They share a love of steam at festival

September 28, 1997


Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Kevin Rice and Martin Stluka share a love of steam and whistles.

They also share a love for the source - a 1915 Case steam traction engine that was used for threshing in its heyday.

The two friends are expected to share their love for steam with 50,000 to 60,000 people this weekend during the 23rd annual Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show behind Smithsburg High School.

The steam engine was one of dozens on display Saturday.

Stluka, 69, came all the way from Eastman, Wis., to see Rice and the steam engine, which Rice bought from him in October 1992 and has since restored.


"I still have steam in my blood," said Stluka, who sold the engine because of his heart condition.

Stluka said he finds steam engines fascinating because the parts are out in the open where everyone can see them work.

Rice's hobby of restoring steam engines carries over into his work doing maintenance on steam locomotives for Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Cumberland, Md.

Rice, who's also a locomotive engineer, is featured on the cover of the November 1997 issue of Railfan & Railroad, a national hobby magazine.

Stluka and Rice are passing on their passion for steam to younger generations.

Tyler Shetter, the 9-year-old son of Rice's girlfriend, said he will run the engine at steam shows when Rice retires.

Shetter can already dictate the details of the steam engine - its 2.5 mph speed, 65 horsepower and 130 horsepower on the belt.

Shetter and Rice often exchange whistle sounds with other steam engine owners, including Paul Leatherman III, 30, of Myersville.

Leatherman was operating a 1922 Case steam traction engine and belt being used to run the shingle mill at the steam show.

The steam and whistles were 4-year-old James Ashbrook's favorite part of the show.

The Ashbrook family, which moved to Pen Mar Park four months ago, came out Saturday to support the community where Athea Ashbrook, 11, attends middle school.

"It's pretty neat to see how people had to do things on their own," said their mother, Yvette Ashbrook.

The family was looking over the shingles on sale that will benefit the Smithsburg Athletic Boosters Club.

Since the show was started 23 years ago it has raised about $300,000 to help pay for uniforms, equipment and storage buildings at the athletic fields, said Wayne Smith, 64, one of the event's organizers.

The show always draws a good crowd, especially around the saw mill, he said.

Jefferson Boulevard retiree Jean Slatko was taking a rest in one of Earlene Lowman's lawn chairs in front of the sawmill as the two new friends chatted about the steam show.

Both women marveled at the technological progress that has been made over the years.

"I don't think we would want to go back and use the steam engine machines again," said Lowman, who lives near Taneytown, Md., in Carroll County.

The Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show will continue today from noon to 6 p.m.

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