The man who started it all,
Iron-Men Album founder
Elmer Ritzman, 1888-1971
It’s been a long time coming, and it’s finally here, the new SteamTraction.com website and a new beginning for an old friend.
While old timers are aware of our rich history, many people only recently introduced to the steam hobby and the history of steam on the farm don’t realize that our roots go back to 1946 and Rev. Elmer Ritzman’s first steam hobbyist magazine, The Farm Album. In 1950, Ritzman went from quarterly to bimonthly publication, and The Farm Album became The Iron-Men Album, a name change that underscored his intention to celebrate not just the machinery of the old days and the culture of the farm, but the people who operated that machinery of yore, the Iron Men.
Ritzman’s interest in steam traction engines and the culture of the farm was more than a passing fancy; it was an abiding passion that guided his life. In 1966, his interest in farm machinery drove him to launch Gas Engine Magazine, still America’s only publication for collectors and restorers of gas-powered farm engines. Although Ritzman passed away in 1971 (he was born in 1888, the heyday of steam traction technology), his passion continued to drive the spirit of The Iron-Men Album, and in 2003 it became Steam Traction magazine to increase focus and interest on steam traction engines. Although Steam Traction ceased regular publication in December 2007, it remains today as SteamTraction.com.
With the launching of the new SteamTraction.com, steamers and fans of vintage farm equipment can search through the extensive archives of The Iron-Men Album, Steam Traction, Gas Engine Magazine and Farm Collector for past stories on the history of steam and farm equipment, plus find regular updates on engine and farm shows. We’ll be running regular exclusive features on engines and owners across the country, plus linking to steam traction stories run in the pages of Farm Collector, which you can get to immediately by clicking the “In This Issue” button.
While we have literally thousands of pages of stories loaded into this site, we’re actively adding more. To that end, I’m encouraging everyone in the steam hobby to send us their photos and recollections on steam traction engines. Whether it’s a note and photos from a show you went to 30 years ago or just three weeks ago, we’d like to hear about it so we can share your experiences with the rest of the steam community.
If you’re currently restoring a steam traction engine, we’d like to know about that, too. We can create entire pages dedicated to the engines you’re restoring, and the rest of the steam community can follow along as you pour new babbit or repaint a wheel. You’ll have to supply the photos and the words, but we can do the rest.
We also want to learn about engines in your collection, and we want to hear your questions about steam traction engines. And we’re particularly interested in any pictures you might have of unidentified engines. We might not always be able to identify an engine, but it’s a good bet that somebody in the wider community can, and we’ll all benefit from sharing information and keeping the stream of knowledge flowing.
With your knowledge and help, we can make SteamTraction.com a meeting place for steam traction enthusiasts across the country and around the world, so check back regularly, and don’t forget to sign up for our e-newsletter and editorial advisory boards, two easy ways to stay informed and to have a voice in what we do as we move forward. – Richard Backus