Bernardston, Massachusetts, Gas Engine Show

| February/March 1994

P.O. Box 681 Amherst, Massachusetts 01004

Some boys like their engines small, some others like their engines large. The boys and their engines came in all sizes and ages to the Bernardston, Massachusetts, Gas Engine Show, held the weekend of May 29-30, 1993. Bernardston, an honorable old New England Yankee town of about two hundred years vintage, is a stone's throw south of the Vermont border and a wink off the main north/south highway, Route 91, a serpentine roll of tarmac that divides New England in half, parallel to the Connecticut River rambling lazily nearby.

It was a festive atmosphere, not unlike an old-time New England country fair. But the music was not banjos or guitars or bass fiddles. The music was engines, engines, and more engines, all singing their solos. Some sang intensely and fervently, but more engines were singing to the beats of different drummers, soloing so casually and deliberately and steadily.

The usual summer engine show gypsies camped on the spacious hayfield and availed their wares while spinning their tales for the engine fans and enthusiasts. Enthusiasts ventured from as far as Pennsylvania farmland, a day's journey from the south, to the Green Mountain state of Vermont, to the north, a few minutes for the crow in flight. And they came from Canada, the behemoth farther yet to the north that rains its geese (enroute to sunnier and warmer climes) upon New England's fields each fall.

Locally manufactured engines were sprinkled here and there among the many common makes. One, the Holyoke, was from a small foundry out of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Once one of the great paper manufacturing cities of the country, Holyoke, a milltown girded by canals and rivers, is now a shell of its former self, a rusty and decaying reminder of an abandoned inner city.

For this Massachusetts native, however, it was a real pleasure to see the local gas and steam marques. Originally used in the grist mills, lumber mills and furniture manufacturing industries that dotted New England's many rivers, the engines once again sang their symphonies but not to produce products. Now they produced pleasure for the ear of the beholder. The old timers remembered with relish the beat of the tunes of steel and steam, gas and air in this pastoral town at the foothills of the rolling Berkshire Mountains.