Steam Show Shenanigans

Tractors & steam engines

Walden Cope lines up tractors & steam engines for picture taking at the 1988 Montgomery County Threshers Show.

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17837 Lindenwood Road, Lindenwood, Illinois 61049.

What's a 'dingy broad' doing writing about steam engines at a steam show? For one thing she's tired of hearing everyone complain that many show reports seem to forget why reunions started: to watch the steam engines run one more time. For another, she does not accept the philosophy that flea markets and craft demonstrations have been included at shows entirely to serve the purpose of keeping the women out of the men's hair. Thirdly, since the tender age of five years she's been attending steam shows, hanging around the steam engines, much to the distress of her mother! And finally, I'd rather run our 25-85 double Nichols and Shepard than be chief cook and bottle washer any day!

I may not be able to cite you all the specifics about every engine I've seen, nor am I a machinist who can talk to you at length about engine restoration. What I can tell you is how one group of Illinois steam engineers made the Sycamore Show fun to attend this year.

Seems like there's always some sort of friendly competition started among the engineers at our shows. This year it began on Friday by seeing who could develop the fastest r.p.m. on the Flink fan. Boy, did the excuses fly around on the breeze caused by that little contest. You know the ones: 'The belt's slipping. The governor never was right on this engine. Your engine's got a higher pressure rating than mine. What! That's all the faster you can go and you've got 150 lbs. compared to my 125 lbs!'

Our Sunday crowd was treated to a new event. Three steam engines competed in a modified belting/threshing contest. Each engine backed up to the separator. The clock started when the hitch dropped and stopped after the engine was belted, the separator up to speed and 60 bundles threshed. Bill Karl Sr. ran the bundle wagons, Les Peterson, Larry Marek and Jim Tesch were the separator/belting crew. Phil Blanchard and myself ran the stop watches. Tom Runty of Coal City, Illinois on the Advance had a time of four minutes and 59 seconds (belt slipped). Paul Anderman of Oswego, Illinois on the single Nichols and Shepard had a time of 4 minutes and 16 seconds. (Paul was in the belt fastest but took longer threshing.) Joe Somers of Linden wood, Illinois on the double Nichols won with a time of three minutes and 28 seconds.

Evening activities included the public shower available courtesy of the 'Marek' Fire Department, Hinkley, Illinois. Larry now owns two fire trucks. Steam heat warmed the water. After official events closed for the day everyone was welcome to bring their swimsuits, soap and towels and to jump into the shower. There were plenty of volunteers willing to man the hoses. Of course when two fire trucks are found in one place and there's no fire, there has to be a water fight. Innocent bystanders don't stand a chance of staying dry.

Overnight visitors are often treated to music around the campfire. Everyone is welcome. Bring along a chair. Pull up a place. Play an instrument? Bring it along. Like to sing? Come lend your voice. We aren't professionals but we sure have a good time. Saturday night remained still and clear with a moon peeking over our shoulders while we watched one of the prettiest spark shows yet. Everyone left their campsites to witness the shower of dancing lights put out by the Advance on the fan.

Why don't you come see us next year? Maybe we'll have time for Billy's Block Race again. Bring along your ideas to 'liven up' the show. If you won't take the time to write an article about your steam engine activities the least you could do is come share your stories in person with this 'dingy broad'. See ya in August!