article image

The following story is excerpted from an article from the August
29,1987 Wausau Daily Herald. It was written by Herald staffer Aly
Xiong in anticipation of the 15th Annual Northcentral Wisconsin
Steam and Gas Engine Club’s Show at Kurt Umnus’ farm near
Edgar, WI. Eddy Balz, a subscriber to IMA sent the piece, which is
reprinted with permission.

Long ago, just as the stationary steam engine powered the
Industrial Revolution just as the locomotive and steamboat powered
the Transport Revolution so the steam traction engine spawned the
Agricultural Revolution.

Today, the lusty steamer man of 1920 is gray. But there is a new
breed of engineers coming along in these space-age times of ours.
Engineers like Eddy Balz, 3316 Seymour Lane, Wausau, WI 54401, are
re-creating the old-time steam engines.

Although farm steam has now traversed its obsolescence and is
well into its antiquity, steam hobbyists like Balz are today
rescuing mountains of rust from swamps and junkyards and putting
them into mint condition.

Collecting, restoring and running these gentle giants ‘some
topping 30 tons and 65 years is the fastest growing farmer’s
hobby from Pennsylvania to the Pacific,’ he said.

So if you are not one of the many spectators at hundreds of
steam engine shows across the country each year and your nerves
have not tingled to the sound of steam and the smell of hot
cylinder oil, if your blood has not raced with the rhythmic
chuff-chuff of a steam traction engine under load, you have not
fully lived.

Like most steam engine hobbyists, Balz got interested in engines
at a very young age.

‘Years ago I grew up with steam threshing rigs, steam
logging trains and worked in steam powered sawmills,’ he

‘My steam engine is the kind that farmers used 65 years ago
in the Dakotas to plow their big wheat fields. It relieved the
horses and oxen they used before,’ said Balz.

Balz is now in his 80’s, but ‘I still crave to operate
the steam engine,’ he said.

‘It is a great hobby … an expensive one.’

So if you want to feel your heart leap to power and
neighborliness, sniffing the steam-smoke-oil perfume, itching to
the chaff down your sweaty neck, hearing the old sounds and tasting
the dust of days long gone, go to next year’s show.

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