First Things: The Future of the Steam Engine Hobby

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Photo: Farm Collector Magazine Staff
Editor-in-Chief Terry L. Welch believes the steam engine hobby will endure.

It seems that every older steam lover I’ve talked to recently thinks that he and his friends are the last ones. The usual question seems to be ‘Who’s going to take over the steam engine hobby when we’re gone?’ Another: ‘Nobody’s going to even know how to run these things when we’ve met our Maker. What then?’

It seems like an honest worry. What newly-minted high school graduate — skipping off to college to get a degree in physical therapy, computer networking or underwater basket weaving — is going to take the time to even learn how steam engines work, much less bust their knuckles on the rusty cusses?

Craig Dobbins, for one. He took up the hobby at 11 and, at 20, could probably put many old steam engineers to shame in the knowledge department. He even won an award for starting an engine restoration business. A friend of the magazine told us about him.

What about Joe Rogers? This 21-year-old and his grandfather, Bob Frederick, have been putting the only known Taylor dry-steam engine back together piece by piece. According to Bob, Joe is the driving force behind the project and ‘knows more about that engine than (he’s) ever gonna know.’

Then there’s Kory Mikkelson. His grandfather, Harvey, was one of the founding members of the Western Steam Fiends and one of the people who started getting everyone together to talk steam in Oregon. Even though Kory and Harvey never really even discussed the hobby, Kory has picked it up recently. He’s even sharing it with some of his fellow workers at the technology company, Intel. Now these computer geeks turned steam fiends are learning from other steam fans at Oregon’s Antique Powerland Museum. The thing is, this wasn’t a theme we were looking for. We weren’t meaning to find stories about youngsters in the hobby, but just writing about the hobby itself. However, for many of the older hobbyists, the reason they do it is to pass on their knowledge. It’s working. It’s nearly impossible to write a story about steam engines without writing about Generation X’s new found fascination with it.

As if you wouldn’t anyway – Heaven being a place where worrying about steam engines probably takes up little time – I say you can plan to rest easy, old-timers. The past is in good hands. FC

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