Threshing always popular at Northwest Pa. steam show

The Northwest Pennsylvania Steam Engine and Old Equipment Association Annual Steam Engine Show goes off without a hitch.

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The Northwest Pennsylvania Steam Engine and Old Equipment Association held its annual summer Steam Engine Show Aug. 4-7 at their showgrounds on the north edge of the Borough of Portersville.

The biggest factor affecting the success of an outdoor show like ours is the weatherman and he was good to us this year.

Main attractions

Threshing, baling and sawmilling were our big features at the show. For several years we have had a neighbor supply our grain, as none of our members grow it any more. This year the grain used was spelt.

The thresher and baler are both Case machines, the thresher being an all steel machine owned by the club and formerly owned by the late Walt Blinn of Energy, Pennsylvania.
We have two Case balers. The older one makes large heavy bales, so we use a later one, which is painted the bright orange Case was known for and makes a smaller, more manageable bale.

The whole operation is supervised by one of our directors, Steve Brandon, and this year his main helpers were his two sons.

Jesse just finished his first year of engineering school at Behrend College of Penn State near Erie. The younger brother, Luke, is a sophomore at Seneca Valley High School.
We have several other helpers who can and often do step in as needed.

Steamer power

Power for the thresher is supplied by various gas tractors and steamers, particularly the 1987 Frick traction engine also formerly owned by Walt Blinn.
The Brandons ran the baler with their John Deere H. We only used one load of sheaves for the four days ,while some bigger shows, especially out West, do a whole wagon load every day.

Threshing

Threshing was the main operation for which steam power was developed in the late 1880s. Unfortunately it is not well understood these days because most small grain is harvested by the combine harvester, which does what was three or four separate jobs 125 years ago.

It cuts or mows the grain as it is standing in the field. The process of binding into sheaves is skipped and the cut grain, heads and straw all go into the threshing cylinder where grain, straw and chaff are separated.

Thus, another name for the threshing machine is separator.

The threshing season only lasted for three to six months and the steam engine sat idle most of the year, so the fertile minds of the engine owners were soon looking for other uses for the power that was sitting idle.

Sawmills

Running a sawmill was a common use — especially in the colder months when logs were easy to skid out of the woods over the snow. Most of the engine builders added sawmills to their equipment lines.

This was especially true of Frick in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, who built the mill we use at Portersville.

I have seen mills by Russell of Massillon, Ohio, Peerless also of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and probably a couple others, and I have catalogs from at least six other companies in which sawmills are a feature.

Frick mills are found frequently all over the eastern states and probably all around the world.

In western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, Enterprise sawmills built in Colombiana, Ohio, are or used to be common, but they built only portable steam engines which were high pressure and high speed units.

Portable engine

We run our sawmill at Portersville with a large Frick portable owned and operated by Joe Blizman who comes all the way from the Richmond, Virginia, area, where he works for the power company.

This particular engine came from the town of Pilgrim Knob, Virginia, which is close to Kentucky on the road map. Joe’s stepfather, Bill Henry worked for Mine Safety Appliance Corporation at their Callery plant and one of their travelling men found the engine down in Virginia.

We bought it and the late Rich Bupp and I went down and hauled it home in pieces and Harold Bupp rebuilt in his shop in Harmony, Pennsylvania.

The sawmill itself is operated by several men, mainly Clyde Smith, of Sutler, and Wayne Young, of Fombell, and a couple younger trainees.

Other features. Other features of the show include tractor pulls of three sizes. The youngsters have fun with garden tractors and often run on the margins of the track while other activities continue at the same time.

Friday pulls feature a couple classes of regular antique machines and Saturday is the King of the mountain unlimited pulls for which we have become well known.

Stop in Oct. 1 and 2 and see our cider press in operation and apple butter cooking.

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