History of the Western Steam Fiends Association

Oregon's Steam Fiends and Antique Powerland's shared history stretches over 50 years

| July/August 2004

John Spalding (of Spalding’s Corner fame) stumbled upon this shot of the 1955 Steam Fiends show at Chris Busch’s farm in Colton, Wash.

When he discovered its subject, he donated the photo to the Steam Fiends. Notice the splice running down the middle of the small barn. Photographer C.R. Miller put two photos together to create this great panoramic view of the Busch farm.

The history of the Western Steam Fiends Association is probably similar to that of other long-standing steam clubs. Of course, back in the early days the men and women of steam kept in contact with each other without the benefit of e-mail — and often without telephones. As was the case with many clubs in the early days, the founders of other clubs and organizations even the founding editor of Iron-Men Album, Elmer Ritzman, were involved with the Steam Fiends. What follows is a short look at our club’s history.

Steam Fiends timeline

1951: The first organizational meeting to form the Western Steam Fiends Association was held at Chris Busch’s farm in Colton, Wash. Annual membership dues were set at $2, which included a club membership badge.

1952: The first steam-up and second meeting of the Steam Fiends was held at Chris Busch’s farm.

1954: There was a little criticism of the word “fiend” in the club’s title among some members. However, among its definitions of the word, Webster’s dictionary includes “one totally engrossed in something.”

Steam historian F. Hall Higgens wrote about the Steam Fiends club in the January/February 1954 issue of Iron-Men Album. Higgens told about ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s visit to the show, noting that Bergen filmed interviews at the reunion for use in his nationally broadcast television show. Bergen was a big fan of steam.

Harvey Mikkelson hosted Silverton’s (Oregon) first old-fashioned threshing bee that year. The event was held annually until 1966.