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Illinois threshermen offer ‘Steam School,’ June 10-11
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent

PONTIAC, Ill — Threshermen’s Park in Pontiac will be the filled with the sounds of clanking steam engines, belts and whistles June 10-11 when the Pontiac Threshermen hosts its Steam School.

The school offers participants a chance to gain hands-on knowledge of the inner workings of steam-powered engines. Graduates of the school will have the opportunity to drive a steam-powered tractor, said co-organizer Dave Schott.

“As the years passed by and the operators of these steam engines passed on, the need became clear to provide an opportunity for a younger generation to adopt these skills,” said Schott, who along with Roy Schwitzer and John Haley established the school in 1999.

“The school is open to all who are interested in steam power regardless of experience. Above all, we stress the importance of safe operation. Some of the skills taught are proper fire building, water condition, boiler inspection, maintenance and lubrication.”

Past participants have traveled from Oklahoma, Wyoming, Maine and other states to attend. Schott said the school is one of only three in the United States that offers a chance for students to work on and drive a full-size, working steam-powered tractor. “The students build the fires, work on the engines, and drive them. That’s the fun part,” Schott said.

Schott acquired his love for the old iron at an early age, watching and learning as his late father worked on and operated steam-powered tractors. Schott remembers his father being called on to remove old hedgerows from area farms, and threshing and corn shelling with his steam-powered tractor.

“I was interested when I was very young, and I was lucky in that he lived long enough to teach me about operating steam engines. My 42 year-old son is now involved in the Steam School. I’ve had my grandkids and nephews involved in it,” Schott said, adding that the main difference in a steam engine compared to a gas engine is “that you have power on both ends of the pistons at all times.”

Cost for the school is $40, which includes a two-day pass, an electrical camping site big enough for an RV, a June 10 lunch and Threshermen’s Dinner on Sunday. Activities will start at 8 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. both days.

For details or to register, call Schott at 815-842-3129.

This farm news was published in the June 7, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/7/2006