AT THE WHEEL George Bartholomew, president of Edaville Railroad, drives the family fun park's newest exhibit around grounds.
When it was built in 1910, there were fewer than 500,000 automobiles in the country, the airplane was only seven years old and the United States was still 35 years away from being considered a world power. Today, in an era of space shuttles and Concorde jets, this antique steam tractor is still chugging away at Edaville Railroad and is delighting crowds with its hissing noises and ancient appearance.
The 1910 Kittens steam tractor was dedicated last summer at the sprawling South Carver, Massachusetts railroad museum and cranberry farm. The recently refurbished tractor was accepted into the Edaville family of antique trains and equipment during a special ceremony at the 7th Annual Summer Antique Steam, Gas, & Machinery Meet on Sunday, July 17.
Manufactured by F. Kittens Machine Works in Ferdinand, Ind., the tractor was acquired by Edaville Railroad in 1981 and was recently restored to its original working condition. Believed to be the only operating steam tractor in the state, there is only one other of the same make known to be in existence.
FIRED UP AND ROLLING Kenton Harrison of Edaville Railroad handles the controls of the 1910 Kitten tractor during the Annual Summer Antique Steam Gas & Machinery meet last year.
The steam tractor, which was popular from the 1880's to World War II, revolutionized the farm industry. It could do the work of several teams of horses and could be fired by either wood or coal. They were used to plow America's fields, pull harvesting equipment and for other general farm uses. Because of the huge flywheel common to most steam tractors, they could also be used to provide power for pumps, saw mills and other motor-driven equipment.
A cooperative effort by Edaville Railroad, the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, and Dillon Boiler Services of Fitchburg brought the 1910 steam tractor back into working order. Nearly $35,000 in labor and materials, most of it donated, were required to restore the ancient machine.
'Hartford Steam and Dillon Boiler were extremely helpful in bringing this tractor back into use,' said George Bartholomew, president of Edaville Railroad. 'The people at Dillon played an important role because it was mostly donated labor that did it. Dillon employees came in on their own time to restore it and they really showed their love for this old piece of equipment with all their work.'
Edaville Railroad acquired the tractor from a New Hampshire collector in 1981. He purchased it in 1975 from a person in the Chippewa Lake region of Ohio, where it is believed the tractor was used on farms during most of its working career. It is estimated that the tractor has not seen any formal use for nearly 40 years.
The 1910 Kittens steam tractor will become a permanent display at Edaville Railroad and will still be used during special events, like the antique machinery meet. Two such meets will be held this year at Edaville Railroad on Sunday, July 15, and Sunday, Sept. 20. Several hundred pieces of old steam- and gas-powered equipment are featured during these events. The public is invited.
Edaville Railroad is located on Route 58 in South Carver. The family attraction is open weekends in May from noon to 5 p.m. and daily starting in June from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. until Oct. 31. Edaville is also open for several weeks during the Christmas season. Call (617) 866-4526 for more information.
WATCHING THE WORLD GO BY A young rail fan views the dedication ceremonies from the cab of the Edaville steam locomotive.