Today I attended the 12th annual Doughty Valley Steam Days. This annual event is held between Berlin and Charm, Ohio next to the Guggisberg Swiss Inn. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the various power machinery demonstrations. When I was younger I remember my grandpa Erb had a great interest in these machines. At one time he owned an old Rumely steam tractor which he was very proud of. He also had a fascination with, and worked on, other heavy equipment including draglines and bulldozers. The Doughty Valley Steam Days are organized by JR Schrock and his brothers, James, Delbert, and Ed. I spent some time talking with JR and James and JD Miller. I can tell they enjoy being at the show and have a great working knowledge of this technology. According to JR there were 26 steam engine tractors billowing plenty of black smoke, blowing their loud whistles, and churning out horsepower to drive the belts that are connected to various implements. Most of the tractors are owned by the Amish and 3 of them came from Amish Country up in Geauga County. Some things I learned:
- Case produced more steam engine tractors than any other manufacturer, producing over 30,000 of the iron beasts.
- 110 was the maximum, effective horsepower achieved for a steam engine tractor. The Case tractor in one of the photos shows 110 on the side of the tractor.
- Steam engine tractors and other related machinery started being mass produced in the late 1800’s.
- There were hundreds of manufacturers worldwide including Case, Rumely, Greyhound, Baker, Best (which became Caterpillar), Tractor Supply Company, Russell, and Reeves. A number of these companies were located in Ohio.
- Wood is used to start the fire that boils the water. Once the wood is burning, coal is then used to fuel the machine. White smoke issues from the machine when it is first started using wood. As the fire grows hotter and coal is added the smoke becomes black.
- Popular implements driven by steam engines included sawmills, separators, and threshing machines.
- The demise of the steam engine tractors started in the 1920’s and 30’s as gas powered engine technology became more pervasive.