Bringing a new generation into the old iron collective is a constant challenge, perhaps even more so in an age when children and young adults are pulled in a thousand directions by a thousand competing inputs and activities.
Beyond the obvious draw of computer games and commercially fed pastimes, there's the simple issue of relevance. Many of the old guard in the hobby have fond memories of the iron they collect, vivid recollections of putting this machinery to use for its intended purpose of pumping water, sawing logs or any multitude of chores. But for the average kid (or, for that matter, the average person), the machines we save and restore have no connection to daily life, and there are no memories to drive an interest.
The shows put on across the country represent an excellent opportunity for drawing in a younger generation of collectors. Speaking from the personal experience of taking my own kids to their first show, I can tell you the sights and sounds of engines working and playing fire their imagination, inspiring their young minds to look, experience and ask questions. They're amazed to see what could, and can, be done with this old iron, and the more they see, the more they remember. Memories are thus made, and a potential bond is established.
This in itself doesn't ensure a drive to be a part of the old iron collective, but it certainly helps. As the years role by the memories of days spent with family, friends and old iron can kindle a desire to relive and preserve a slice of life long gone. Memories made, a bond formed, relevance established.
It's not that easy, of course, but there's merit in the thought, a thought provoked in some measure by the engine 'show-and-tell' inspired by 10-year-old Lincoln Tucker in Midway, Ky. Lincoln, already almost a seasoned engine man, invited members of the old iron collective to come and show their machinery to the students and teachers of North side Elementary, Lincoln's school. Lincoln posted an invitation on the Stationary Engine List, and 19 List members traveled a collective 8,500 miles from as far away as Wisconsin to share their machinery and join in on Lincoln's fun. You can read about the event in this issue, starting on page 30.
The students who witnessed Lincoln's show-and-tell were nothing short of awed. The engines, the equipment - and Lincoln's almost heroic connection to the affair - all combined to create memories for a lifetime. With any luck, the memories from that day will be strong enough and last long enough to inspire a connection to the old iron hobby and a desire to become a part of it.