Making Recordings Of Steam Engines

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Joe Fahnestock in his studio making Steam Engine Records. It is interesting to note what equipment it takes to do this work. The studio is located at Union City, Indiana. See the article by Joe in this issue of the ALBUM
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Here is Homer Holp putting his Gay Ninety Rig in the shed for the season. November 1957. This is a Case 28x46 hand fed thresher of 1895 and the 10 hp. Russell. (This is the thresher I began my threshing career with. I bought it when it was abandoned and l

Union City, Indiana

Here is an article that we believe you will enjoy. Most of us
know Joe and his efforts to give us good recordings. This is the
story of it Elmer

A WORD TO ALL THOSE kind folks steam lovers all who’ve been
sending in their orders for Steam Engine Recordings. ‘It’s
a pleasure always to hear from each and everyone of you, most of
the letters bear glad tidings from men whose hearts thrill at the
pulse of laboring stack. However, now and then arrives, a slip of
correspondence from a lover of the reciprocating pistons a bit
anxious to receive his platters before ‘we’ can get them
made in their due order. Please remember that these steam engine
recording are not mass produced, like Elvis Pressley renditions
(thank God), hence are made up individually as ordered. This
entails more than merely reaching over to some shelf and plucking
off a disc that some plant has fabricated by the tens of
thousands.

Actually it means the re-cutting of each engine sound into a
new, uncut disc, from a library of steam engine and calliope sounds
which I have been compiling for over a period of seven years, since
that first year Rev. Ritzman (you all know ‘im) invited me to
bring my recorder up to Alvord ton and see what I could take down
on a disc.

First of all it is not easy to get good original steam engine
sounds and a fellow’s got to keep trying year after year.
Believe it or not it was seven years before I got a satisfactory
sound recording of a Baker engine every time I’d try
previously, a leaky steam pipe or a breakdown would ruin that good,
sharp bark that thresher men would walk a mile, or order a record,
to hear.

And then if it isn’t some pipe that’s leaking, then
it’s the loudspeaker on the fairgrounds that louses things up
causing yours truly to throw more and more of those hard-to-get
record discs away time without end Amen.

And there in lies a tale dear steam friends as to why some of
those recording you ordered didn’t always arrive when the
postman did. For the inroads of tape recording has cut into the
profits of the disc recording manufacturers, forcing some of the
smaller plants to the wall hence for a time I was left holding the
bag from my supplier for three months before I learned the awful
truth that he was no longer in the business of making the shiny
black platters.

But everybody’s been mighty kind and patient a sterling
quality along with honesty and truthfulness, that I’ve noticed
most thresher men are blessed with. For being a newspaper writer
and photographer, besides, which in itself keeps me on the run much
of the time, not to mention that I’m also a bachelor hence
reserve the right to see my grandmother to the movies once in a
blue moon sort of explains just why I cannot always answer each and
everyone’s fan mail. (Could be I need a stenographer ask
Elmer).

I believe almost every order I get even the second ones from the
same parties order a Case recording anyway it seems I’m always
reaching for that Master platter labeled ‘Case’. Then Port
Huron is very popular, as is the Avery (Louis David’ s
remember?) And fellows, when I put the needle down, merely by
chance, to record the chugs of that old Rumely Oil Pull a couple
years ago well, I didn’t think it would be so popular. (Keeps
me reach in’.)

But too, the Baker Master disc is also holding out fine
considering the many hundreds of times I’ve reached for it and
that Steam calliope disc is a popular one too, as are some of the
locomotives.

So fellows, if you use the right kind of electric record player
and needle, those steam engine records should never wear out, only
don’t ever try playing them on the old-style crank type
acoustic phonograph. Never stack these steam engine records on a
changer, either, like you would Elvis’s for these are
extra-special ones to steam engine lovers, and besides you can buy
Presley pressings for less than a buck (which is still too much in
my book).

For men if you’re like me, and the sound of stack music,
either of the steam traction or that great American institution
known as the Iron Horse (it doesn’t matter they’re both
great guys and they’ve both built our Nation) sets you on edge,
well a recording of such is worth having around at any price. And
my prices haven’t ‘riz’ even if the cost of mak in’
’em has doubled and that includes Uncle Sam’s postage as
well!

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