America's industrial past on display in Smithsburg

September 25, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Visitors to the Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show Saturday cool down with an old fashioned soda drink.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG --Chuffing, hissing and occasionally blowing off steam with a shrill whistle, rolling works of America's industrial past, including examples from nearby Waynesboro, Pa., were among the stars Saturday of the Smithsburg Steam Engine & Craft Show.

Only clouds of coal smoke obscured the otherwise blue skies as a few thousand people roamed the carnival grounds behind the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co., watching steam powered behemoths chug to life, or walking among 150 or more gas-powered tractors with nameplates such as Allis-Chalmers, Massey Ferguson, Ford, Fordson, Case and McCormick.

The show, which drew about 100 craft vendors, resumes Sunday at noon, said Mike Rohrer, the now retired co-chair who has been part of the show since its inception in 1974.

This year he was exhibiting his Geiser Peerless portable engine, manufactured in Waynesboro in 1912. Unlike other steam traction engines, his was not meant to pull a plow through a field, but to be pulled to wherever its 8 horsepower was needed.


That included running a sawmill, a cider press and supplying steam to kettles used to make apple or peach butter, Rohrer said.

Bill and Anna Swailes of Willow Hill, Pa., finally got their 1916 Peerless, also made in Waynesboro, working this year, a job that included sending the firebox to Ohio for restoration, Anna Swailes said.

Because the old steam traction engines are so large, they require a tractor-trailer to get them to Smithsburg and other steam and tractor shows, and they do not fit in a standard garage, so some kind of storage building is required. It is an expensive hobby -- perhaps passion is a better word -- but Bill Swailes said it is an investment of more than money.

"For my part, I'd rather invest my money in this than Wall Street because I can see it and I can have fun with it," he said.

Smudged with coal dust and grease, Jennifer Peebles of Chambersburg and her fiance, Brent Doub, got to fire up and operate the Swailes' steam engine this weekend.

Clifton Muritz of Leitersburg and his brother, Phillip, between them hauled in 10 of the roughly 150 tractors at the show. Clifton left his oldest, a 1934 Fordson, back home, but his brother brought his 1937 model.

"It takes a lot of money to haul them," Clifton Muritz said.

The steam show hauls in a lot of money for the Smithsburg High School Athletic teams, said Rohrer, who graduated in 1973. The following year he was among the founders of the event, which they started as "a cheap fundraiser" for the school's teams.

That year, there were five or six vendors, a dozen or fewer tractors and one steam engine, but it raised $2,000, Rohrer said. The show now averages $25,000 or more a year and has raised more than $500,000 for Smithsburg teams over 36 years, he said.

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