Farm Collector


Black smoke billowed and steam whistles sang sad songs of a
by-gone age, as the ‘iron men’ of seven states gathered at
the fair grounds in Lexington, North Carolina July 20, 21 and

It was the first convention of the newly formed North Carolina
Steam Historical Association, a non-profit group organized to keep
alive the memories of the age of steam and to show the old iron
engines to the young people of today who may never have seen any of

It was also a gathering to give honor to the men who once used
steam power for threshing and wood sawing the ‘iron men’ so
called because of the massive iron castings of which the old
engines were built.

Bob Powell, of Mocksville, President of the Association, called
the convention a success, although it did not draw more than
several hundred people as spectators. It was held practically
without publicity. An announcement in the ‘Iron Men Album’
and word of mouth news brought some 150 participants and their

There were 14 traction engines on exhibition huge puffing
monsters fired and traveling over the grounds under their own
power. There were eight ‘portables’ engines made to turn
machinery but which had to be pulled along by horses or mules.

J. W. Nipper, of Warrenville, brought along a three-foot model
of a traction engine which operated under its own steam, pulling a
red wagon in which he gave free rides. Bill Carrick, of Denton,
brought a new threshing machine which was belted to several of the
old engines, one at a time, of course, and used to thresh

Gaither Sherrill, of Troutman, brought a traction engine in
perfect working condition, although it was made in 1905. (My own
engine was sold by a Virginia dealer in 1901, and is in perfect
condition. It was not exhibited this year, however.)

Jack Smith, of Winston-Salem, brought his home built mechanical
masterpiece: an elaborately detailed and decorated working model of
a British Showman type of traction engine. He also brought a model
of a merry-go-round organ and a real pop corn machine steam

There was a ‘horse power’ a device turned by horses and
used in olden times to turn machinery. There was also a saw mill
that was operated by the old steam engines. Saturday was Antique
Automobile day, an added feature along with the steam engines.

The nostalgia was tempered by gaiety of the children and
good-fellowship of the adults. Summerville Baptist Church, of
Davidson County, operated two refreshment stands, serving
home-cooked cakes and pies along with their ham biscuits, hot dogs,
and bottled drinks.

This year’s affair lost money for the members of the
Association, Mrs. Charles Idol, of Winston-Salem, secretary,
announced, after consulting with Vice-President Carrick. But
another one will be planned for next Summer, and it is expected
that the interest will grow.

Newspapers and television stations cooperated this year to give
publicity which will be valuable, it is believed, because it will
lead many people to plan to attend the convention next year.

  • Published on Jan 1, 1962
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