Reflecting on Coolspring

| August 2008

When I was a young boy growing up in the Chicago area, my passion was baseball. If I wasn't outside playing games with my friends, I was inside watching the Cubs or the White Sox on TV while sorting through my baseball cards.

I was smart enough at the time to realize I'd never make it to the Major Leagues. Instead, my fantasy was someday visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and getting as close as possible to my heroes through a beat-up glove or worn jersey.

I still haven't made it to Cooperstown, but I feel like I've been someplace just as special after visiting Coolspring Power Museum for the Summer Expo in June.

What began in the early '70s as a small shed full of engines in Dr. Paul Harvey's Pennsylvania backyard has grown into one of the must-visit destinations in the hobby. I'll go even further than that and call it the hobby's Hall of Fame. After all, you'll see engines at Coolspring that you won't see anywhere else.

You'll also be treated to a show experience that you'll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. In addition to the high quality of privately-owned engines that the museum attracts, the quality of people at the show is top notch, from the volunteers on staff to the food vendors to the exhibitors themselves. Spend a full day or two at the show and the grounds turn into the bar in "Cheers" where everybody knows your name.

While giving me the VIP tour of the grounds, Dr. Harvey mentioned that sometimes he wonders if he should try to recast the image of the show to try and make it feel like more than just a get-together in someone's backyard. I hope I didn't overstep my bounds by quickly responding that I thought it would be a mistake to change the image. The reason I enjoyed the show so much was precisely because it felt like it was a get-together among friends in someone's backyard. And I'd like to thank Dr. Harvey, Preston Foster and everyone else at Coolspring for that very memorable experience.