Why Michigan?

| September/October 1990

  • Steam Engine
    Members cleaning the flues on one of the large steam engines on display at the 19th annual LaGrange Engine Club Show.

  • Steam Engine

17837 Lindenwood Rd. Lindenwood, Illinois 61049

Could someone please explain to me why the state of Michigan holds such an appeal to steam enthusiasts in the North Central United States? The barometer effect it exhibits indicating the changes in steam land are baffling. We've made many acquaintances and gained many friends from our travels to steam shows. We count ourselves lucky to come from Illinois where many steam shows are close by and easy to attend. But why is it in Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio and Indiana, we hear so many references to what's happening in Michigan? One just can't believe the only reason God created Michigan was to have a place to put all the known history and information about steam engines. (There are those who want us to think that.) But why, we ask, when a question pertaining to steam comes up, someone always says, 'So-and-so from Michigan says...'?

Michigan aside for a moment, what do these people from the other states have in common? They are all decent, hard-working, down-to-earth folk. They enjoy good company, good food and don't ask much of each other except companionship, honesty and a helping hand when needed. They all enjoy steam engines and steam shows and will defend the reputation of 'their' engine. Most will accept good-natured ribbing done in fun. Why then is Michigan any different?

We can only make a few simple observations. For one thing Michigan is the home of one of the few men left who worked in the factories which produced steam traction engines. I think we who know him can safely say we've gained at least one piece of information from Harry Woodmansee's years of experience. Another thing in Michigan's favor is the large number of individuals closely associated who still use their engines frequently and have developed a reputation for their expertise. The most obvious fact about Michigan though is a steam show held there the last weekend in July. This show is unlike any other we've attended. The steam engines are working around the clock. Big and small, all of them are busy. Not just busy driving the parade route but actually expending some power. The sawmill never stops. The Baker fans and power eater seem to have someone belted up to them continually. They thresh, they bale, they plow, they pull the sled. There are at least two to three activities going on at once so you never have to wait for something to happen. These Michigan boys know how to put on a show and still have fun doing it at Mason.

They have slow races, block races, and baseball games with their steam engines. When there's a slow spot, they've been known to make up new games to see how 'talented' the engineers are. Their parade is even fun. You never know who's going to pull some good natured clown-act on an unsuspecting victim. People who still know how to have fun, I guess that's what keeps drawing out-of-staters back to Michigan. Maybe that's why we've seen a few more shows having fun again. May we learn our lessons well from the Michigan gang.

Granted the Michigan boys can be serious when the situation calls for it. No clowning around is ever done without all consideration being given to the safety of everyone involved. But the boys also know when a show becomes so wound up in committees, rules and factions that the fun goes, the show folds. The Michigan guys and their families maintain this philosophy year round. A visit to Michigan any season finds us greeted by such warm hospitality that we don't want to leave. Being accepted for what we are, being considered as friends and made to feel a part of your 'extended' family is an honor. So, why Michigan? I think because Michigan reminds us that friendship is the most important reason we got together and because of that we don't let little things get in the road. So, to our friends and acquaintances in Michigan, keep up the good work and thanks for setting the example. We just hope we can make you feel as much at home at our place as we do at yours.


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