Steam Community Made Up of Preservationists, As Activities Not Mere Hobby

Letting Off Steam: A letter from the editor


| Fall 2006



Some time ago, I asked readers if it was time for steam enthusiasts to band together and craft a national organization committed to furthering the interests of the historical steam community.

The thought comes up again, due to continuing uncertainty of the final wording in the expected revision of Appendix C of the National Board Inspection Code, which deals specifically with inspection of historic boilers.

The concern from many corners is that the National Board of Boiler & Pressure Vessel Inspectors has as its ultimate agenda shutting down historic boilers. The National Board, while never saying it opposes historic boilers, has been regarded as unreceptive to the interests of historic boiler owners.

The historical steam community exists thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of a relatively small number of owners and operators of vintage steam engines. The genesis of the community was an over-riding interest in preserving a disappearing element of American history, one whose impact on culture and society was far broader than most people could realize.

Through the years, the steam community has often referred to itself as a hobby. Iron-Men Album used the term frequently to describe steamers, and we have as well in Steam Traction. But now I wonder; do we inadvertently harm our image and mission when we refer to our activity as a hobby?

As lovers of steam, of American agricultural heritage, we are much more than simply hobbyists. We are in fact preservationists, dedicated to restoring and demonstrating the machinery that enabled generations of Americans to tame the soil and plant roots – both physically and figuratively.