Steam School Keeps Secrets of Steam Alive

The Midwest Old Threshers annual steam school passes tradition on to next generation

| March 1999

  • Wayne Kennedy
    Wayne Kennedy

  • Wayne Kennedy

In the spring, traction steam enthusiast Wayne Kennedy becomes a teacher. He is the originator and instructor of a popular class for Midwest Old Threshers in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Each year, a full slate of participants enroll in the Old Threshers Steam School to learn the principles of steam power and safe operation of traction engines. Wayne, a former member of the Midwest Old Threshers Board of Directors, saw a need for the Steam School about 14 years ago. He has taught the class every year since then. 

One of the initial reasons for creation of the Steam School, Wayne says, was in response to a decline in the hobby.

"I'm not ashamed to say the steam engine hobby is dying, and there's probably not anything you or I can do to stop it," he says. "But that was the primary reason for starting Steam School. The information is there. They can take it and become involved, or they don't have to, if they choose not to."

As time passes, the lack of direct experience contributes to the demise of the hobby.

"Steam engines are a way for the old men to become boys again and play with the toys," Wayne says. "As the second generation, we lost something in that we didn't work first-hand with (steam power), but we were around our dads and granddads. Now my boy is the third generation, and yes, he's interested, but only to a certain degree."

That said, the Old Threshers Steam School continues to fill beyond the spots available. In recent years, the course has filled to capacity, and a waiting list has been formed. FC


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