WMSTR: 25 Years

Annual boiler inspection

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WMSTR, Secretary Hawley, Minnesota 56549

Steamers line up for the annual boiler inspection. Gilmer Olson, Twin Valley, Minnesota, explains some engine workings to his young helpers.

Since the first Reunion held on October 2, 1954, Western Minnesota Steam Threshers, of Rollag, Minnesota has come a long way. Thinking back, we marvel at how quickly a quarter of a century passes by from the 3,000 people that attended the first show to the 20,000 that came to help us celebrate our 25th show.

The first show had a working display of 4 steam engines, 2 separators and several 'model steamers.' Today the number of steam engines has grown to 20, along with many threshing machines, countless gas tractors and engines, and a large miniature land complete with a scale railroad. In fact, today's parade of engines, tractors and vintage cars lasts nearly two hours.

Future reunions continued to attract interested individuals who brought with them gas engines, tractors, saw, shingle and lathe mills, two large Corlis stationary engines and a steam forge hammer. In 1977, a full size steam locomotive was purchased by the association. Recently two box cars, a caboose and a coal car were added to the 'rolling stock.'

WMSTR soon began to run out of room for the constantly growing number of exhibits. More land was needed for the railroad project and for campground parking.

The show grounds cover over a 100 acres of hills and beautiful woodland that exhibitors and visitors can enjoy. With 25 buildings, one can visit two rustic log cabins, a museum, blacksmith shop, print shop, flour mill, several food stands and much more.

Among the people who like to become involved were group of ladies, most of them wives or daughters of our male members. They organized a ladies' activities group that exhibit old-time arts such as spinning, weaving, soap making, and baking of ethnic foods.

A success story? Yes, but it has meant a lot of hard work, a strong feeling of devotion and self-sacrifice by many people. We have known the sting of adversity during those years such as bad weather, financial setbacks, and the sudden passing of one of our key men, to name a few.

Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Inc., is a nonprofit organization consisting of over 600 members from around the United States who gather yearly on Labor Day weekend and combine their efforts to present a working show. They have a common interest in preserving our nation's history through the operation and restoration of antique farm equipment.

New projects are underway including the erection of a 2-story upright stationary steam engine with a 12' flywheel; the continuation of the railroad project; and the restoration of an 85' railroad executive car, all of which takes many hours of volunteer labor.

With thoughts of the past and dreams for the future, WMSTR and its members invite you to exhibit and enjoy a slice of our heritage on Labor Day weekend. We look forward to another 25 years, after all who doesn't love a Golden Jubilee?