Steam Engine Fever, Past the Century Mark

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Bob Crowell
Glen Beesley with his 1/2 scale model Advance steam engine. At 103, Glen clearly recalls the first steam engine he ever saw in operation, at the turn of the last century.

Sawmills powered by roaring steam engines are a show-season novelty for most. But for Glen Beesley, West Harrison, Ind., they represent some of his earliest memories.

Glen was a boy of no more than 5 or 6 when his father took him to see a sawmill operating at full tilt. The year? About 1900. The small boy standing at his father’s side was not frightened by the the shrieking whistle and lumbering sounds of the steam engines. Then, as now, it’s music to his ears.

“I like to hear them run,” he said.

Now 103, Glen has rich memories of the days when the steam engine was the work horse of light and farming industry. From boyhood up to his early-twenties, he worked for a neighbor, running a Baker steam engine. As gasoline-powered tractors came into their own, however, the steam engine was relegated to the junk heap.

After that early experience operating a steam engine, Glen spent his entire adult life farming. He also drove a school bus for 25 years, and served 16 years as a county trustee. Once he retired, though, he got back to steam engines. At age 80 – a time when many decide they aren’t able to get out to shows any more – Glen bought his first steam engine (a 65 hp Case) and began displaying it at area events.

Now comfortably past the century mark, Glen has slowed down – a bit. He’s sold the big engine, but remains a regular at the four-day show at Brookville, where he shows his 1/2 scale model Advance steam engine.

“His grandson runs it for him,” says his daughter, Glenna Beesley. “But he still tinkers with it.”

Longevity apparently runs in Glen’s family, but he’s setting new records, even in that clan. Wedding anniversaries had a way of piling up, as well: he and his wife were married almost 79 years before her death. FC

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
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