LETTING OFF STEAM


| March/April 2004



By the time this issue of Steam Traction lands on your doorstep, the 2004 Farm CollectorShow Directory will be printed and ready to ship. The 30th in a line of show directories started by Stemgas (when it was called the Steam and Gas Show Directory), this year's offering contains 1,400 show listings from across the U.S. and Canada within its 488 pages. Looking back at the first directory from 1975, I count 235 shows. Perhaps some things do get better with time.

We have some fine stories this issue, not least of which is Paul Ward's wonderful article about his acquisition and restoration of 'Old Bet,' a 10 HP 1897 Geiser Peerless he purchased from the Henry Ford Museum in 2001. Paul's experience with Old Bet is compelling, highlighting as it does the value a known history gives the equipment we collect and restore.

When Paul bid on Old Bet she was 'just' an old steam traction engine. He had no history on the engine, no background to connect the engine with anything - he simply had a desire to own and restore a steam traction engine. Serendipitously, on the day he was leaving to retrieve his new engine, Paul discovered Old Bet's history when he stumbled upon John E. Bailey's recollections of Old Bet in the July/August 1975 Iron-Men Album.

Suddenly, Old Bet was more than 'just' an old engine, she was a living reminder of a family and a place and a time. She had a history, an identity and a past. That one article brought the past to the present, and there's no question that Paul's interest and commitment to preserving Old Bet multiplied with that knowledge.

I think most of us feel the same way about the equipment we collect, because our hobby is about so much more than just machinery. We collect, restore and show engines and threshers not just to display our mechanical prowess, but to preserve our history and maintain a direct line with the past.

That thought leads me to another fine article we're privileged to present: Chady Atteberry's personal recollections of the late Harold Ottaway and the legendary steam reunions held at Joyland Park in Wichita, Kan., in the 1950s.