A Rebuttal to 'This Is Not a Cheap Hobby'

Guy Simms Briggs Old Engine

Content Tools

719 Park Ave. San Carlos, California 94070-4660

I really enjoyed the article 'This Is Not a Cheap Hobby,' about the restoration of Wayne Brazee's Cletrac in the October 1993 issue of Gas Engine Magazine, but I am concerned by the title of the article and the closing paragraph concerning cost of our hobby. We need to do everything we can to attract more young people to our hobby of collecting and restoring old iron, and I think that comments about the high cost of the hobby are detrimental to our cause. Yes, I have a well equipped machine shop that has never attempted to produce anything for a profit. I haven't kept track of costs, but I would guess I have a bit less than $ 10,000 invested. 'Wow, that's expensive!' you say, but this expenditure was over a 15 year period. The only year that the family budget took a hit was when I bought my new lathe. Barring fire or theft, these tools will outlast me by many years. If times get really tough, I can continue to build model steam engines from scrap metal for the cost of electricity to run the machines and an occasional new tool bit.

Yes, I am restoring a 1906 Russell steam tractor. That fact seems to make some people think that I am rich! But let's consider the facts. Old retired turkeys like me need something to keep our minds and bodies active, otherwise we will soon return to dust. So, what do you want to do ?

Maybe fishing is your thing. Well, you won't get much of a boat, trailer, and motor for the cost of my Russell.

Perhaps you want to spend some years traveling the country in your recreational vehicle. But you can't buy even the most stripped down van conversion RV for the cost of my Russell. Maybe you hanker for one of those big babies that seem to be very common in our campgrounds. You know, the ones with microwave, dishwasher, VCR, two color TVs, and 400 HP diesel power. You might better hanker for a dozen steam tractors. It would be cheaper, and they would last longer!

So maybe you would like to be a hunter. Turns out that you can buy and restore a couple of hit-and-miss engines for the price of a good hunting rifle

Some folks look forward to a weekly round of golf when they retire. A year's worth of green fees will go a long way toward purchasing some old engines. So maybe you join the Country Club wheee, that'll cost you a bunch of engines!

My other hobby is photography. My camera and flash are ten years old and not top-of-the-line, but they cost more than any one of my four old engines.

June 19 is the date of the annual Valley Historical Engine Association's show in Mountaintop, Pa. Here's a picture of Guy Simms' Briggs winch on display in '93. Everyone's welcome to this 'just for fun', show. There's room for a few campers; write if you need space to Richard Ayre, 207 Church Rd., Mountaintop, PA 18707.

I know that you could fish from shore with a bamboo pole, or you could get by with the old rifle that your folks gave you for your twenty-first birthday, or you could car camp with your old tent, but by the same token, I've gotten untold hours of enjoyment and satisfaction fiddling with and exhibiting my horse-and-a-half Fairbanks 'Z' that cost me $200. So your hobby costs as much as you can afford, but the point is, ours is not an expensive hobby. Let's do all that we can to encourage interested show spectators to join our hobby!