Pioneer Engineers 54th Annual Show

Drive for New Acreage Continues as One of America's Oldest Steam Shows Celebrates Another Successful Year

12 HP Advance

Andy New's 12 HP Advance, engine number 11360.

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Left to right: Bill Stahl's 22 HP Gaar-Scott, engine number 12043; Ted and Beth Moorman's Frick Eclipse, engine number 12889; Ted Moorman and Eric Steinkamp's 1919 80 HP Case, engine number 34374 and Calvin Whitaker's 1917 26-75 Advance Rumely, engine number 14666.

Wandering around the grounds at this year's Pioneer Engineers show, I could understand why the club is keen on acquiring a new site for club activities and its annual show. The club, formally established in 1951, has been using the current grounds for close to 40 years. And while the grounds afford an excellent location, with mature trees ringing a natural hollow and easy access from Rushville, Ind., the current location is just too small.

The Pioneer Engineers Club has around 700 members, and this year club members brought 30 steam engines of various stripe to the show. But that was only the steam side of things. Add to this some 475 tractors and around 200 stationary engines (not to mention close to 200 stalls selling parts, antiques, curious and normal show fare) and the club's current 20-acre location suddenly becomes very small. So small, in fact, that for some years the club has been renting an additional adjoining 13 acres to Drovide Darkina for attendees.

This lack of space limits exhibiting in many ways. For some years the club has wanted space to plow, but with a main rail line running along the current show ground's northern edge and a county highway along the ground's southern edge, that's just not a possibility. Which brings us back to the club's drive for new grounds. The club intends to buy 80 to 120 acres to set up permanent facilities, and to date the club has pledges totaling $115,000. The aim is $500,000, half of which is pegged for acquiring the actual property with the rest earmarked for building construction. If the drive is successful, the Pioneer Engineers will be able to look forward to many more years of hosting what is arguably one of the best steam shows in the country.

Maddie and Charlie Backus got their wish when Harold Stark gave them a tour of the show grounds on his half-scale 18 HP Gaar-Scott.

Threshing and Sawing

As with any steam show, Rushville is big on threshing, and this year was no exception. Dave Riggs, Marion, Ind., belted his 1920 Frick Eclipse, number 21315, and attendees and exhibitors alike watched attentively as the crew went through the motions of threshing. A working sawmill was likewise set up, running in the cool shadows of the trees with the 1918 75 HP Case of Barry and Jill Moorman, Greensburg, Ind., supplying the necessary power.

As ever, a baker tan was on hand for the Rushville show, and among the many engines belted to the fan was the fabulous 1925 Baker 23-90 belonging to Kim and Deb Besecker of Arcanum, Ohio. A beautiful engine, it gave a strong pull on the fan under Kim's able engineering. And speaking of Baker engines, they were well represented, with a total of eight running on the grounds for this year's show, out-numbering the six Case engines on hand.

Frick was the featured steam engine for this year's show, and in addition to Dave Riggs' 1920 Frick Eclipse was Frick Eclipse number 12889 belonging to Ted and Beth Moorman, Greensburg, Ind. Club president Bill Stahl, Columbus, Ohio, had his 1904 straw-burning 22 HP Gaar-Scott on hand, along with the oldest engine on the grounds, his 1864 Gaar-Scott portable.

IHC Featured

On the engine and tractor side, IHC was this year's featured make, and a nice cross section of IHC engines and tractors were on hand, including the impressive 1917 IHC 30-60 Titan belonging to Wendell Kelch. Kelch, of Bethel, Ohio, also brought along a 1915 IHC 30-60 Mogul he finished restoring just a few months prior to the show. If you're not familiar with these leviathans, they were among the giants of their time, with engines so large they used separate, 1 HP 'starter' engines to spin them over. Both of Kelch's tractors are beautifully restored and fully operational.

A smaller tractor was the 1916 8-16 Mogul displayed by Denis and Pat Schrank, Batesville, Ind. This unit, looking for all the world like an original, unrestored machine, was a basket case when found, and Denis and Pat said it took 12 years to make and find all the necessary parts to put it back to running form. All told, an expectedly excellent show with a fantastic selection of steam engines, tractors and stationary engines on display. Next year's show will be held, as ever, on the first full weekend of August, just as it always has been for the last 54 years.

Richard Backus is editor of the Iron-Men Album. Contact him at: 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, (785) 274-4379, or e-mail: