BIGGER AND BETTER
608 East Broadway, P.O. Box 291, Fairfield, Iowa 52556.
Last September I attended the Jacksonville, Illinois Steam and Gas Engine Show. I had not attended this show for the past four or five years and found it to be bigger and better than ever.
Two new buildings have been added and now the 150 HP Primm is inside and has another old Primm to keep it company, however it is much smaller but older. The 1924 Primm has a weight of about 22 tons, has a bore and stroke of 22 x 24 inches. The 150 HP is said to be the only one of its kind still with us today; all the others have made their way to the scrap yard. Near the two Primms is a 50 HP F-M that is restored and running. This one is started a few times a day during the show and runs like a top. In another corner of the building is a Corliss and generator that with some TLC will make a fine exhibit someday. Near one of the big doors is an old Kewanee boiler waiting to someday furnish steam and life to the Corliss and a steam compressor near it.
The old sawmill now has a roof over it and was turning logs into lumber during the show. This year a 22 HP Rumely was providing the power for the mill. The two head block mill has no refinements of a modern mill. The logs are rolled by hand and the slabs are carried to the slab pile by a strong back and two good feet. The most relaxed people at the mill are people like me that sit on the bench and watch the mill and the crew work, as well as listen to the engine bark as the saw passes through the logs.
A short distance from the sawmill, the model American Crown locomotive and its two cars were making trips around the track taking people on rides. On the area inside the tracks a threshing machine was doing its job, powered by an Aultman-Taylor tractor dating back to a little after World War I. Nearby was a stationary baler binding up the straw. The baler was built in Bellevue, Illinois years ago. I do not know its date in time but, for sure, it was many years ago. I had never seen one like it. Most of the stationary balers around here are Dain, built in Ottumwa, Iowa. The Dain was the forerunner of the John Deere hay equipment division there. The Dain baler came with an R and V engine on it.
My next stop was the gas engine area, where I did a good bit of looking and visiting. At the gas engine area is a new building that will house small antiques in the future.
Down the hill from the gas engine area is the hand crafts and flea market area. This year there were many of both. In flea markets one never knows what he will find and maybe just what you have been looking for to put into your collection. Crafts to me are the fruits of the skilled hands and minds of people bringing us a bit of beauty, happiness and useful things.
Yes, the bean cooker was going strong. Not only does the bean cooker bring us some good eating, but also a bit of U.S. history. The little 6 HP steam engine that makes the steam to cook the beans dates back to 1861, the time of the great Civil War. This machine was high-tech in its time. By the looks of things it will be cooking beans for a long time to come. Very few things of Civil War time are still working today. (Beans were served to both Feds and Reds.)
I spent a good bit of time around the sugar cane mill watching the rollers of the mill press the juice out of the cane. The mill was powered by a small Advance 6 HP steam engine built in 1894-The little engine does a good job at 75 or 80 psi if the feeders do not get too fast with the cane stalks. After the juice is pressed out of the cane it is turned over to the skilled hands of a very devoted man to cook it down into molasses. His hours are long during the show and last into the dark hours of the evening. This is also true of the man that fires the steam engine to furnish the steam to cook the juice into molasses. I had a lot of fun visiting with the molasses crew.
There is another crew at the show that does a fine job and that is the people in the kitchen. This is the first place I went each morning. They have biscuits and gravy or eggs and link sausage with toast or biscuits. There is also molasses on the table fresh from next door. In the windows of the dining area were large heads of cocks comb flowers. These were the largest heads I ever saw. They looked like dark red velvet. One lady told me where she got the seed. I must have some of them next year!
For the antique tractor people, they had a fine exhibit of tractors and I spent a lot of time looking them over. I thought of all the man hours and expense that had gone into them. There were a number of pretty horses and wagons. The harnesses were clean and the brass studs shone in the sun. I know it takes a lot of work to keep a harness looking this way. During the day they were kept busy taking people rides in the wagons. Small children, as well as their folks, had a lot of fun at the petting zoo. There is something about baby animals that just about all people like. The goat must have been home sick at night and let people know about it. I did hear someone mention goat stew one morning.
I wish to thank the whole crew of Prairie Land Heritage Museum for all their hard work to make a great show and to give me two days away from the grind of every day living.
Well, the show is over now and so is my vacation. There is one thing at shows that never changes and that is all the fine people you meet and long remember.