A Rebuttal to ‘This Is Not a Cheap Hobby’

By Staff
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719 Park Ave. San Carlos, California 94070-4660

I really enjoyed the article ‘This Is Not a Cheap
Hobby,’ about the restoration of Wayne Brazee’s Cletrac in
the October 1993 issue of Gas Engine Magazine, but I am concerned
by the title of the article and the closing paragraph concerning
cost of our hobby. We need to do everything we can to attract more
young people to our hobby of collecting and restoring old iron, and
I think that comments about the high cost of the hobby are
detrimental to our cause. Yes, I have a well equipped machine shop
that has never attempted to produce anything for a profit. I
haven’t kept track of costs, but I would guess I have a bit
less than $ 10,000 invested. ‘Wow, that’s expensive!’
you say, but this expenditure was over a 15 year period. The only
year that the family budget took a hit was when I bought my new
lathe. Barring fire or theft, these tools will outlast me by many
years. If times get really tough, I can continue to build model
steam engines from scrap metal for the cost of electricity to run
the machines and an occasional new tool bit.

Yes, I am restoring a 1906 Russell steam tractor. That fact
seems to make some people think that I am rich! But let’s
consider the facts. Old retired turkeys like me need something to
keep our minds and bodies active, otherwise we will soon return to
dust. So, what do you want to do ?

Maybe fishing is your thing. Well, you won’t get much of a
boat, trailer, and motor for the cost of my Russell.

Perhaps you want to spend some years traveling the country in
your recreational vehicle. But you can’t buy even the most
stripped down van conversion RV for the cost of my Russell. Maybe
you hanker for one of those big babies that seem to be very common
in our campgrounds. You know, the ones with microwave, dishwasher,
VCR, two color TVs, and 400 HP diesel power. You might better
hanker for a dozen steam tractors. It would be cheaper, and they
would last longer!

So maybe you would like to be a hunter. Turns out that you can
buy and restore a couple of hit-and-miss engines for the price of a
good hunting rifle

Some folks look forward to a weekly round of golf when they
retire. A year’s worth of green fees will go a long way toward
purchasing some old engines. So maybe you join the Country Club
wheee, that’ll cost you a bunch of engines!

My other hobby is photography. My camera and flash are ten years
old and not top-of-the-line, but they cost more than any one of my
four old engines.

June 19 is the date of the annual Valley Historical Engine
Association’s show in Mountaintop, Pa. Here’s a picture of
Guy Simms’ Briggs winch on display in ’93. Everyone’s
welcome to this ‘just for fun’, show. There’s room for
a few campers; write if you need space to Richard Ayre, 207 Church
Rd., Mountaintop, PA 18707.

I know that you could fish from shore with a bamboo pole, or you
could get by with the old rifle that your folks gave you for your
twenty-first birthday, or you could car camp with your old tent,
but by the same token, I’ve gotten untold hours of enjoyment
and satisfaction fiddling with and exhibiting my horse-and-a-half
Fairbanks ‘Z’ that cost me $200. So your hobby costs as
much as you can afford, but the point is, ours is not an expensive
hobby. Let’s do all that we can to encourage interested show
spectators to join our hobby!

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