When you think you've seen it all, go to Berryville.
Held just outside Berryville, Va., in late July, the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association's annual steam show, the Pageant of Steam, offers up just about every conceivable piece of antique farm equipment.
And then there's the oil field engines.
And the steam engine once used as a still.
And the imported model steam engines.
And the electric marshmallow toaster. (This would be slow work for a Scout troop: it's big enough for just one marshmallow at a time!)
Club President Rick Custer said the club's secret is diversification.
"We try to have a little bit of everything for everyone," he said. "I think that's why we are as successful as we are."
The Pageant of Steam show is held at local fairgrounds (the club is working toward establishing its own showgrounds), and equipment owned by the club provides many of the show's highlights.
"We own three steam engines," Rick said. "Two are portable, one is traction. And we lease another one. We have a little Frick on a trailer, a Frick on the sawmill, and a Huber. The Huber is pretty unusual in this part of the country. The little Frick (serial number 520) is the oldest operating Frick in existence: it was manufactured in 1878."
The club's fourth steam engine is a Tanner Delaney, on indefinite loan from the U.S. Government. Discovered by hunters near Chester Gap in the Shenandoah National Park, the engine powered a sawmill on Skyline Drive from 1900 to 1930. The Tanner Delaney was made between 1882 and 1887 in Richmond, Va.
"There's only one other known of," said Wayne Godlove, club treasurer, "and it's in Russia."
After the engine was retired from sawmill use, it was apparently converted to use as a still. But even that application was so long ago that the engine was nearly buried in the undergrowth. In 1982, club members won permission to retrieve and restore the ancient engine.
"We had to cut five miles of road just to get to it," Wayne said. "We took in two four-wheel-drive trucks, a John Deere dozer, a dump truck and lowboy, and lots of chain saws. Then we used a 955 track loader to haul it out. It took two days to get it out of there."
After two years of restoration by four club members, the Tanner Delaney now runs like new.
"We only put 50 pounds of pressure on it now," Wayne said, "but it runs well. It's probably the best engine on our grounds."
The club also runs a threshing operation, saw mill, baler, shingle mill and blacksmith shop. Other show features include an auction, horse pull, kids' tractor pull, bluegrass music, parades, steam and gas models, and an extensive and varied flea market.
That combination is one that keeps 'em coming back.
"I've been coming to this show for 20 years," said Richard Estep, who brought his 1918 Rumely 18-35 from Rileyville, Va. "I like the people. Seems like this time of year, everybody can get together. It's just one of my favorites."
Dave Schreck, an exhibitor from Bunker Hill, W.Va., agreed.
"I like this show," he said. "It's just good old stuff."
Much of the show's appeal is in the action. Everything, it seems, is running.
"I like the variety," said George W. Baxter, New Milford, Conn., "and I like to see things moving. People who visit a show like to see things running."
R.T. Legard, Purcellville, Va., a member of the host club, knows about keeping things running. He was everywhere at the show, lending a hand with the threshing operation, checking in on engine exhibits, keeping an eye on three rows of vintage tractors. In between, he scooted around on his 1916 Mogul tractor.
"Basically, it's a Mogul engine mounted on a truck frame," he said. "It was one of the first successful lightweight tractors."
The Mogul is rated 8-16, has a single cylinder, and a single speed forward and reverse. R.T. hasn't seen many like it. "I know of four or five in this three-state area," he said.
Another attraction at the show came in just under the wire. Bernard Jenkins, Rhoadsville, Va., finished restoration on his 1918 Heider C 12-20 two nights before the show opened.
The project began in January.
"It ran when I got it, but that was it," he said. Bernard worked for several years as an automotive painter. It was experience that came in handy on a challenging job of striping and lettering.
"It's just like swimming," he said. "You don't forget."
The Berryville show got its start in 1959, when Fred Stickley, a local collector, decided to get out his steam engine one afternoon. He put a hay wagon behind it, and called his buddies to come over.
"They had such a good time, they just kept doing it," Rick Custer said. FC
For more information: Rick Custer, president, Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association, Inc., 75 Spring Blossom Lane, Gerrardstown, WV 25420; (304) 229-2101; e-mail: email@example.com; online at http://www.svsgea.com.