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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Carroll's 51 years of steam, smoke and iron

Every year since 1967, the Mason Dixon Historical Society has transformed the grounds of the Carroll County Farm Museum into a living documentary of steam, iron and horsepower.

The Mason Dixon Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the history of farming methods in Carroll County by preserving antique farming technologies, according to society President Larry Airing.

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To keep that history alive, the society will bring bring working steam engines, tractors and other vintage motors to the Farm Museum for their 51st annual Steam Show Days - the first four years were held at a private farm - from Sept. 5 through Sept. 8.

According to Shane Ey, the current treasurer of the society, Steam Show Days has grown from humble beginnings to the point where today, it covers almost the entire Farm Museum grounds.

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"When it first started out, it was strictly steam engines and about 10 or 12 people there," Ey said. "Now we have expanded to where we've got nearly 100 flea market spaces and we get between 50 and 100 types of antique cars and trucks; 300 to 440 antique tractors and probably 200 antique gas engines."

This year will be the second year for the antique tractor pull event, which Ey said proved to be a huge draw last year.

"The guys that have any kind of old antique tractors will be able to hook up to a sled and see who can pull the most weight the farthest," Ey said. "Last year we had 168 people pull for the first year and we heard that there was so much enthusiasm that a lot more people are coming this year just for that ... we think we might hit 200 people to pull in the tractor pull this year."

Ironically, there are few steam engines at the event any longer, Ey said, due in part to Maryland regulations concerning high pressure boilers.

"[Steam engines] are not play toys and they can be dangerous if they are not properly maintained and worked," Ey said. "We have three of them that come out and some years we'll have six or seven."

According to Ey, the Farm Museum itself houses a particularly interesting steam engine: a portable Taylor engine manufactured in Westminster during the 1800s, one of perhaps only two in the country.

According to Park Superintendent of the Farm Museum Dottie Freeman, the museum may or may not bring the Taylor engine out for a demonstration during Steam Show Days, but museum admission will be free during the event so that attendees will be able to see the engine and all the other museum attractions.

"I think one of the reasons it's good to open up the museum is to let people see everything that would have been done in a full day's work, from using the tractors to mending clothes, the full working agenda of a farmer," Freeman said. "All in all it's a good partnership that has developed over the years ... It's a neat piece of history that's not in a book."

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There will be numerous displays of farm equipment from yesteryear, according to Ey, including a threshing machine that separates wheat seeds and wheat from the chaff, a baling machine that that makes bales of the leftover wheat stalks and a sawmill demonstration.

"We have a saw milling demonstration where people bring in different types of logs and we'll make different kinds of lumber," Ey said. "We saw them up for just a donation."

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Although Steam Show Days is completely free and open to the public, Ey said it is also the Mason Dixon Society's one and only fundraiser.

"How we raise the money to keep the club going is by selling the spaces for the flea market and the food," Ey said. "We are also starting some 50-50 raffles on Friday and Saturday."

Food offerings will include hotdogs and hamburgers, spaghetti and Italian sausage and ice cream by Hoffman's Home Made Ice Cream and Deli in Westminster.

Ey said that there are a few spots left for anyone interested in participating in the flea market and that the rate is $35 for three days, with spots measuring 24 feet by 24 feet. Those interested should call Ey at 410-913-5627.

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Steam Show Days will be held from 7 a.m. until dusk each day of the event.

According to Airing, Steam Show Days is a chance to witness the full fledged living history of Carroll's farming past and an opportunity to put that history in context.

"Come see the old way of doing things," Airing said. "Come to see where this county actually came from, back from when farming was really hard work."


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