Farm Collector


Psilanti, Michigan

That there is something about a steam engine is only too obvious
to anyone who has attended any of the numerous annual threshing
reunions that are held throughout the United States from coast to
coast. This indescribable something about a steam engine not only
attracts the rank and file of the old experienced threshermen who
have toiled early and late inhaling vast volumes of engine smoke
and straw dust, but also attracts many ardent hobbyists of various
occupations and professions. While many of the threshermen reunion
follow, more or less, a common pattern of activities, yet there are
frequently a striking and interesting deviations from the regular
pattern that make some individual reunions outstanding and
pleasingly different.

To illustrate this point of exceptional differences, a somewhat
cursory description of the threshermens’ reunion held so
recently at the Chris Busch ranch near Colton, Washington, will
suffice. The Busch reunion which is formerly known as the Western
Steam Fiends Association reunion, is scheduled to be a one-day
affair, beginning with a rousing ‘kick-off’ the evening
before at the local high school where some form of entertainment is
provided, also films and a lecture on some phase of steam engines.
But the real preliminaries, not officially listed as such, begun
early the preceding morning at about six o’clock when Jake
Wiever and Milo Gipson arrived to tune up the respective engines
they had selected to operate the following day. Each of these men
have reached the ripe old age of eighty years and still retain a
surprising amount of their early agility. While Jake fired up the
under mounted Avery and Milo had set a brisk fire in the big J. I.
Case, Chris was busy installing a newly fabricated four-tone
whistle on his favorite Minneapolis engine. The separator man was
soon on the job and going over every minute detail on the separator
very meticulously, inside and outside, to insure its successful
operation in the belt. Soon photographers, amateur and
professional, arrived. Three or four newspaper reporters appeared
and also a professional writer. Although it was a day before the
regular show was scheduled to begin, yet numerous curious
individuals arrived to stroll around and gaze with wide-eyed
wonderment at the various engines, and to ask many questions.

The official starting event was the evening meeting which was
called to order by Chris Busch, the president and chairman of the
Western Steam Fiends Association. The first event on the program
was a humorous skit involving ventriloquism put on by Edgar
Bergen,  the radio star of Charlie McCarthy fame. Mr. Bergen
is the proud owner of a J. I. Case steam traction engine and his
name appears on the membership roster of the Western Steam Fiends
Association which confirms him as an ardent steam fan. Following
was a film furnished by the Norfolk and Western Railway,
illustrating the building of a modern steam locomotive; also
illustrating up-to-date servicing equipment and the ultra-servicing
methods that has so greatly enhanced the economy of the old steam
locomotive to such a degree that it now dangerously approaches the
economy in operation obtained by the newer diesel locomotives. The
meeting closed by a very interesting talk by Mr. C. R. Miller on
the formation and treatment of boiler scale.

Early the following morning the engineers had hardly got their
fires started before a lively and anxious crowd began to pour in to
inspect the various models being exhibited, and watch ponderous
steam traction engines being put through their paces. The mounted
cook house swung into active operation early to accommodate the
long line of hungry visitors who were waiting to be served much
after the same fashion that the hungry threshermen in the past were
served in the field.

Shortly after noon the separator was hauled out in the field by
Milo’s J. I. Case engine, while the undermounted Avery followed
with Mr. Bergen at the throttle. Mr. Bergen and his assistant were
very active throughout the entire day taking numerous moving
pictures of the threshing spectacle and other attractions which he
expects to use later in TV programs.

The whistle sounded out in the field to indicate that the
threshing was about to start, and the excited crowd sallied forth
to get a real eye full of an actual ‘old fashioned steam
threshing scene!’

  • Published on Jan 1, 1954
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