On the Move at Canandaigua

Sights from the New York Steam Association's annual Pageant of Steam in Canandaigua, N.Y.

| January 2007

Two words describe the New York Steam Association's annual Pageant of Steam in Canandaigua, N.Y.: perpetual motion. 

"This is just an honest working show," says Gary Love, a club director and former president. Demonstrations (planned and spontaneous) fill every hour of the day: plowing, excavation work by vintage construction equipment, threshing, baling, sawing, shingle-making and more. Factor in tractor pulls, parades, dozens of pieces of equipment running at any given time and a very busy flea market, and it adds up to plenty of action.

The show is held on club-owned grounds just east of the historic community of Canandaigua. The club has made continual improvements since moving to the present location in 1970. An office and museum were built in 2006, and the stationary steam display was upgraded and a road project was completed. The site is also host to a spring swap meet and the Two-Cylinder EXPO held every other year, and radio-control flying events.

With activities like that, club members are kept hopping. "We have 1,500 members on the books," Gary says, "and average 60-100 at meetings." A core group of 30 attend work sessions. "Some of these guys live 90 miles away, but they're here every week," Gary adds. "Every Wednesday night, year 'round, is a work night. Last year we had to take Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve off, but otherwise we're here every week."

Gary estimates the crowd at 10,000 during the four-day show. Tractor pulls, he says, generate a fair amount of that traffic. "Tractor pulls using farm tractors from the 1950s and '60s are the fastest-growing part of the show," he says. "We'll pull 150 tractors on a normal night."

The Cadillac of gas engines

Canandaigua's featured engine in August was the Otto, manufactured in Philadelphia, Pa. The 5 hp 1909 Otto engine displayed by Wayne Grenning, Lockport, N.Y., and his son, Alex, worked for decades in New Jersey cranberry bogs. Later the engine was abandoned and rust took its toll. But the Otto was well worth saving. "The Otto company designed 4-cycle engines that were very well made," Wayne says. Historical research is a big part of the hobby for him; another is model building. Currently he's building a 1/3-scale model of an Otto.