Farm Collector

The Ottaways Are Always Steamed Up

Terning’s Steam Show RR #3, Box 184, Valley Center, Kansas

Everyone loves a challengeit seems to bring out energy in us we
did not realize existed. Jerry Ottaway of Wichita, Kansas, is no
exception to this rule. When Jerry and his father, Herb Ottaway,
located an 1894 Herchell Spillman steam carousel deteriorating in
Missouri, it seemed just what was needed to get the adrenalin
flowing once again.

The Ottaway family has, for generations, been recognized as an
authority on the care and the operation of anything that is powered
with steam. Jerry’s grandfather, L.A. Ottaway, was a dedicated
steam man. Jerry’s uncle, Harold Ottaway, and his father, Herb
Ottaway, were the driving force behind the famous Ottaway Amusement
Trains. Herb is also a world renowned steam car expert. Jerry’s
son, Scott, spent many, many hours this past summer assisting with
the restoration of the steam carousel. Their wives also take an
active part. Jerry’s grandchildren enjoy riding the carousel
but, at this point in time, are a bit young to be of assistance.
They support the projects as well as assist with its safe

This particular steam carousel is one of six remaining in the
nation. It is powered by an upright 10 HP steam engine which is
harnessed to a 150 foot cable beneath a wide platform which is
shaped like a track. Thus the name ‘track merry-go-round’
is given to this particular type.

The horses number twenty-four. There is much work left to do
with the horses, but they were in good enough condition for the
1987 Labor Day event. They were minus tails how many of you have
ever had to find tails for twenty-four horses? Well, Jerry finally
located them up in South Dakota and they arrived just in time for
the show.

Scott Ottaway rides with daughter on steam carousel at
Terning’s Annual Show over the Labor Day Weekend in Valley
Center, Kansas. Photo courtesy Arkansas Valley News, Valley Center,
Kansas, Vada Snider photographer.

Many happy patrons enjoyed the ride.

Herb Ottaway giving rides in his locomobile, past the restored
carousel in background. Photo courtesy Melissa Lear of Garden City,

Jess Gibbs, 92, of Wichita, Kansas assisted with the restoration
of this steam carousel. Mr. Gibbs operated the steam carousels as a
teenager. In fact, the magnificent organ which played and amazed
show goers was built by Mr. Gibbs seven years ago. By the age of
twenty-five, Mr. Gibbs had saved $2,000.00 which was enough to
purchase his own steam carousel. He recalls that a nickel bought a
customer one ride and a quarter bought six. The invention of the
electric powered rides put Mr. Gibbs out of business. Much to his
dismay, he had to abandon his carousel because he could not afford
to hire help to assist with taking it down and hauling it on to the
next show. This was very tragic. When Mr. Gibbs was given the
opportunity to assist with this carousel, it was a dream come true
for him to once again see a steam carousel being brought back to

When the carousel was entirely set up and in full operation, the
many people responsible just stood back in complete amazement. As
the organ played its many tunes and the horses moved back and
forth, it really was a sight to see.

A very big THANK YOU to Jerry, Herb and the countless others who
assisted with the complete restoration of the steam carousel.
Another piece of history has been preserved for many generations to
enjoy watching, take a ride, or just stand back and listen to the
delightful music.

The only remaining question seems to be ‘Since this project
is complete, what next’? I guess we will have to just wait and

  • Published on Jul 1, 1988
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