On April 12-14, I attended the Agricultural Steam Engineers School at Carriage Hill MetroPark near Dayton, Ohio.
This living history park has two steam engines (a 50 HP Peerless traction engine and an 1896 Empire portable) operated by volunteers. For years, volunteers have been required to attend the school and pass a written and hands-on test before starting an apprenticeship on the two engines.
This year they opened up the school, resulting in one of their largest classes ever. Approximately 20 students attended, ranging from people with a fresh curiosity about steam engines to others with years of experience in operating and restoring engines.
The purpose of the steam school is to “train and qualify volunteers in safe operations, public demonstration and interpretation of steam powered activities on Carriage Hill Farm.” As such, the curriculum includes historical information not only about the use of steam on farms, but also the use of steam on the specific farm that is now the Carriage Hill MetroPark Farm. The first steam engine on this farm was a Brownell portable engine, made in nearby Dayton and purchased in the 1860s.
Saturday night’s “Steamer Bonding” was an informal opportunity to meet and talk about whatever topic we chose. We watched the Medina County Sheriff’s Department video, put together as part of their investigation of the Case explosion last July, and then talked about what is happening to the steam community as the result of the tragedy at Medina. Two local engine owners, one of whom was involved in the Medina investigation and who is now actively involved in working with Ohio lawmakers, joined us for the evening. The result was a lively and intense discussion lasting until almost 11 p.m.
In the course of the three days many men and women from Carriage Hill Farm were involved in presenting class material. Nick Krimm directed the program, ably reacting to the diverse needs and interests of the students while recognizing and utilizing the resources each person brought to the class.
Chief engineer Doug Smith shoulders the responsibility of maintaining the engines, training volunteers and guiding the steam operations over the years. His hours of hard work have made the steam program at Carriage Hill Farm what it is today. Other instructors included Tony Kleinhenz, George Hoke, Dan Charles, Greg Kauffman, Polly Barger and Joe Cloud. No one can say that the steam school at Carriage Hill Farm is a one-man show.
A presentation not on the agenda, but very appropriate in our post-Medina world, was a detailed discussion of the legal issues related to the operation of antique machinery. Joe Cloud, an attorney closely associated with Carriage Hill Farm and its steam operations, led the discussion. Another valuable feature was an excellent presentation by the local fire chief on emergency response and covering all types of emergencies, not just those related to steam.
I have been to Pawnee Steam School twice, and now the steam school at Carriage Hill Farm. Not surprisingly, the schools are not the same. Carriage Hill, unlike Pawnee, does not include a session on what to look for when purchasing an engine. But they do have years of experience using steam power to present safe and informative programs to the public, and they also have an approach to emergency preparedness and response that addresses some issues we may not want to think about, but that are more important today than ever before. IMA