or A Dozen Iron-Men Have A Barrel of Fun
President-North Central Illinois Steam Power Show Davis junction, Illinois 61020
It has been quite a long time since I have visited with my friends throughout the states, through your fine magazine, so I will at this time endeavor to compose a letter about a trip that a group of us steam power enthusiasts took in September to New Rockford, North Dakota to attend a fine show there. The plans for this fine trip were laid out in June at the Mississippi Valley Steam Power Show at La Motte, Iowa. Justin Hingtgen of La Motte, Iowa, Harry Woodman-see of Dowling, Michigan, and myself, George W. Hedtke of Davis Junction, Illinois were the lead men of the planned trip. The train and hotel reservations for our group of twelve were made far in advance by Justin Hingtgen.
On Friday, September 20, five of us from the North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, held annually in August, at the King Farm, Kings, Ill., boarded the Great Northern train, 'The Empire Builder', at Rochelle, Ill. The group included, Leonard Smith of Kingston, Ill., Ellis Rees of Steward, Ill., Floyd King of Kings, Ill., and Emil Svanda and myself, George Hedtke of Davis Junction, Ill. Those boarding the train at East Dubuque, Ill., are as follows: Justin Hingtgen, Earl Russell, Vincent Deutsch, Chris Casel, and Lawrence Hoffman, all of La Motte, Iowa, who are associated with the Mississippi Valley Steam Power Show, held annually in June at the Hingtgen Farm. Others boarding the train at East Dubuque, Ill., were Harry Woodmansee of Dowling, Michigan, who is associated with the Michigan Steam Engine and Thresher Show of near Hastings, Michigan, and James A. Fennell of Burr Oak, Michigan, who is associated with the Old Time Threshers and Saw Mill Operators Show of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The train car with reserved seats for our group was a dome car, and believe me, we all enjoyed this going and coming back. The trip between East Dubuque, Ill, and St. Paul, Minnesota was all along the Mississippi River and the scenery was wonderful. A person doesn't truly realize the beauty mother nature provides and has until a person travels and sees it. At St. Paul we had a 50 minute lay over while more cars were added to our train and other service done. This we all appreciated as it gave us a chance to exercise our legs and take a stroll through the huge railroad station. To our surprise at the far end of the station, we discovered on display the first wood burning locomotive and tender, that was used to pull a train during the early days in the St. Paul and Minneapolis area. The locomotive and tender appear to be about 50 feet in length and are restored beautifully in the original colors. A plaque at its sides tells of its story and service. We naturally had to visit this fine display again on our way home. Enroute to New Rockford, we were informed at Fargo, North Dakota, that there was a derailment of 21 freight cars on our line just a short distance east of our destination. This of course wasn't good news but we all were glad it wasn't our train. At Fargo we were rerouted to another line to Devils Lake, North Dakota. Here we were met by drivers of 3 new automobiles who took us to New Rockford, a distance of 40 miles south. It was 5:00 a.m., so we all piled out of the automobiles with our luggage and headed upstairs to our hotel rooms. It wasn't long the whole group was seated around a long table in the Cafe that joins the hotel. The 'bull session' was on, as a few of the fellows did get some sleep and we all knew we soon would be at the show grounds. Several cups of coffee, pancakes, sausage, bacon, and eggs, were consumed during the session. As soon as we finished breakfast, we were told of a fine surprise. The Officials of the Central North Dakota Steam Thresher Show made us very welcome and provided our group with a jeep station wagon for transportation during our stay at New Rockford. The jeep station wagon was parked in front of the Cafe, and Justin Hingtgen appointed Vincent Deutsch from our group to be the daily chauffeur. Vince did a fine job and made several trips daily to and from the show grounds.
Upon entering the show grounds the first day, we immediately noticed that all of the steam engines were of the large size. There were 12 if I remember correctly. That country saw very few small engines and tractors I believe. It was quite interesting to see one of their Advance engines being fired with straw. We naturally are not accustomed of seeing that in our area. Also we found it interesting to see different types of machines and equipment which are not seen in our area. For instance a shock loading machine, and a cook shack on wheels which accompanied the threshing crew during the early days. The original cook shack was busy each day preparing meals for the spectators. Wood was being used in the old fashion cook stove during the show. Horses were definitely lacking at the show, and bundle wagons were being pulled with tractors. Two small teams of horses were hitched to a buggy and a wagon ride.
The show at New Rockford was no exemption from other shows during the year 1968. I believe nearly every show this year witnessed a rain storm the first day or during their show. Everything was going fine at New Rockford the early part of Saturday morning. Harry Woodmansee 'hired out' as engineer on the 110 HP Case. Justin Hingtgen and I (George Hedtke) 'hired out' as firemen and helpers on the 110 Case with Harry. Floyd King and Vincent Deutsch were firing the big Buffalo Pitts and made one trip around the grounds. The remaining members of our group were strolling here, there, and everywhere, simply enjoying themselves. About 10 o'clock it started to cloud up and got cold suddenly. It soon started to pour and we all headed for the jeep station wagon. Can you imagine seeing 12 men trying to get into a jeep station wagon at the same time during a rain storm. Well, it can be done. All it takes is a sharp bolt of lightning which really helps things along. My good friend, Justin, took a 'nip' of his cigar and said, by-golly that was a close one. We all laughed as there never was a dull moment in our crowd so it seemed. Jokingly, Emil Svanda commented that he saw the lightning flash in the direction of the hotel and asked, 'Do you suppose the lightning struck our hotel?'
None of us thought more about it until it quit raining and we heard the siren at the fire station. We took off for up town and sure enough the hotel was struck. It was evidently a cold bolt of lightning however, so there and stair-ways in a fog of dust. The lightning struck the TV antenna and the fire-place chimney, sending much soot and dirt down the chimney to the base of the fire-place. It wasn't very long till the management of the hotel had things dusted and the lobby floor cleaned. Hotel guests who at first grabbed their luggage and arms full of clothes and headed down to the main floor soon returned back to their rooms after they learned there was no fire. Yes, it was an exciting trip for all of us all the way around. We had lots of fun though. The big rain naturally stopped all show activities on Saturday for the rest of the day. We enjoyed a fine smorgasbord dinner and supper at our hotel Cafe and we spent most of Saturday afternoon there visiting with new steam show friends. Our group made a lot of new friends and believe me, we found New Rockford people real friendly and accommodating. With us we had a 400 foot movie of the North Central Illinois Steam Power Show, taken last year at the King Farm at Kings, Ill. We had no projector however, but soon there was one at the Cafe, loaned to us by a local depot agent. We showed the movie at about 10:00 p.m. to all that could find seats and standing room in the Cafe. All naturally enjoyed the movie, especially seeing horse power threshing as is done annually, using 12 draft horses for power at the show at Kings, Ill.
Sunday morning we all were up early to see what the weather was like. Sure enough the sun was out and the ground was drying by the time we got to the show grounds. Activity started in full force all around the grounds. A tremendous crowd started to appear at about mid-morning. Automobiles were seen from Canada and surrounding states moving in. By noon people were milling all over the show grounds. Guess everyone knew it was going to be a beautiful day. It seemed everyone turned out for the last day of the show. We hated to see that time come but we enjoyed every bit of the show and our long trip. The 2:00 o'clock parade was a big one and was performed in a circular motion mostly of numerous engines and tractors. By the time the 110 Case got back to its starting point, the last of the gas tractors were just leaving to make the round. People kept coming in, so the parade continued to make a second round. This was a fine sight to see a circle of movement around the show grounds.
The remaining of the day was spent threshing with various outfits and watching the operation of the sawmill. Several models of engines and small makes of threshers were in operation most of the day. Everyone sorta hated to see the end of the day come. The end of the day didn't come for all of the engineers however till about 8:00 o'clock. Immediately after the show is over the engineers run their engines and tractors in their storage place under their own power. Fortunately, these boys at New Rock-ford have huge storage buildings on the grounds. We enjoyed seeing these boys put their equipment away, same as many other people stayed and watched the procedure. Some of the engines are stored in tight spots.
We left the show grounds about 7:00 p.m., as all of us had our suit cases to pack yet and get ready for our homeward trip. Our train was due in New Rockford at 10:50 that night, so none of us wanted to miss the train. We were warned ahead of time that the dining car would not be open for eats so Vincent Deutsch made the rounds to grocery stores Sunday afternoon and got a supply of eats for us to munch on throughout the night. Vince made a good caterer and had his suit case and 3 shopping bags full of just everything. Our group occupied the dome part of our car most of the way home. Vince took up the front part of the dome for all the shopping bags with the eats. This way he could see who was hungry and would serve us as we were rolling across the states. Several of us were not very hungry but we were sleepy. Before we left New Rockford, our group was supper guests of Mr. Howard Pross at the Cafe joining the hotel where we stayed. Howard lives at Luverne, North Dakota and he owns several large engines, among which is the 110 HP Case, and the Large Reeves which Howard purchased some time ago in Oklahoma. I believe it is rated as a 32 double simple Reeves. Our group owes Howard many thanks for the fine hospitality he gave us eastern boys while at New Rockford. We also owe thanks to the rest of the show officials that made us all feel so welcome. Our trip will long be remembered, and we do hope to see some of the North Dakota boys at our shows in the near future. We welcome all you other boys from other shows also. See you all next summer.