11309 Route 75 North Collins, New York 14111
Every year since 1986, on the last Saturday in June, the quiet little town of Langford, New York, thirty miles south of Buffalo, awakens to the unmistakable sounds of gas and steam-powered synchronized energy. This year topped all others with over a thousand friends gathering from as far away as Florida, Texas and Canada. Invitations went out by word of mouth and the ‘steam chain’ any one interested in coming was welcome.
Along with a chicken barbecue and a vast array of everyone’s favorite potluck dishes, guests enjoyed the colorful spectacle of carefully restored engines, large and small. Campers had plenty of room to settle in along the edge of Winter’s Pond, a four acre pond graced by a covered bridge leading to an island. The pet swans glided by and seemed not in the least disturbed by all the hubbub.
The show consisted of many items from historic Buffalo’s industry. To name a few: a Buffalo Pitts steam engine, Worthington 600 HP gas engine, 400 HP Snow engine, and a 40 HP Bogart engine. A special attraction of the event is a 70 ton flywheel, 24 feet in diameter, permanently mounted on a cement base. The flywheel came from a 5,000 HP engine used to compress air at Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna plant.
There is also a terrific display of approximately 40 beautifully restored farm tractors and over a dozen antique cars. The kids were not left out either. A 1915 miniature steam train pulling three passenger cars full of happy little ones (and some not so little ones) chugged and whistled nonstop around the 1,300 foot track.
The annual ‘Winter’s Gas Up’ is the one day of the year that the industrious Ed Winter, his wife Pearl, and their sons and daughters set out the welcome mat to entertain and enjoy their friends. This year, however, was special. It was Ed’s 80th birthday celebration, and it was the year of the millennium! Last December Ed, his sons, and their crew were busy working on a ‘surprise.’ Their project was to be Langford’s tribute to this millennium of progress. They began the construction of a giant electric sign to herald the year ‘2000’ from the top of a 60 foot weather tower. The numbers are nine feet high and 22 feet long, made of half-inch pipe. Being a practical, hands-on sort of guy, Ed had an easy solution for making the difficult circles for the zeros. He just bent them around the wheels of the steam engine! Then another problem arose. His crane was too short to haul the sign up to the top of the tower. So a 20 foot extension had to be welded ‘farmer style’ to the crane before the numbers could be set. The venture was a success and the sign, lit each night, can be seen for miles in the surrounding countryside. This year, Gas Up 2000 ended with a dance under the bright lights and a display of fireworks. Ed was overheard saying, ‘I’ve looked forwards all my life to seeing the year 2000. And we put it on with a bang!’
As the engines, one by one, slowed and stopped, a bunch of us gathered across the road on the banks of Ed’s pond. All at once everything and everyone was silent. We stood there in the quiet dark, spellbound at the reflection of the big ‘2000’ sign in the water. We had spent a day with one foot in our country’s glorious industrial past marveling at the accomplishments of hard work and ingenuity. We now stood with the other poised to leap into the future. We hoped we would do a well as those who’ve come before us, lighting our way.
Ed’s birthday cakes,1912 Buffalo Pitts 14 HP steam traction engine in the background. Left to right, Ed’s daughter Kathy, Ed, and son Dave.