Really Steamed

Pretty much bouncing from project to project around here lately. On the bus-house, I've changed the oil and filter on our Cummins diesel, lubed the chassis, and did an oil and filter change on our Onan generator. In the process, we found the generator has a coolant leak... no clue where or why, as a big sound-deadening shroud covers the whole thing and I haven't spent any time figuring our how to get inside to check it out. Of course I'm hoping it's just a loose fitting or a leaky hose... not a more serious issue. I've just added that to the list of to-do's.

And we're helping out with repair and maintenance projects on our Moms' and Dads' homes. A little cleaning here and there, repairing a screen door, replacing a garage door, felling and removing a large sick tree, and other odds and ends that all seem to add up to a bucket full of satisfaction when they're done. We're glad we can help out when we're in town... gives us an additional sense of purpose.

We're also enjoying the now cooler, more normal, summer weather. The earlier drought and high temps have abated and some recent rains have propped up some pretty weary looking crops... so, agriculturally, things look a little better than they did a few weeks ago. We're still in line to be on the receiving end of some warmer temps (I mean, it's still August!!), but there's a clear trend toward more cooler days between the warm spells. And the hottest days lately seem to be a good 10 degrees or so less than what we experienced a few weeks ago.

Last Saturday I accompanied Dar's Dad and one of her Uncles to the local Antique Power Show. A much larger event than I envisioned, an antique steam and power show is a great place to see old tractors, old implements, and the methods used to harvest crops in the not-so-distant past. Functioning threshing machines (similar to today's combines) running with antique power were busy separating wheat from stalk and chaff... just as they did nearly a hundred years ago.

My main interest in going to the show was to see a large steam powered generator used by a local manufacturing plant during the 1920s and 30s. My Grandfather worked as a fireman and mechanic at this plant (Monarch Range Company) during that time and it's a good assumption that he operated and worked on it during the course of his duties. The local steam club purchased the boiler, generator, and steam engine when they tore down the plant some years ago, and spent many more years building a home for it on the club grounds. Now protected from the elements, they run it a few times each year... during these shows and to keep it in operating condition. Here's a link to more information on the Monarch Steam Generator.

Until the plant was electrified by the power utility in the late 1920's, this machine produced all the power the plant needed... running at precisely 150 rpm and making 245KW of electricity... day after day... year after year. For it's time it was a marvel of engineering... a miracle of the industrial revolution.

I watched as the operator opened valves and adjusted levers to get the thing started... the 10,000 pound flywheel quietly spinning faster and faster. It was easy for me to picture my Grandfather at the controls, adjusting and tweaking it to peak efficiency... a rare opportunity to connect with my family's past.

(I'll add a few photos to this post at a later time.)

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