LETTING OFF STEAM

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.

Chady had the fortune to count Harold among his close friends,
sharing a personal joy of steam and working closely together during
the early days of steam reunions. It was a storied time in our
past, and we’re lucky and grateful to have people like Chady
share their memories of the days of steam long gone by.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment