Daughters, Sisters, Steam ... Oh My

Two Sisters' Love for Steam takes Hold

| July 2006

How did we get such a pair of "rusty blood" daughters? Janice, my wife, and I ask ourselves this on occasion. A few years back our daughters became fixated on steam. Since then, they have been hanging out at our nearby steam engine museum grounds - the Rough & Tumble Engineers Historical Assn. - which means they are hanging out with truly dirty old men!

Spectators who visit the Rough & Tumble Museum in Kinzers, Pa., to see the antique steam engines, may have been surprised by two of the operators there - and, just as important, their ages. My daughters, Andrea Glenn, 16, and Megan Glenn, 13, of Parkesburg, Pa., are present for every one of the exhibitions throughout the year.

The girls operate a variety of different engines during weekend festivities at the Rough & Tumble Museum (the annual Spring Steam-Up in May; annual Thresherman's Reunion in August; and Time of Harvest in October). Andrea and Megan are at the point where they can operate most of the engines by themselves. The girls have gained the respect of their peers as being trustworthy and responsible with these antique machines. At the shows, Andrea and Megan run the steam engines around the grounds the entire weekend and belt them to different implements.

Belting is quite a task for a young girl. They must align the flywheels accurately by jockeying the 10-ton-plus machine into position and maintain belt tension by chocking the wheels. These machines are difficult to maneuver due to the fact it takes some 30 turns of the steering wheel to turn from lock to lock. While it could actually be considered a man's hobby, Andrea and her sister, Megan, have demonstrated a keen interest in steam engines.

"Very unique," Megan says, when asked what she likes best about them. "They're old and the people that run them are very special." Megan is now a certified operator and says there are very few girls who have taken an interest in steam engines. Most of the current operators range in age from their 30s to their 80s.

Andrea became keenly interested in the steam engines and developed the knack of keeping it up and running. For Andrea, she likes the idea of the engine coming alive, when starting an engine up from cold. You can hear all different noises inside as the engine begins to build steam pressure. It's often a contest during a steam up to see who can build steam pressure and be the first to toot their whistle. Knowledge wise, Andrea has a bit of a jump on her younger sister, Megan. However, Megan is right behind her. Megan has gained favor with some of the older operators by helping with some of the start up procedures such as cleaning the flues.