Mud and steaming around just don’t mix


Well, the show season is rather well underway. Have you been to any of your favorites yet?

We made it to an Ohio show over on Bundysburg Road near Middlefield and enjoyed it a lot as usual. It is a mainly Amish show so there is lots of steam and fewer tractors than some others The JS Company had two 10 horsepower Advance engines there and running. They were essentially brand new, jewelry grade or as close to that as steam engines get.

My younger daughter offered to take me to National Threshers at Wauseon the week before the Fourth as she has been there often enough to be in love with some engines. Her favorite is the quarter scale double Garr-Scott owned and run by Harold Stark from Indiana. We have been going to Wauseon for many years, back into the 1960s, I’m sure, just after the late Harry Fleming convinced us of the attraction of the Advance engines and others there.

Mr. Blaker, of course, would have held out for the Port-Huron’s, as they were his favorite way back into working days. There are several testimonials still in print that he wrote for magazines and catalogs. He also was behind a couple economy runs they did over the years that showed how powerful and efficient they were with their compound cylinders and jacketed boilers. One set of data even showed the advantage of good rings on the pistons, as they had a new set one year in their data.

Weather beware

As with all outdoor shows, they were subject to the weather and we took a bus load in 1988, I believe it was, when the closest radio station at Defiance was calling the afternoon temperature as 104 degrees. There were 4 inches or more of fine powdered dirt all over the track and roadways. Our bus driver saved our comfort by keeping the bus air conditioner running all afternoon.

We were also there another year when it came up a storm that blew rain horizontally through a shelter 60 or 80 feet long where we had model engines set up. Another year, which happened to be their 50th anniversary, my elder daughter was working at Cedar Point so we went that far and spent a day with her, then went on to Wauseon the next day, which was probably a Friday, and found four to six inches of water most everywhere. They did manage to line up an engine or two to the Baker fans and make some smoke and noise, but I’m sure they didn’t do their belts any favors dragging them through the muddy water.

This year, it was still raining Friday evening when we got to our hotel near Toledo, and rained all night and the TV showed it likely to continue, so I said, “The show will be a muddy mess.” My daughter looked at the map and how close we were to Detroit and we opted to go to Ford’s Museum instead.

Muddy mess

The drive home was a miserable continuation of the rainy weather of the previous 24 hours but we had no real trouble. We didn’t know until we got home and looked at pictures on Facebook just what a mess we missed. Most pictures showed water a foot or more up on the tires and wheels of the engines and tractors. I suppose they are still cleaning them up in some cases.

I have not talked to anyone who made it there, but it had to have been a terrible mess. I heard that most did not even build a fire on Saturday and according to the TV weatherman, Sunday did not dry out appreciably. I expect we will see some further news in some magazine articles and likely some pictures of the high water. The bottom line is simply that outdoor shows and wet weather are natural enemies.

Show must go on

We have had some wet weather and mud locally, too, but most local show sites are better drained than the fairgrounds of the Midwest. I even have a set of photos from my British correspondent the late Bob Pratt, showing tractors pulling spectators cars through muddy ruts at a show called Ford End. The big show in England called the “Great Dorset Steam Fair” also got a reputation for being a place to “go down and play in the Mud” but I think they have gotten over that more recently.

Lawrence Fair mud bog

My personal experience involves the Lawrence County fairgrounds near New Castle, Pennsylvania. We often ran some tractors through the Wednesday evening Cavalcade of Power and one year it had rained during the afternoon. Walter Blinn was there running his Frick steamer and Clarence Fisher had to leave, but gave us permission to run his Peerless steamer.

I was steering and Charlie McMurray was driving. Unfortunately a major portion of drainage on the fairgrounds ran to the southeast through the antique section. Walter walked right through the shallow ditch with the Frick, but when we followed with the Peerless, we found ourselves suddenly down on the ashpan. We never did decide if it was a difference in ground pressure or if the Frick had broken the sod for us. Anyhow, a big new tractor from one of the displays came down and put us back on firm ground in short order.

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