The Ottaways Are Always Steamed Up

Steam engine

Herb Ottaway checks the 1890 steam engine that will power the steam carousel.

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Terning's Steam Show RR #3, Box 184, Valley Center, Kansas 67147

Everyone loves a challengeit seems to bring out energy in us we did not realize existed. Jerry Ottaway of Wichita, Kansas, is no exception to this rule. When Jerry and his father, Herb Ottaway, located an 1894 Herchell Spillman steam carousel deteriorating in Missouri, it seemed just what was needed to get the adrenalin flowing once again.

The Ottaway family has, for generations, been recognized as an authority on the care and the operation of anything that is powered with steam. Jerry's grandfather, L.A. Ottaway, was a dedicated steam man. Jerry's uncle, Harold Ottaway, and his father, Herb Ottaway, were the driving force behind the famous Ottaway Amusement Trains. Herb is also a world renowned steam car expert. Jerry's son, Scott, spent many, many hours this past summer assisting with the restoration of the steam carousel. Their wives also take an active part. Jerry's grandchildren enjoy riding the carousel but, at this point in time, are a bit young to be of assistance. They support the projects as well as assist with its safe operation.

This particular steam carousel is one of six remaining in the nation. It is powered by an upright 10 HP steam engine which is harnessed to a 150 foot cable beneath a wide platform which is shaped like a track. Thus the name 'track merry-go-round' is given to this particular type.

The horses number twenty-four. There is much work left to do with the horses, but they were in good enough condition for the 1987 Labor Day event. They were minus tails how many of you have ever had to find tails for twenty-four horses? Well, Jerry finally located them up in South Dakota and they arrived just in time for the show.

Scott Ottaway rides with daughter on steam carousel at Terning's Annual Show over the Labor Day Weekend in Valley Center, Kansas. Photo courtesy Arkansas Valley News, Valley Center, Kansas, Vada Snider photographer.

Many happy patrons enjoyed the ride.

Herb Ottaway giving rides in his locomobile, past the restored carousel in background. Photo courtesy Melissa Lear of Garden City, Kansas.

Jess Gibbs, 92, of Wichita, Kansas assisted with the restoration of this steam carousel. Mr. Gibbs operated the steam carousels as a teenager. In fact, the magnificent organ which played and amazed show goers was built by Mr. Gibbs seven years ago. By the age of twenty-five, Mr. Gibbs had saved $2,000.00 which was enough to purchase his own steam carousel. He recalls that a nickel bought a customer one ride and a quarter bought six. The invention of the electric powered rides put Mr. Gibbs out of business. Much to his dismay, he had to abandon his carousel because he could not afford to hire help to assist with taking it down and hauling it on to the next show. This was very tragic. When Mr. Gibbs was given the opportunity to assist with this carousel, it was a dream come true for him to once again see a steam carousel being brought back to life.

When the carousel was entirely set up and in full operation, the many people responsible just stood back in complete amazement. As the organ played its many tunes and the horses moved back and forth, it really was a sight to see.

A very big THANK YOU to Jerry, Herb and the countless others who assisted with the complete restoration of the steam carousel. Another piece of history has been preserved for many generations to enjoy watching, take a ride, or just stand back and listen to the delightful music.

The only remaining question seems to be 'Since this project is complete, what next'? I guess we will have to just wait and see.