The bulk of this season’s shows are behind us now, and
reports from around the country have been almost universally
positive. Although we’re definitely seeing some adjustments in
inspections and displaying practices as a result of the explosion
in Medina, Ohio, in 2001, the steam hobby’s health is sound and
the future looks bright.
The big shows seem to keep getting bigger, and it’s quite
apparent the general public is more than a little interested in
this ancient iron we so lovingly restore and display. Working
displays seem especially interesting to most show attendees, and
that makes perfect sense, as a working exhibit gives the
uninitiated a clear idea of what this machinery could do and why it
was so important in its time.
Effectively conveying the importance of the impact of this
machinery in the context of its time is key if we’re to build
any real interest in the mind of the casual observer. A static
steam engine and thresher might be visually interesting, but if
you’ve never seen the two working together, you simply
can’t imagine what it’s like.
Watching a steam engine run, it’s flywheel spinning as the
belt pulls on the thresher, the thresher’s multitude of
components running through a well-planned process that almost
magically produces a bin full of grain, is a sight to behold.
We have some interesting material again this issue, including a
look at Geiser engine no. 18298, or ‘Ole Puff’ as the
engine has come to be known. The last known Geiser steam traction
engine built, Ole Puff is an important piece of history, and should
be of particular interest to Geiser fans.
Additionally, regular contributor Robert T. Rhode provides
readers with an interesting little digression in steam with his
look at curious steam-driven inventions. While his piece might seem
a little far field of our general subject matter, it’s useful
and interesting to contemplate the many ways in which steam was
employed, whether successfully or otherwise. While manufacturing
and agriculture seem, in hindsight, to have been best suited to
take advantage of steam-driven power, more than a few inventive,
active minds conjured up ideas to further harness steam’s