25 HP Fairbanks originally used to pump water for the city of Brownton
P.O. Box 447 Maple Plain, MN 55359
Deep in the white pine country, we were driving along a black-topped road and turned off as directed by the arrow pointing down a numbered gravel road. We were looking expectantly at small open fields interspersed among densely wooded areas with an occasional rutted road which permitted a view of a clearing containing a house and some out-buildings. Here there was a house closer to the road but sheltered by large trees that served to screen it from our scrutiny.
It was quiet, peaceful, and we drove along, more slowly, hoping for a glimpse of shy forest creatures. Surely this could not be the place for the great gathering. But then we heard, 'Wheet, wheet.' It could only be a steam whistle!
We slowed the car almost to a stop and from a distance came the muffled, 'Chug, chug, chug, pop chug, chug, chug, pop,' of some gas engines and then the high pitched whine of a saw biting deep into a log. Our excitement mounted! What a setting for a reunion of pioneer equipment buffs! Then another arrow directed us down another graveled road beyond which was a green clearing dotted with trailers, campers, RV's and tents.
The sound grew louder, clearer, a symphony of stakes being driven, tractors snorting, men calling directions or greetings, kids shouting, and women searching out neighbors or organizing their households for the enjoyment of the simple life in the outdoors.
'One, two, three, can you hear me over there?'
Someone was testing the public address system. Ticket takers were greeting new arrivals, giving out buttons and ribbons to identify exhibitors and workers, and directing the parking. The information booth on the crest of the hill was manned by several busy people. Delicious odors from a building back under the trees were wafted by a gentle breeze. Scattered around in the shade near the buildings were picnic tables, trash barrels, and a raised platform that indicated some special entertainment was in store.
Now we could see buildings scattered around the perimeter of the huge amphitheater which was a beehive of activity. Displays of small engines and large were being set up with equipment to demonstrate their uses. Tractors were being lined up, one was pulling a farm wagon with passengers of all ages hitching rides. Steam engines were moving around slowly, with great dignity, like benevolent overseers.
In a green clearing off to the right, more trailers ringed the aperture and tables were being set up under the shade of bright awnings. A flea market! More goodies to browse among for treasures!
Here, once each year, steam and gas engine buffs from all across America and beyond, gather to display, operate, and admire collections of tractors and engines no longer needed by the age of the atom. Talk about nostalgia! Tall tales of the great giants of the past and their feats of heroic proportions played in the development of this country are told here.
The Langenbach family, collectors of engines and memorabilia of the past, are creating a working museum. Here you do not view these relics of the past and wonder what they were used for. You see lumber being sawed, lathes and shingles being made, spindles being turned, water pumped, clothes washed, grain being threshed and ground. Here you see them being used as they were a few decades ago or even a century ago. The ring of blacksmith's hammers play a simple melody as three men ply their trade in the blacksmith shop near the lathe and shingle mills.
A gregarious family, they invite other collectors and enthusiasts to join them and display and operate their mementos of the past, or to just browse and recall memories of similar equipment they had seen or used.
The Langenbachs are slowly bringing back times of local historical interest such as a Fairbanks Morse unit that pumped water for the town of Brownton, and another Fairbanks Morse that generated electricity at Itasca State Park.
The most recent acquisition is an 84 ton, 150 HP Norberg steam engine originally built for the city of Fairmont, Minnesota between 1901 and 1907 to produce power for the town. The Langenbachs brought it back home to Minnesota from Wakefield, Michigan where it was owned and used by the Connor Lumber Co.
This Labor Day weekend of 1986 will find the White Pine Steam and Threshing Show putting on its 8th annual exhibition. It has grown from the first show of 2 steam engines, 8 tractors and less than 100 gas engines. They now have 12 permanent buildings (with more planned), 5 steam engines, 75 tractors and 250 gas engines, plus exhibits of old tools, toys, and related items.
If you would like to spend a memorable day, or two, or three away from life in the fast lane, plan to join fellow enthusiasts among the fragrant pines for a taste of life as it was in the 'good old days.' You will find it just 2 miles from McGrath, Minnesota, on Highway #65, or 28 miles north of Mora, also on Highway #65. There will be signs from the White Pine Logging and Threshing Show to guide you the rest of the way.