Prairie Land Show

Steam powered train

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P.O. Box 291 Fairfield, 1A 52556

I had a very enjoyable experience attending the Prairie Land Heritage Museum Institute show at Jacksonville, Illinois, September 27 to 29. I had never attended this show before, but I am putting it on my list of shows to attend next year. There seemed to be something for everyone's interest. I was told that it has doubled in size in the last three years and no doubt it will continue to grow.

For the gas and deisel fans, they had an old granddaddy that would please any collector. This engine was a 150 HP single cylinder Primm in running order. It was put into service in 1924 and was retired in 1959. The old engine had spent its years on a 32 inch pump in the drainage district about 18 miles away pumping water over the levee. This old engine is a fine working exhibit. I had the honor of watching it come to life at the show. The hot plug was heated in the blow torch, then placed into the head of the engine, then the air starter turned her over, and with a few loud reports and smoke, the 22 inch bore piston was set into motion. It sure had the attention of many people.

Now for you people who are lovers of pork hocks and soup beans the trip would be worth it just for that. By the back door of the kitchen are two large steam cooking kettles that take their steam from a 100-year-old portable steam engine that is mounted on a wood framed wagon with wood wagon wheels. The smell that comes from those kettles is enough to make anyone hungry even if you don't like beans.

After you have had your fill, you can take about a 300-foot walk over to the saw mill. There you will find a vintage 2 head block saw mill that is powered by a 50 HP Case steam engine or a 20 HP Avery. According to the bull dog on the smoke box door of the Avery, teeth talk. There was a good supply of native logs to be turned into lumber, so during the show the old mill and the engines had some work to do.

After listening to some steam engine talk as they furnish power for the mill, you can walk another 200 feet and you will find a steam powered train ready to take you a ride. The locomotive is about a half scale of an American type engine with a wheel arrangement of 4-4-0. It pulls 2 coaches that are open with roof. This ride is a pleaser of both the young and old. The little coal burning locomotive makes many trips a day.

Across a draw and up on a little hill you will find old gas engines and old tractors in an assortment of kind, size, and color. Among the old engines you will find some resting, some running and some busy at work, like grinding wheat into flour. The collectors for the most part are always ready to answer questions that people wish to ask. So many of the old engines have some very interesting histories to be told. I did not count how many gas engines there were, but I know I can be safe in saying there were 150 or so.

Many of the old tractors ranging in age from the teens to the 40's were resting in the sun but many of them had work to do. By the railroad tracks there was some Illinois black farm dirt that needed to be turned bottom side up. There were some steel wheeled old plows at the field that one tractor after another would hitch to and make 2 or 3 rounds. I suppose these old tractors were showing the young tractors how plowing is supposed to be done! When Sunday evening came, there were a few acres of Illinois farm dirt bottom side up as planned. That morning there had been a demonstration of plowing with draft horses and a walking plow. I am sure there were many young people who had never seen this done truly a lost art. There were some fine well groomed draft horses that spent a good bit of time pulling some hay rack wagons around the grounds. Fine well groomed draft horses are always a pleasure to see.

Near the main building were the arts, crafts, and flea markets that had many wares for sale. The main building is a C-shaped large dairy barn that was once used by the state. One of the food attractions that I found to be interesting, as well as very good, was the family that was deep fat frying pork rinds and I might add, the best I ever ate. I was told they were fried in peanut oil and salted lightly. Another old steam engine had been given a job to do at the cane mill. There is nothing that smells so good as cane juice being cooked down into molasses. This took place at one end of the main building.

For the ones who are interested in antique cars, there were many to see and pet in an assortment of kinds.

There was grain to be threshed at the show. The threshing machine was a Red River Special and the engine pulling it was a Rumley 20 HP. Shortly before noon the old engine decided it needed a rest, so it let one of its boiler tubes spring a leak and with its last bit of steam it made it back to the engine shed. So it looks like a tube job is in order in the future.

Abe Lincoln's double was there, complete with top hat and long tail coat with his collection of wood carvings and old hand tools. In real life Abe's double is a Jr. High School teacher. He is known by many for he has been making shows in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri for a number of years now.

On one hillside there is what some people would call a lot of scrap iron, but to me and many others this is agriculture Americana. These old farm machines are what brought the modern farm machines of today. The past and present bring the future.

No doubt I have forgotten things that were at the show, but there is one more thing I would like to mention. That is all the hard work of the club members and Mr. Archie Blockhouse, who made this show interesting with all its nice exhibits. May it continue to grow. If anyone would like more information about the show, they can contact Mr. Blockhouse, the show chairman, at RR 1, Meredosia, IL 62665.

I had a fine weekend and I am sure hundreds of others did too, thanks to this hard-working club.