraska army could pass much to my amusement but not the Majors.

Here is another incident that had us in hot water for a short time, so to speak. We were crossing a little creek with a rock bottom, the bank going down was rather steep and on the way down the safety valve popped off. At that step angle water in the boiler filled the dome and we were showered with hot water till the engine became lever. No harm was done but a couple of fellows were pretty warm under the collar.

The early thirties saw the combine come in and take over the grain threshing activity. We sold the steam engine and separator for a measly $200.

I surely thought that would be the end of my experiences with steam engines, but not so. Some time in the late 60's a good friend and neighbor, Ernest Dietz, head of the Waverly Plumbing Company became interested in antique machinery, especially engines. He purchased at an auction, a good 1916 50 HP. Case steamer and later a Woods Bros, separator. Since that time our community has had some fun gathering for a threshing bee on a Sunday afternoon.

Neighbors plant a patch of oats and when it is ripe, we cut it with an old binder and the kids and friends set up the shocks. The evening of the afternoon we thresh oats, all who have helped gather for a picnic reliving the old days for the oldsters and confounding the young folks with stories of the good old Days.

During our local town's 100 year anniversary, Mr. Dietz showed his machine in another threshing demonstration and it proved to be a popular attraction.

Last summer our town had a big Bicentennial celebration and again the Dietz threshing machine was enjoyed by young and old. We set up in the city park, hauling oats bundles there in several rack loads. We blew the straw from the separator into my son's covered hay chopping wagon so as not to dirty the park. The large crowd there asked many questions of the operation and how it all worked. A couple of boys, after looking at the engine for the first time, came to me and asked what all the pimples on the engine were for. I was stumped for a spell and then I realized they were talking about the rivet heads on the engine boiler.

Once a year for a few hours at least I'm 50 years younger.