Rockford, Michigan email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My wife Shirley and I went to the Buckley, MI show for the day. What a fantastic show it was. We were up at 4:30 a.m. left at 5:30 and arrived at the showgrounds about 7:30 a.m. It was about 45 degrees F and the fog was just lifting. You could smell the steam engines cooking already. Not many people were out and about, so we took that opportunity to see some of the buildings on the grounds. We walked past some old cars, a Rambler, Model A, T, and others.
First building we came to was called the power plant and machine shop. A beautiful old fire truck was in there. Detail like I've never seen, there was even pin striping on the ax handles, and the chrome on the engine was like a mirror. Wow! Then in one half of this building was old shop equipment. Belt driven lathes, surface grinders, drill presses, wooden pulleys, line shafting all over the place. I think they will be getting an old machine shop going in this building. On the other half was this big 6 cylinder Westinghouse diesel engine that was up on blocks, and you could see underneath it. They were pouring a new foundation underneath it. No flywheel on it, but looked to be about 6 to 8 feet by the depth of the pit. Across the path was the steam building.
The steam building was very warm and welcoming on the chilly morning. There were a couple vertical steam engines just a little taller than I am. One was running right along, powering a generator and some lights. There were two steam driven pumps in there that were just amazing. One pumps 750 gallons a minute and another in the back pumps 1000 gallons A MINUTE! It must have stood 8 feet tall and 15 feet long. There were a few big horizontal steam engines and one 250 HP Corliss. That one must of had a flywheel ten feet in diameter. Very cool. Quite a few others along the perimeter walls. And all of them hooked up and looked ready to run.
We left there and passed through the engine area as it hadn't awakened and been uncovered quite yet. We checked out the petting zoo with some chickens, kittens, rabbits, a calf, little piggies, a goat, and two sheep. Then went into the oil well pumping exhibit building. There was a 25 HP Superior in there belted up to a huge horizontal pulley, maybe 15 to 20 feet diameter. Just under the pulley was an eccentric, that a bunch of rods would have hooked to, and some rods were a mile long, it said. Each rod went to an oil well to pump the oil. I've only read about the descriptions on the SEL, neat to really see one.
We walked through the tractor and steam traction engine area. There were two amazing tractors there. A Flour City and an Aultman Taylor, they each must have stood 15 feet tall with 8 to 10 foot diameter rear wheels. Later in the day we got to see the starting procedure of these two beasties. That was great! There was also a huge Avery steam engine that was different from any I've seen around here. The engine was under the boiler. The boiler was way up in the air.
Then we walked past the blacksmith shop and talked with a nice young guy who was hammering away in there. The building next to the blacksmith was the harness makers shop. Watched a guy working with some pretty thick leather. Sure smelled good in there. Mmmmm. Asked a few questions and learned a little bit. Next door in the same building was a print shop. I guess they just got it running a couple days before. The guy running the old press told us how they make the little print pads. Also showed how they are centered in this frame and these spacer blocks and wedges are used to hold the pad tight in the frame. It was slowed down quite a bit and was operated at a leisurely pace. Lots of moving parts and neat to watch. He had a lot of different pads and had free samples for people to grab. Very informative.
Came up on a huge steam train that was giving rides. This was so cool. We didn't go on the ride, as the line was always lengthy throughout the day. I've been told by numerous people afterward that it's well worth the wait. I'm kicking myself now, but next year I'll be on that train for sure! I did stand there quite a while and listen to the rhythmic hisses, clanks, and thumps. Watched as it left the station. Insert big smile here.
Walked over and watched the saw mill and a 77 HP, vertical, single cylinder, hot head, oil engine thumping along. Must have stood 8 to 10 feet in height. The engine man was checking the temperature of the head, the coolant temperature, oil flow pumping in the oiler deal. He was pretty close to this huge rocking monster. Lucky dog! Then onto the veneer mill. This was neat to see. They took a log about 3 to 4 feet long and put it in this mill that looked like lathe on steroids. The log gets hoisted up and placed horizontally in the mill. From each end the shafts are pushed into the log. Then it starts rotating by flat belt drive and tractor. A long cutting blade starts advancing, with a screw, toward the log. It shaved off the most beautiful looking veneer. Huge lengths of it, too. Sometimes the ladies pulling and guiding the veneer out of the mill could get it 15 feet long. Then they would break it up into about 4 foot rolls for the public to take. Had a big pile of it, too.
There was building with a foundry in it and the two guys running it were making aluminum bells. They were mixing black sand, 180 grit I think, with some clay and water. Placed the bell for a pattern upside down in a wooden box with a hole cut in the bottom the same diameter as the bell, so the bell sat down in the box. Fill the bell up and then some and pack the bottom of the mold first. Turn it right side up. Sprinkle a little magic powder around. This was so the two halves would separate (parting line). Then he packed the top half of the mold. Poked down to the bell and made a hole with a couple of tools. (The hole is for pouring the liquid aluminum in later.) He then separated the two halves where the magic powder was. Pretty neat. He would then carefully take out the bell for a pattern then gently put the two halves back together again. The next guy would take them and pour the liquid aluminum down into the hole and let it cool. Then he'd cut the blob off the top of the bell. I learned so much watching this process. The whole building was laid out great, too.
We looked through most of the buildings, and it looked like the engine area was busy by this time. It was also lunch time. We quickly grabbed a few hamburgers from the VFW booth pulled up a couple milk crates in the shade behind the booth we were stylin'. Burgers were quite tasty by the way. Lots of engines running, steaming and some pulling a full boil. Drag saws were cutting wood. Engines were powering a lathe, steel cut off saw, water pumps, air compressors, burr mills, and home made contraptions. Hercules, Associated, Economy, IH 'M,' Titan, Famous, Alamo, scale models, old out board motors, Briggs, Clinton, Maytags, engines I never heard of. There was even a little marine engine running with a screen cooled tank, water was even steamy. First time I've heard/seen one running and it sounded great!
In the middle of looking over the engine area we met up with a few SEL members at Alan Bowen's display site. Jim Dunmyer, Gary Epps and his wife Carol, Alan Bowen had a lot of his family set up there and must have had over 100 running feet of display, even had a covered wagon there. Spent over an hour chatting and then continued on. Parade started at three and we watched that for over an hour. Wife wanted to see the flea market area. After doing what I wanted all morning and afternoon I figured I'd better agree. This area was simply overwhelming. We could have spent the entire day in the flea market area alone. So many rows, long rows, at least 30, and seemed to go on and on. We spent a couple hours in there and didn't even cover but four rows, I think. Then while typing this up this morning I see on the little map that we missed ALOT of stuff. Didn't have time to stand and watch the Prony brake, rock crusher, wood working, plowing exhibit, shingle mill, bowl mill, and who knows what else.
Oh, I almost forgot the whistle tower. It's about 20 feet tall with about 1 5 or more steam whistles on it. There are long strings that go up to the valves on the whistles. They let kids pull the strings too. These aren't those annoying whistles you always hear on the steam engines that go toot toot and tweet tweet, these are a REAL man's whistle. These are about 1 to 2 foot tall, 10 to 12 inches diameter, and when these go off . . . hold onto something solid cause you'll be vibrating all over. Some of them let out this low, full, solid wall of rumbling ... it is just awesome. Huge clouds of steam gas making the entire top of the tower disappear. I don't think I could smile any bigger, standing there shaking my head, lump in throat. Very very impressive.
Next year we gotta go for more than one day.