delara news Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH   VOL 36 NUMBER 8


Craig MIller  W8CR

Blowing Off a Little Steam

Summer is never complete unless that one thing happens.  You know what I mean.  Summer’s not complete until you sit in a ballpark with a hotdog and a beer in hand soaking in nine innings.  Or is it that road trip to the cabin on the lake to drown some worms.  Or maybe it’s the 4th of July parade, chicken barbeque wrapping up with small town fireworks down by the sewage treatment plant. For me, summer isn’t summer until the Miami Valley Steam Thresher’s Association puts on their annual festival (officially, it’s a “reunion”) in Plain City Ohio’s Pastime Park.  I started attending this gas and steam engine show over 25 years ago and rarely have missed one since.  It’s an eclectic mix of antique tractors, gas fueled hit-n-miss engines with spinning flywheels and especially coal and wood fired steam traction and stationary engines, most over 100 years old. Back before names like John Deere, Case and International dominated the agriculture tractor market, long before gas internal combustion and Diesel engines were commonplace in our world, steam was king.  In the olden days, to plant or harvest crops you’d do the back-breaking labor yourself (with your wife and your 14 kids) or hitch up the mule, Ol’ Bessie.  Those that were savvy enough to pool together enough cash would purchase, or contract, a steam traction engine.  You’re the big kid on the block when you had one of these in your fields. Some engines weren’t self-propelled but were towed in place by Ol’ Bessie and other beasts and used to provide power to threshing machines to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Other models did provide motive power to pull plows and harvesters – the world had changed.  These engines would go from farm to farm during planting and harvesting seasons.  It was a big event in those days.  Imagine seeing one coming from miles away puffing away at maybe 2 or 3 miles per hour.  They probably attracted kids like ice cream trucks of our youth (what’s an ice cream truck?). Miami Valley Steam Thresher’s Association began 68 years ago to preserve and celebrate these mechanical marvels.  Every July, they hold their reunion in Plain City which include a huge parade on Friday, vintage baseball games, tractor pulls and best of all, CORN DOGS! The festival grew to include pretty much anything made out of cast iron and belched smoke plus a great flea market with junk fit for your yard. What could make a perfect festival, in a perfect location during the perfect time of year better?  Well, add Ham Radio of course! Several months back, I cornered Will, N8TQU and Tim, NJ8B, both connoisseurs of the Steam Show and brought up the idea of setting up a special event station at the park.  Well one thing lead to the next and we received permission by the board to do just that.  Nothing fancy, just throw up a dipole and play radio with the noises of the festival in the background – what fun! Take a listen: {audio link of whistles} Ed, KE8ANU, jumped in and designed a real nice QSL card to celebrate the event: We were allowed to set up the station under the overhang of a cool vintage gas station near the administration office along one of the main drags of the festival.  We positioned the table in between two cool old gasoline pumps that still showed 31 cents a gallon! The callsign W8UCO, Union County Amateur Radio Club was used.  Will and I operated only on 40 meters SSB in the morning and evenings for a few hours.  We didn’t kill ourselves.  I told Will, “If this isn’t fun, then we’re doing it wrong!”  We logged about 117 contacts with over 25 already sending in their SASE for the commemorative card.  Not too bad for our first go at it. Saturday we added some more signage and provided audio for the passersby to hear the exchanges. View from our seat: Gas station: We may take a stab at this again next year.  It’s a great opportunity to get the Union, Delaware and Madison groups to collaborate together to do something different and fun.  Looking for anyone that’s interested in helping out.  Maybe we can add more bands and increase the operating hours and QSO/QSL count. As I said before, if we ain’t having fun, we ain’t doing it right!
© DELARA News, the official monthly newsletter of the Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware, OH