Rolling Ahead At Rollag

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R. #3, Hawley, Minnesota 56549

As secretary of Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Inc., at Rollag, Minnesota, for the past four years, I have had the opportunity to work with a great bunch of people.

WMSTR is a non-profit organization of over 600 members whose hobby often takes more time and effort than most people's jobs. They are interested in keeping a part of our rural heritage alive by preserving a living-working museum of early pioneer crafts and farm equipment. The achievements these men have made over the past 27 years since the show was formed are overpowering. None of these people receives any pay, yet they donate their weekends, vacations and money to improve and put on the show.

On any weekend from April to October there is action on the hill, which overlooks wooded valleys and lakes. The show grounds cover over 100 acres of woods and parking area. We have been busy since last year getting things lined up for our annual Labor Day Show, which will be held August 29, 30, 31 and September 1, 1980. During that weekend, the tiny village of Rollag (pop. 13) finds itself turned into a beehive of excitement, hosting thousands of visitors. Last year we had over 400 workers and 350 ladies aid members just providing food!

With today's inflation, high gas prices and hectic world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain this type of show. We can only hope that others feel, as we do, that it is important to preserve this part of our past.

We advertise, 'Something for Everyone,' and indeed we deliver! One of our biggest and most expensive projects, has been the railroad. We have in operation a full-size steam locomotive with tender and caboose.

In 1973 the late Elmer Larson, then president of WMSTR, and its officers had a dream. They wanted a railroad. So, for $800 they purchased the 353 from Koppers Coke of St. Paul and hauled it to Fargo.

There were also no railroad tracks in Rollag, so the following year, two miles of track was taken up by hand at Shirack, about 100 miles north, and hauled to Rollag. Taking up the track was hard, but putting it down again was worse! Help was short and many of the willing were 65 and over, but a few determined men began. Today they have three quarters of a mile of completed track in service.

In 1978, hundreds of hours later, with parts rebuilt and made, the 353 steamed her way down the track, to celebrate WMSTR's silver jubileea dream come true. This year we are putting in railroad bed and grade around the lake so someday the trail will encircle the show grounds.

I have briefly described only one exhibit of many. From crafts such as soap making to steam threshing, gas engines, parades, old time music . . yes, something for everyone.