Torque Power Live Steam Models Hyattstown, Box 144-D R. F. D., Ijamsville, Maryland 21 754
I'm living in an old folks home now and don't get out much anymore. I want to thank all who sent me badges, pictures and booklets on their threshing shows. They all help pass the time.
By the time most of you get this issue of the Iron-Men Album it will be during the Christmas holidays. During this time we should all remember that the celebration of Christmas was not started as a promotional gimmick for department stores but as a sign of hope for all mankind. I certainly hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday.
I would like to devote this article to our steam engine hobby past, present and future.
Let's go back seventy (70) years ago when the steam engine was our main source of power. People at this time used the steam engine to make life easier, to travel to places faster, to do the farm work, saw the lumber and provide electric power. With man's ever increasing drive to find something easier the gas engine soon took over the work that was once done by the steam engine. Yet, even when this happened the steam engine was not forgotten. There seemed to be some unexplainable power that the steam engine had over the people that worked with it, for they never lost their love of the steam engine. Even though, they would never refer to the steam engine as something they loved. More often they were referred to in a rather distasteful language especially when an engine wasn't operating properly. But that was their own fault. For as much as they cussed these engines out, they wouldn't give them up until forced to do so by progress. What hurt the steam engine the most was not so much the invention of the gas engine, but the depression and World War II. Although I didn't live during this time, this is what I have been told by those who did.
Before the depression, there were hundreds of steam engine companies in existence. American farms, industry and railroads used steam for power. During the depression many farms went under, businesses failed and the railroads could not afford to pay the large number of people required to operate the locomotives. The industries that survived changed to gas power in order to cut down on operating costs. The farms were the last to change to gas. The farms that didn't go under could rely on their neighbors for help in operating their engines.
But, this didn't last forever. As our nation became an industrial rather than a farming nation, more people went to the cities thus making help for the farmer scarce and forcing the change to gas power which was cheaper to operate.
With the coming of World War II everything had to be done fast and cheap which finally ended the steam era. This started a trend which has not changed and that is do it fast and cheap.
After our nation got over the depression and World War II, people began wanting to have a good time since they had it so hard during the depression and World War II. Many hobbies came into being including the steam engine hobby. The Iron-Men Album was founded by our editor, Mr. Ritzman, who got the hobby organized and started many steam shows across the country. Many of the people living in the cities had come from the farms where they worked around steam engines. The hobby gave them the chance to relive the good old days when steam was king. More and more people got into it.
In the last ten (10) years our hobby has grown because of one factor the stress of our modern times had become so great that people had to get away from it. For many, this is going to a steam show and running an engine they restored or just coming and having a good time. As the stress of modern times and ways is forced upon us by our government and industry, more people will turn to our hobby.
Now we are at the dawn of the 1970's and our hobby is going to become more popular. But, is it going to have a few prosperous years and then decline? The reason II ask this is because I have seen the costs of antiques and engines triple in the last five (5) years. This has caused many people to become concerned as I have learned from talking to them at steam shows. Our hobby should be kept as a hobby and not as a big money making business.
This I have learned from my model steam engine business. The hobby is not big enough at this time to support a business and keep prices of models reasonable. I was faced with upping prices four or five times what they were or find another way to make a living. I chose to go into general machine and foundry work to make a living. This requires night and day work in order to make a living and survive. Since I do not have to depend upon the models to make a living, I could keep the prices low. Unfortunately I was left with very little time to work on my models. This has caused heartbreaking delays in my plans but as they say that's the way the ball bounces. In the long run it will be best for me and the hobby. In time I believe our hobby will support steam hobby oriented businesses but not right now; the hobby needs to grow some.
Antiques and engines owned by individuals do not have to be sold at the prices antique dealers get. But, many people feel that they should get as much as the dealers do. However, in the best interest of the hobby, I think everyone should try to keep the prices within reason. I say this because most young people could afford, in time, to buy an engine but not if the prices keep going up. I own two engines but only because some people felt it was better to make it possible for me to own one and become a supporter of the hobby than to make a big profit off of the engine. This is something for all owners of engines to think about because our hobby is dependent on its youth to carry it on in future years.
In the next article I will continue with some of the points that should be thought about for the benefit of the hobby.
My predecessor received a letter which, at the request of its writer, we are printing. I think it shows that there are many people promoting youth participation in the hobby. The letter is as follows:
11 August 1969
I am fifteen years old and live at Adams, Tennessee. During the last days of June Mr. Billy M. Byrd brought his Nichols and Shepard engine from his home, Madisonville, Kentucky, to be at the fourth of July picnic here. He was raised here and moved to Kentucky while working for the L & N Railroad. I went over to the picnic location where the engine and he were. Since I love steam engines the next thing I knew was that I was running the 16-60 hp. engine. He was very friendly and was glad for me to help him. Later in August I went to his home and then helped him run the engine at the county fair. The next day he and his friend, Morton Dickerson, took me to a steam show at Boonville, Indiana. I met the Byrd family who were very nice and treated me with warmth and kindness. This man trusted me at the controls of his engine even though I had never driven one before. He tried to teach me all he knew in a very short time and I appreciate that very much. Since Mr. Byrd has been an engineer for years, he is an expert in my opinion, I hope this will be printed so that I may show my gratitude to this man.
From a Young Engineer, Danny Miller R.R.2 Adams, Tennessee 37010.