115 N. Second Street, Oakland, Maryland 21550
With the whistle blowing ‘two longs, a short, and a
long’, the Frick Eclipse slowly puffed through the festival
It was going to a section where seven other steam traction
engines and a steam roller were already lined up for photographs.
The photographic session was part of the opening day activities for
the 38th annual Farmers and Threshermens Jubilee at New
Centerville, PA, September 5th to 9th.
Each year for the past 37 years, this town in Somerset County of
southwestern Pennsylvania has played host to ‘steam buffs’
in ever increasing numbers. Sponsored by the New Centerville and
Rural Volunteer Fire Company, the Jubilee has become an event for
the whole community.
Antique steam traction engines are the center of attraction on
the festival grounds, but there are many other kinds of engines to
be seen along with ancient farm equipment.
‘I guess you heard my whistle signals,’ laughed Mark
Mull after he maneuvered his Frick Eclipse into line with the other
steam engines. ‘That one has the same deep tone as a railroad
The ‘deep tone’ was one of four whistles mounted above
the boiler on the Eclipse. They were added when the 1911 traction
engine was restored in 1986-87 by the Mull family at nearby
Rockwood, Pennsylvania. A family of good mechanics, the Mulls had
several other types of engines exhibited on the festival
As if to emphasize the deep tone of the large whistle, Mark
played a little tune on it and the remaining three whistles.
‘Of course that’s nothing,’ he laughed,
‘compared to the tractor up at the other end. It has nine
whistles in a row. The owner plays a whole lot of tunes you can
Nine whistles in a row weren’t the only things adapted to
that particular engine. It was a composite of several 20th century
engines remodeled over the years and equipped with rubber tire
wheels. Complete with headlights, it could look forward to being
exhibited in the 21st century.
Represented in this row of engines lined up for a photograph
were names that dominated rural areas at the beginning of the
1900’s: Frick, Peerless and Case. The one steam roller there
was a Buffalo Springfield roller, manufactured in Springfield,
Ohio. Unlike most of the engines on exhibit the roller did not have
its date of manufacture, only the serial number 4551.
A hundred fifty feet away, a Peerless and a Case were getting
ready to move into their assigned positions in the row. All
together there were 11 operating antique steam engines on the
festival grounds. In addition, there were two small, scale model
Peerless engines on exhibit.
‘Those Peerless models are works of art,’ commented Ron
Muhl of New Centerville. ‘They were made by two machinists
named Lancaster from over in Mt. Savage, Maryland. Mr. Ray
Lancaster was a very prominent exhibitor at the Jubilee for a
number of years. I understand he is in a nursing home now.’
‘The Lancaster understood a lot about all kinds of engines.
Mr. J.E. Lancaster made a hot air engine that’s on exhibit. He
picked up spare parts here and there and made the engine. Not very
many people understand the principle that makes an engine like that
The Lancaster hot air engine was quietly working in a space that
also had a lot of old, two cycle gasoline engines. Compared to the
‘hit and miss’ noise of the gasoline engines, the hot air
model seemed rather sedate.
A manufactured hot air engine was also on exhibit. It was a
Sterling Hot Air Pump, which was probably used for pumping water a
hundred years ago. A vertical machine, it stood about 5V2 feet
tall, and had a much smaller fire box than the new Lancaster
For information about the Sterling, a small sign described how
the hot air cycle was successfully adapted for work by Robert
Sterling of Scotland in 1827.
The Jubilee organizers have gone a step beyond simply showing
antique steam and gasoline engines, they put them to work. All over
the festival grounds the engines were operating a variety of
Not far from the Sterling engine, a 1899 Keystone well drilling
rig with a vertical boiler and steam engine was slowly punching a
hole in the ground.
Near the Keystone rig a 1912 Farquhar stationary engine was
supplying the power for a shingle mill. Operating at 80# pressure,
the Farquhar flywheel delivered its power to the shingle mill by a
John Miller of Rockwood, PA, who was firing the boiler, kept a
close eye on the steam gauge.
‘All the boilers on the festival grounds have been tested
and OK’d by a state inspector,’ he said, pointing to a
chalk mark on the boiler. ‘But if a fellow is doing his job
right, the pop-off valves shouldn’t have to let off any excess
Situated near the middle of the festival grounds is a one story
corrugated iron building that hummed with activity. Inside was
housed a large stationary diesel engine and an equally large gas
engine. The gas engine was clicking away and driving an
Allis-Chalmers generator which supplied electricity for part of the
grounds. Built in 1920 for Hope Natural Gas, it eventually ended up
at New Centerville where it was restored by Mel Bailey and
Two hundred feet beyond the corrugated iron building a man and
woman stood looking at another exhibit.
‘You really get a feel for how things were on the farm a
hundred years ago,’ he remarked.
They were looking at an 1890 Eclipse stationary engine connected
by a belt to an 1859 Fearless thrashing machine. Later in the day
the Fearless, manufactured at Cobelskill, New Jersey, would be
operated as part of the ongoing festival activities.
Although the main attention of the Jubilee was focused on
antique steam traction engines, there were also other farm
implements to be seen. The eastern end of the festival grounds was
lined with antique and ‘not too old’ gasoline tractors. As
a tribute to their owners, all of them were well maintained and
beautifully restored. Each one of them looked as if it could be
fired up and put to work at any time.
All festivals have a well planned program, and the Jubilee was
no exception. Each day there were scheduled activities that ranged
from parades to demonstrations to races. During the day there were
also eating places open for the hungry, and at night bingo games
were run for the enjoyment of the lucky.
‘Come back next year,’ was the goodbye phrase of the
volunteers operating the gates to the grounds at the close of the
It is almost guaranteed that folks will return next year,
because the annual Farmers and Threshermen’s Jubilee at New
Centerville, PA is worth visiting. It has something for everybody
interested in things mechanical, especially for those who like