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Well-Known Member
Jul 12, 2007
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I attended a small rural farm tractor and engine show a couple of weekends past. It was one of those last minute things that I had spotted in an obscure post on an engine web site. I went mostly to get out of the house, not expecting much more than a light diversion. When I arrived, I found there were a couple of guys showing small model hit and miss engines.

One of the guys was a bit secretive and didn't seem to want to discuss his engine building much, so I wandered over to the other guy's display. We struck up a conversation and after about an hour, he leaned in close and quietly invited me to another show that was being held the following weekend, within 30 miles of my home. He went on to explain that it was a "by word of mouth invitation only" show that had not been advertised anywhere. Just a bunch of tractor and engine guys who gather on one of the member's farm to enjoy each other's company and to run the owner's "toys". The conversation ended with an exchange of email addresses and phone numbers, along with my promise to attend the upcoming event.

The following weekend arrived and I dragged me out of bed and headed down the highway to find the unknown fellow's farm. I wasn't expecting much more than a few tractors and such, but I'd been assured that the people who attended this function were indeed, engine people. I arrived to find a farm pasture full of cars, coal smoke in the air and steam whistles breaking the silence in numbers. Folks.... let me tell you.... I'd found an early morning slice of heaven, almost in my own back yard.

A 4000 square foot or better shed sat at the bottom of a rolling slope, emitting black coal smoke with a true vengeance. Whiffs of steam could be seen emerging from the shadows within and someone was playing at a bank of steam whistles, mounted atop the tin roof, as if they would ward off the devil himself. Peafowl were everywhere you looked and the coal smoke was doing battle with a variety of good smells coming from over around the cook shack. Add all this to the large Case traction engine that rumbled past as I got out of the car and a big red and white double decker bus that crested a hill from the other direction and you can almost imagine the scene that unfolded before me. Yup... like living a good man's dream....(grin)

As I wandered down to the steam engine shed, I was simply amazed at what I saw. Not one, but two large Corilss engines were happily steaming away, separated by a small beam engine and a fairly large slide valve engine, both running at a nice slow clip. The space that was left was filled by a couple of Bottle body verticals and a boiler that was doing all it could do to keep up with the demand for steam. Standing at the door of the fire box was a small gnome of a man who looked like be belonged in front of a firebox door. He was feeding the boiler sawmill slabs of hard wood trim. We're talking about a man sporting a Cheshire possum grin and a shock of snow white hair, who was obviously in his very own kind of happy place.

I was greeted by several of the men who were tending the various engines and was invited to get up close and personal with the engines. Touch them, climb up on the operators platform, want to help fill the oilers?...were the first comments I heard, along with hearty introductions filled with good humor and even a bit of male ribaldry. In short, these guys were having fun and it was obvious the friendships were both comfortably easy and genuine. When I mentioned that I had a collection of small handmade model engines I was immediately surrounded and herded up the hill to meet our host.

The owner and I were introduced and someone informed him of my collection, which got me a firm handshake and an invitation to bring my engines to the next event which is scheduled for the weekend of July 4th. He also invited me to join them for their regular Sunday breakfast. It seems the owner cooks breakfast for a fairly large crew of people, each Sunday morning and then they all go play with the engines or do repairs to those needing attention.

As I wandered over the farm, I discovered another 200 ft long shed full of Fairbanks Morse internal combustion engines. There were about a dozen of them, ranging from 5 HP to a large 120 HP vertical that was under repair. Everywhere you looked there were hit and miss engines, old steam engines some intact while others were awaiting their turn at the hands of the repair crews. In one shed was a full machine shop, in another a model T flatbed truck undergoing restorations, another held a fire truck, and nearby was a small locomobile under steam. The saw mill and grain mills were in another shed, up the hill, next to a large well appointed building full of antique cars, printing presses, gas pumps hit and miss engines and a plethora of other old items that adorned the walls and corners. Outside sat two of the largest gas powered traction engines I'd ever seen, both ticking over as the drivers discussed where to take their riders next.Did I mention anything about discovering Nirvana within a few minutes drive of my house?

As noon arrived, every steam whistle on the place was blown. The crowd of about 250 people began to move toward the cook shack and form a line. I was invited to join in. As the line went through the door, there was enough food for a small army which I soon learned was provided by the owner and the regulars in pot luck fashion at, no charge. I looked around to find a tip jar or somewhere to contribute, but none existed. Country people sure do know how to put on a real feed.... let me tell you....(grin). Nothing beats sitting in an old barber's chair while eating fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, greens, fresh tomatoes and melon, all washed down with a river of iced tea. The desert table alone was a enough to induce sugar coma. The day ended about 3:00 pm, as equipment was put away and fire boxes were emptied. Clean up would begin in earnest, Sunday morning, right after everyone had their breakfast.

The fellow who had invited me to this event was unable to be there that day, but he called me the following monday to see if I'd gone. After telling him how things went, he assured me those invitations were not given to just anyone, especially the highly sought after breakfast invitation. He then laughed and said that since I'd already passed muster with the guys, I needed to come to his shop and visit, which was what I did yesterday. We spent a while at his shop, along with another engine builder who came up from Georgia. We shared his current IC projects and we all swapped a few stories and shared some of the heart racing mistakes we'd made. The little Water pressure Engine and the current Victorian build were with me and seemed to serve as my bona fides with this group of close coffee shop buddies.

Then we loaded up and drove deeper into the rural countryside, until we came onto a small private air strip. We drove down a road next to the taxi way and into a drive way leading to the rear of an attractive home. As we got out of the truck it was hard to miss the Piper Cub aircraft which was sitting in it's own huge bay of the basement. The other 1/3 of the basement housed a very well appointed machine shop. Here, I met a true model engine machinist of the first caliber. He pulled out his 9 cylinder radial engine and ran it for us. Now, if you ever want to be impressed, I can tell you that the work one puts into one of these little engines will certainly do it. He then shared the small V8 engine he's currently working on. I take my hat off to all three of these guys, but that little V8 engine is going to be something special. I'm looking forward to seeing it as it progresses.

After we all adjourned to the local diner for a long and leisurely lunch, our party split up, with three of us going back to the first shop for even more stories and the cooks tour. My host has a nice set up with everything a manual machinist could ask for with lots of room to use them. Can you say "shop envy"?...(grin). As the visit came to an end, I loaded my little engines back in my truck. As I turned around, my host was coming up the hill with his hand truck which carried a 3 1/2 x 30 inch piece of cast iron round bar and a 40 pound hunk of 2 inch thick flat cast iron. He alos handed me a piece of new 2 inch Durabar cast iron which he gave me for the cylinder of the Victorian project. He then wouldn't take payment for the metal, saying "I've got plenty extra and you might need those.... you take them with you". He then invited me to join them again, saying they tried to get together about once a month. You can bet I'll be taking them up on both of the invitations to join the fun.

After years of wondering if I was the only engine fanatic in the state, it seems I've hit the mother lode. I've been invited to display my stuff at the "Farm" in July and now at another well attended local event that takes place at the end of May. There will be a group of about 25 people showing their model builds and they've asked me to join them. All this from a simple lark that took me to a small country show in the middle of nowhere. Like I said.... you gotta love engine guys, in whatever flavor they come.

What a great story...(grin) ;D would love to hear more. You gotta love it.


What a truly great thing to have happen to you. I'd be happy to find one other person around here that participated in this hobby.

Sounds like you got to meet a nice bunch of guys.
What a great story.
Now that you teased us with all the story telling, WHERE are all the pictures???? :big:


And then the alarm clock went off...time to go to work...Doh !!!

Only kidding.

Great story and sounds like a great bunch of people.

That is indeed the very show. The guy has some great toys and the gathering was as friendly as any I've ever been part of..... and that includes those from my more adventurous long hair days . Thanks for posting the link.

I have a friend that lives in Woodruff, S.C. and goes to that gathering. He sent me the link to the pictures. He has a few smaller hit and miss engines he takes to various shows around the area. Looks like a real nice gathering. Most all antique engine shows have model engines displayed.
Small world, eh? Thanks for the kind words on my site. I've enjoyed sharing it and you would not believe the number of new friends it's put me in contact with. I'm slowly adding to it, but since I started building rather than buying, it's a bit slower growing these days.

Holy hit n' miss engines Steve. You know that old Scraggly fella in Easley that seems to get no time to play with engines?
I bet he would love to go and drewl over those toys with you. It is so cool to see all the interest in our area.
Excellent story Cedge !! Too bad I don't live near the area else I'd probably ask to tag along, wiping up the drool as I go !! :big:
:D What a great story! :D The aroma of wood and coal smoke in the early morning hours definitely clears ones mind and is so invigorating to ones soul. Here in the MidWest there has been what began as a very small event like that meet consisting of three steam engines in 1950. Today, it is a five day event and hosts well over 100 traction engines and hundreds of gas engines as well as antique cars and trucks from yesteryear. Since I was a very young lad when my Grandfather took me I have only missed five years. It is a pilgrimage of sorts but every year is as if I was that young boy all over again. :bow: These are truly special events that are a link to our past, they should be treasured for what they are, "time capsules". ;D


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