| March/April 1994

Gauge Collecting

C/o D. M. Goodsell, 91 E. 200 S., Newton, Utah 84327

For the lover of antique machinery, steam traction engines especially, it's easy to let yourself get discouraged as prices skyrocket. The days of discovering that old engine amid the rubbish of an abandoned farm are long gone. They've been replaced with want ads, scrap parts dealers, and antique shops.

Unfortunately, the prospects for the young steam enthusiast are less than favorable. When the engines do become available, they are usually priced so high as to dampen the thrill of discovery, even if you can afford one at all.

All hope is not lost. Every time I walk into my gauge room, I relive the excitement of over a hundred such finds. I don't have the money or the space to collect steam engines, so I enjoy the next best thing: antique steam gauges.

In the beginning

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was especially blessed to have my grandparents living on one of the oldest farms in the White River Valley. Huge, old growth stumps dotted the pastures. The strategic firing platforms, provided by the stumps, aided in maximizing the effective range of my Daisy Pump Pellet Rifle. The objective of these mock war games though, was the rickety old barn at the back of the pasture. The earthquake of 1964 had shaken loose its heavy timbers and the rough cut planks covering its walls. It now looked like swiss cheese because of all the gaps in the wood.

Inside the barn, my eyes would soon grow accustomed to the limited light provided by the rays of dust speckled pale yellow seeping through the cracks. All was a maze of debris. Floor boards twisted up from the agony left by the quake. On rusty nails, the rust stains trickling down the bleached wood, hung the iron monuments to man's illusion of conquering nature. Soon, all evidence of the century old struggle that carved these pastures from the forests will be lost. The barn will burn in some future lightening storm and the rusty old tools now lining its walls will fall into the mud and be forgotten.