Category Archives: Festivals

Steam Shovels = Smiles

I had been looking forward to attending the 2014 Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion since the beginning of the year.  I attended the show for the first time with Chas and the girls in 2012, and had hoped to go last year but we were still in Oregon during the show.  I arrived at the show grounds on Tuesday night, I managed to get the bus parked and crash for a good nights sleep.

I walked through the Sand Box (the area of the show grounds dedicated to antique construction equipment) Wednesday morning, and noticed some activity around the steam shovels.  It was great to see the HUGE Marion-Osgood shovel fully assembled and painted, it was still in pieces in 2012.  The first picture is from our show adventure in 2012 when the shovel was still in pieces, the second picture is during the 2014 show.

Walking through the Sand Box, I ran into Harvey Pelley, one of the ring leaders for the Kentucky group of Steam Shovel Engineers.  I mentioned I had previous experience operating steam equipment, and asked if they needed any help during the show.  He introduced me to the crew and put me to work right away.  My first task was to climb to the end of the boom on the “Mary Sue” shovel and grease it, I was in heaven and ignored my aversion to heights.  Mary Sue also inspired me to write a poem about her, I read the poem on the video below the pictures.


I spent most of my time on the Osgood shovel, the “Sandra K”.  I started out firing it the first day, and fired it for the entire show.  Getting to the shovel around 9:00 AM and building a fire to get ready for the day, I had a lot of time to think in the quiet about what it must have been like to actually use these shovels to work.  They were state of the art machinery, able to move an incredible amount of dirt, sand, rock, or gravel in a single day.  Even though we were just playing and using the shovels for demonstration, it was a very tiring day and I looked forward to my nightly nap.  The last day of the show, some of the crew had gone back to Kentucky, so I decided the show must go on even though we were short staffed.  I had only a couple hours of operator time on the shovel, most of my time was spent keeping the steam pressure in the correct range.  I managed to both fire the shovel and operate it most of the day by myself, and had a blast doing it.  The video below included some footage of the big shovel in operation, along with my operation fun with the Sandra K.


At the end of the show, I managed to get a picture of The Scholl Bus beside the big shovel.  For anyone that has seen our bus in person, this might give you a better idea of the size of this beast.

2014 WMSTR

After the show this year, I had enough hours in to qualify for my Minnesota Steam Engineers License, so I hope to go back to the show grounds Fathers Day Weekend 2015 to take the test.  I have already talked Chas and the girls into going back with me in 2015, hopefully I can get my dad to go too.


Time to Get This Scholl on the Road

August had been a goal that seemed to creep up slowly.  A lot of craziness was scheduled to happen, but we had no idea just how crazy it would be.  The date I needed to be in North Dakota for the 2014 Sugar Beet Harvest was set for September 2nd, and my plan was to take the bus by myself up there towing our trailer up empty to bring back a vehicle I planned to purchase in ND.  This picture was a goodbye shot taken just before I pulled out of the farm driveway.  It would be at least 2 months before I got to hug these crazy girls again.

I had some miles to roll since I was scheduled to take a class at Clemson University the next day on my way toward the harvest.  The class was about raising oil seed crops for biofuel production on a small scale, and I had been looking forward to it for weeks since I signed up to take it.  I left the farm in the bus, made it 8 miles and blew an outer dual on the drivers side of the bus.  Sitting on the side of the road in the SC heat, I called Chas to come in the truck and sit with me (in AC) until the tire repair guy showed up.  After being sitting on the side of the road for a couple of hours, I finally made some progress.

We have a Good Sam Roadside Assistance plan, but the assistance can be a little interesting when it comes to our unique bus.  The operator on the phone at first didn’t believe our tire size existed (she had never heard of that size before) but I finally convinced her that it did. She called a bunch of places but couldn’t find anyone that had a replacement tire for me.  I asked if I could find one myself, and she told me they had to do it or they couldn’t cover the cost of the service call (you have to pay for materials and labor, they cover the cost of the service trip itself).  I had waited long enough, so I finally found a shop about 25 miles away that had a used tire already mounted on a wheel, and a spare tire for me too.  I told them to come on, not expecting to have it covered by Good Sam.  A few minutes after I made arrangements for myself, Good Sam called me back.  They said they finally ran across the same shop I found, when the told the shop where I was located and my tire size they informed her that they were already dispatching someone to me.  She said since that was the only shop they could find, my costs WOULD be covered by the plan after I had already decided it was a lost cause.  Hooray For Good Sam Again…  They came to our rescue in Deming, New Mexico in 2012.

The sun was beginning to set but I had help on the way finally, that is when another curveball was thrown into the mix.  Chas and I had been sitting in the truck AC for a while, talking and calling tire places.  Her mom called and said that Lilah had been hurt and Chas needed to come back to the farm.  Chas rushed back to the farm to discover Lilah needed some stitches from a fall.  I would have posted pictures but they are too gruesome for this blog.  They passed me, still sitting on the side of the road, and headed to the ER in Manning (where the tire was coming from).  I got to watch the sun set and finally got a new tire.  I even made it to the hospital  in time to be there when she got her 14 stitches (she beat my injury stitches total all in one shot).  The picture shows the sun setting with the bus flashers on about 15 minutes before the tire arrived.



After leaving the hospital, we parted ways again.  I still had a class to get to and several hours to drive before I could rest.  I drove until around 2:00 am, and parked at a truck stop for a nap.  I made it to the biofuels class on time and had a great time.  We pressed black soldier fly larva into a useable oil for fuel production, which was one of the more interesting facts I learned.  Here is a video of a walk behind combine that I didn’t know even existed.  These are hard to get in the States, but they are used a lot in Asia to harvest rice fields.

After the class at Clemson, I made it to dads in the NC Mountains for a few days to help him do some logging.  We made some good progress, but the rain stalled the operation.  I headed up the the antique engine show in Portland, Indiana next.  The show was fun as usual, but we thought we were going to get washed away after one night with over 4″ of rain.  The show went on, but it was a mud bog for the remainder.  I had the bus parked on a high spot so I made it out just fine.  The old Harley is an incredible barn find, I really like the story that goes along with it (read the sign).  You can tell Portland has a large Amish population, the Walmart features a place to park your horse.  The video shows the muddy conditions of the show following the rain.


I left the show and rolled on toward the harvest but I had a few more stops planned along the way.  I stopped to visit with a few friends in Illinois, and again in St Paul, Minnesota.  The part of the trip I had been looking forward to since we visited the show in 2012 had finally arrived.  The next post will be my experience during the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota.  You can check out our posts from 2012 by following the links below….  This year there is an awesome twist in events for me at the show, come back for the next post to see what it is…


Check out our first post – Kids Activities –HERE to get a general overview of the WMSTR show.

Check out our second post in this series – Big Engines – HERE

Check out our fourth post in this series – Steam Log Crane and Steam Sawmill Operation – HERE

Check out our fifth and final post in this series – Steam Tractor Plowing, Steam Shovels, & Spark Show – HERE

June 2014 East Tennessee Crank-Up

The show started when we arrived, as usual, and set the bus up for the weekend.  Chas decided she wanted to raise the pop-up by herself, so I didn’t want to argue.  She managed to get it set up in just a few minutes, so we were able to relax that evening.

These two grease monkeys were a big help getting the leaves cleaned out of the Bessemer water tank so it could be filled up.  The water circulates through the engine to cool it while it is running.  That is a job I would have definitely done at their age with no persuasion required.  It is hard to stay clean with that much rust and grease available to play with, I have that problem too…



Here are a few more of the engines that were operating during the show.  I painted the red lettering on the Black Bear after the show in 2012.


I had to get my lathe hooked back up to the Mogul for some wood turning demonstrations.  I must admit, I would have been turning on this lathe even if nobody happened to be around to watch the demonstration.  The video shows some of the turning of the large green (unseasoned) walnut bowl.  The rough piece when mounted on the lathe weighed between 50 and 70 lbs.


After the show, we were all tired and needed to cool off.  We headed up to a favorite swimming spot, the Blue Hole, just a short drive from the show.  The cold water flows  out of the mountain a short distance up from the waterfall.

If you are going to be near Johnson City, Tennessee in early June come check out the show.  We can even take you to the Blue Hole for a swim…