Rollag

One of the activities for the family reunion this weekend was to attend the Steam Thresher's Reunion at Rollag, fifty miles south of here. Rollag, for those of you unfamiliar, features upwards of one billion dollars worth of antique machinery, most of it in working condition. Here is a typical scene.



This old Rumely steam tractor has been a favorite of mine since my first trip to Rollag in 1974 as a fourth grader. I believe somewhere I have a picture of myself standing next to this very tractor. I love the name, and I think the proportions of the machine are perfect.

The tractors occupy many acres out in an open field. Deep in the woods are several large buildings, some containing old steam generators. One is from the Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery. What is impressive is the dignified quiet with which these steam engines produce enormous power--at least until their whistle goes off.



I just heard that there was a Pure Oil station on the corner in Fertile where we are now building a Veterans Memorial Park. That was the first I had heard of that brand. Days later, I stumble across this at the replica filling station in Rollag.



People of all sorts, by the tens of thousands, head to Rollag each labor day. The variety of activities is astounding. There is a steam train which circles the grounds. There are a half-dozen gigantic steam shovels digging. There is a complete sawmill run by steam, a print shop run by steam, a laundromat run by old gas engines, threshing, plowing, cultivating, haying--all done the old way, and all going on at once. Amazing.

There were so many people that, although we left home about ten minutes after the rest of the family, Lance and I never did find the other group in two hours at Rollag.



This kid is in with the miniature replica steam engines. In order to run these little machines, you have to complete a training course at Rollag University.



Compare the enthusiasm of the young whippersnapper at miniatureland with the disillusioned, bored, cynical teen in the picture above. That's what five years does to kids. This guy's reluctantly watching over one of the dozens of antique engines running, popping, whirring, clicking in smoky building designed for that purpose.



This little cutie is so ugly it is cute. Notice the tracks in the mud which left an island of grass where the tractor had been sitting--presumably for the entire weekend. I assume it didn't partake in the twice-daily parade of old machines.