Read All About It: Ozarks Steam Engine Assn. and Bookmobile Summer Program

A partnership between the Ozarks Steam Engine Assn. and a local library bookmobile gets kids excited about old iron.

| November 2017

Community is the backbone of the old iron hobby. Whether it’s the big annual show or a weekend fish fry or small get-togethers at members’ shops, the Ozarks Steam Engine Assn., Republic, Missouri – like other clubs across the country – is always keeping busy within its community.

But what about giving back to the larger communities we live in? That opportunity came knocking in 2011 when Missouri’s Springfield-Greene County Library District sought new ways to engage young readers during the summer months. Their state-of-the-art bookmobile needed community partners, so they looked to the Ozarks Steam Engine Assn., an institution in the area for the last 55 years whose annual Steam-O-Rama show (with the Southwest Missouri Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. Branch 16) brings in about 6,000 visitors annually.

“The library contacted us and wanted to know if we’d be willing to participate in the summer reading program, possibly with steam engines and stuff,” says Jeff Ruth, an Ozarks Steam Engine Assn. director. “We talked about it and decided, well, we can try it.”

Kids see books come to life

On a Friday in June back in 2011, they tried it out at their club’s grounds in Republic – and the event was so successful it’s just completed its sixth year. The bookmobile provides books about tractors, gas engines and other vintage equipment, and the club puts on a mini-show for kids and parents.

Most of the young readers are in the elementary age group, but the group ranges from infants to high school students. They check out books and enjoy engaging readings from librarians and local news personalities. Perhaps most important, they get to see the equipment in the books come to life.

“We typically have steam engines fired up, and kids can ride on them,” Jeff says. The club and its members own about 15 steam engines; whoever is available comes out to show them off. “Charley Stark, our club president, runs his 1920 20 hp Advance-Rumely steam engine,” Jeff says. “Sometimes I run my 1911 30 hp Case. Sometimes we use our club-owned 1915 Advance-Rumely steam engine.”