They Really Are Nuts, These Engine Nuts

Six model steam engines

Six model steam engines owned by Michael Chrabaszcz of Easthampton, Mass.

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3 Washington Street, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301

You may wish to publish this particular article as an exceedingly biased editorial:

My Premise: As an engine widow/-wife, I have now learned quite resoundingly what I strongly suspected from the start of my husband's interest in this hobby of collecting, restoring and exhibiting gas and steam engines. Every man, woman and child involved in this hobby is crazy! My case:

Background: Early in 1987 a small group of men in the Brattleboro, Vermont area started a new engine club: The Green Mountain Flywheelers Association. The club's officers are: Doug Wood, (pictured on the next page), Steve Howe, vice-president; Gordon Woffenden, secretary.

Quite ambitiously, this new club sponsored two shows their first year. The first show was held on a balmy weekend in April of 1987 at a small field adjacent to an antique center just north of Brattleboro. Twenty-five exhibitors displayed their engines and enjoyed a pleasant two-day show.

In September of 1987 the Green Mountain Flywheelers held a second show and doubled the number of exhibitors to fifty-one. The second show was held at the Guilford Fairgrounds, somewhat off the beaten path and in competition with many popular local events. Even so, the response from exhibitors and spectators alike was very enthusiastic. In addition to gas and steam engines, an antique auto club from Greenfield, Massachusetts brought cars to display and there were several old-time tractors as well.

One would have to admit that this is not a bad record for a first-year club! Though it may be a bit over-zealous for a club to do TWO shows their first year, I can hear you readers saying to yourselves that I have not yet made a case for outright nuttiness. Bear with me:

The Crux of the Matter: In 1988 the club held their April show on the 16th and 17th. Another Balmy April engine show? You bet! Only this time it wasn't the weather that was balmy- it was these engine nuts! April in Vermont, you see, is somewhat unpredictable. It can be lovely. It can be-not so lovely.

At my house the first clue of trouble was looking out the window at 6 a.m. on the morning of the show to see a dark and cloudy sky spitting snow. Then the chuck wagon man called to say it was snowing hard where he lived and we weren't still having the show, were we? What could we do? We trudged disconsolately up to the showgrounds. For what? To pick up the stakes? Weep a little?

They had already begun to arrive, these nuts! Nearly all of them had traveled through snow. Dick Allen came over the mountains from Troy, New York. John Tucker came up from Canterbury, Connecticut. Stan Clem and his wife from Sunapee, New Hampshire just hoped it wouldn't be snowing quite so hard in Brattleboro. From Arlington, Vermont and Leominster, Massachusetts they came; from Johnsonville, New York and Walpole, New Hampshire. Trudelles from Marlow, New Hampshire-Larry, Charlotte and daughter Laurie, collectors all- wouldn't miss the first show of the season no matter WHAT the weather! Sixty-one strong they came!

Ironically, though it was snowing all around, nothing accumulated in Brattleboro and the sun finally broke through. Though Saturday was bitter cold, Sunday had the warmth of an early spring day.

Do you begin to see what I mean, though? None of these exhibitors knew what the weather would be like when they arrived. I suspect they would have set up even if it HAD been snowing in Brattleboro. We were only a very small accident of weather away from THIS picture: exhibitors contentedly settling lawn chairs into six inches of white stuff, flywheels tossing snowballs in the air, spouses shivering in truck cabs, passers-by scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Check it out in April of 1989- that may be just what you see when the Green Mountain Flywheelers Association holds its next show!

The accompanying photographs- by Dee. McBride and myself-will give you some of the highlights of the fine machinery displayed at the September '87 and April '88 shows.