RR 1, Box 124 Lake Benton, Minnesota 56149
Leo Huston is one of the engineers who gives free rides during the 4-day show. He is shown with engine 353 which was built in 1920.
My wife, Pat, and I attended the 1985 Western Minnesota Steam Thresher's Show. We had such an enjoyable time that we plan to make it a yearly event.
Being dairy farmers it is not always that easy to leave the place. So this year, I took my four sons (Kenneth, 16; Kelly, 13; Matthew, 8; and Scott, 6). Meanwhile my wife was stuck home with the cows. As we left the yard for the 200 mile trip at 4:30 a.m., she was turning on the barn lights.
Upon arriving at Rollag, the first thing we did was to hitch a ride on the train with Leo Huston at the controls of Engine no. 353. Leo is one of the men responsible for the operation and maintenance of Engine 353. He is also a very pleasant person to visit with, taking the time to explain things to my boys.
After the train ride we split up. The boys went off to Miniature land while I took in the parade. Rollag certainly has some of the largest, rarest steam engines and gas tractors in the north-land. The big 120 HP Rumely is the most impressive engine I have ever seen. I have always like Minneapolis engines myself. They have four of the 'great' ones at WMST. Next year Rollag will host the 100th Centennial Reunion of the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company. I am certainly looking forward to seeing the additional Minneapolis engines that will be on hand, especially the one-of-a-kind 35 HP Compound. Another Minneapolis I would like to see is that 45 HP double cylinder tandom compound that was pulled out of the Missouri River in 1967.
This 120 HP Rumely was owned by Donald Ames who passed away last year. He willed the engine to W.M.S.T. for future generations to enjoy.
After dinner I sort of hung around the 36' Minneapolis separator to watch the threshing demonstration. Sure enough, Dr. Gerald Parker and his 24 HP Minneapolis came over and started to line up the belt. He did it on the first try. Mary Swanz is the engineer of that engine and she is very good at it. The steam gauge never moved off 1245 pounds nor did the pop valve go all afternoon.
It seemed as though they needed more pitchers on the grain stacks so I climbed up and tossed about half a stack into the feeder. That was the highlight of my day. I really enjoy pitching bundles. The boys were all watching because they knew that's where I would be.
24 HP Minneapolis No. 8692 owned by Dr. Gerald Parker. This is the last built Minneapolis known to exist. It is in excellent condition.
After retrieving Matthew from the straw pile, where he had just made about 10 new friends, we walked a short distance to the sawmill. Until then the boys had no idea how trees were made into usable lumber. The mill was no load for the 25 HP Double Simple Reeves engine. We then went into the shaded area where all the large, stationary steam and gas engines were being operated. My son, Kenneth, was very impressed with the big Allis Chalmers Corliss engine. He didn't know that such a quality machine could be made in America.
There are so many things for people of all ages to see in the shaded area that a person would have to spend an entire day there to fully appreciate it and the great amount of work that goes into making it all happen. Our rural heritage is better represented at Rollag than any other place in the upper midwest.
About that time we noticed Scott was missing from our group. He was a short distance away getting a free ride on the miniature railroad. All rides are free at W.M.S.T. About then we heard the P.A. system announce that the steam plowing would begin. If you like to watch steam power in action, this is the place. A lot of steam shows have a 12 bottom prairie plow sitting in the weeds all rusty. That's not the case at W.M.S.T. They have 6, 8, 10 and 14 furrow gang plows going simultaneously. Watching Jim Briden's 110 Case pull 14 furrows is impressive, but somehow the 80 Case seems to pull the 10 bottom plow even more effortlessly. 80 Case engines have always been synonymous with power and now I know why. She pulled it up a hill as though it wasn't there. The awesome power of steam was very clearly demonstrated to us that day when a 20-60 Advance Rumely was pulling six 14's quite easily up hills. Then a 30-60 gas tractor hooked on and it stalled out on the first rise in the field. The boys were impressed also because at home our 145 HP tractor has a hard time with five 20 inch plows. Kenneth and Kelly do a lot of field work on our farm so it is hard for them to understand how an 80 Case built in 1922 can pull more than our big diesel built in 1973.
Jim Briden's 1913 Case 32-110 pulling a John Deere 14x14' plow. Norman Pruss is also part owner of this engine being operated by Jack Beamish.
After the plowing we went back to get some souvenirs, hats, etc. Then it was time to leave. But first we had to ride on the train once more. As we were listening to the sweet music of Engine 353 as it climbed the east hill, Scott said to me 'Dad, this is my fourth ride on this train today!' Seems he had been sneaking rides all day long.
As I sit here writing on this cold December day of the memories of a great day spent with my sons, I'm sure that the people at Rollag are busy preparing for an even better show next Labor Day weekend. You can be sure we will be there, too.