Enthusiasts, old friends gather for Steam Show Days in Carroll

The fields were alive with the sound of engines Thursday as the Mason-Dixon Historical Society brought their Steam and Gas Round-Up to the grounds of the Carroll County Farm Museum.

The show, known as Steam Show Days, will continue through Sunday with exhibitions, demonstrations and a flea market.


Steve Myers, of Gettysburg, was driving a small 1964 John Deere 110 tractor as he traveled between the auction area to where he was parked. He has been bringing the piece to the show for about 25 years and coming to the auctions for about 30. On Thursday, it made a convenient way to get around under the hot sun amid high temperatures.

“You see a lot of old friends. It’s a nice day,” he said. During the auction, he mostly keeps an eye out for tractor parts.

He feels frustrated when he sees shows and auctions all over shrinking because they can’t draw enough interest from younger crowds.

“It’s a dying breed,” he said.

Jim Torbet, of Delaware, was camping out near a bundle of rope Thursday morning, waiting for the auctioneer to make his way down the aisles.

Torbet was attending for his business, The Rope Locker. He travels to shows around the East Coast with his wife and dog in a renovated yellow school bus.

“I’m the only rope man I’ve ever encountered,” he said.

Larry Phebus had already acquired a few treasures by noon. He is a collector, though he didn’t come to the auction looking for anything specific this year.

He looks for “whatever meets my eye … something unique nobody has.”

Steam Show Days is a chance to catch up with old friends who have also been coming for years. One particularly memorable year, he got a call that his daughter was in the emergency room at Carroll Hospital, located across the street from the museum. He fired up a tractor and rode it across the street, parking it in the hospital parking lot.

This year, for the first time, the Gravely Tractor Club of America hosted its annual summer “mow-in” in conjunction with the Steam Show Days.

The gathering is in its 22nd year and hosted in a different place each time, with members coming from as far away as Canada, Texas and New York. Next year’s gathering will be held in Portland, Indiana.

Benjamin Franklin Gravely assembled his first prototype around 1916 by attaching the engine of an Indian motorcycle to manual farm equipment. It was a way to help save labor for his wife who was caring for their 10 children as well as working to grow food for the family.

Editor of the club’s magazine, The Gravely Gazette, John Damtoft said that gathering has become almost like a family reunion for the members


“It’s such a good group of people," he said.

As well as socializing, they share resources, show off their renovation products and do demonstrations with pieces as old as 70.

“There are a lot of engineers in the group, a lot of mechanics,” Damtoft said, because they are drawn to the high-quality design and build of the equipment.

The design of the tractors means the same attachments can be used on tractors built in 1932 as tractors built in 1970. Some members have even built their own attachments including an ice cream machine.

Auction opens annual Steam Show Days.

“Some of the parts are a challenge to find, and that’s half the fun,” Damtoft said.

Member Rich Nichols has been attending since the gatherings started in the mid-1990s.

“I was an office guy and frustrated,” he said.

Finding the community of Gravely enthusiasts was a way to get out and work with his hands. He also appreciates the history of the company, which is on display with the range of pieces brought to the club gatherings.

“You’re going through almost 100 years of innovation,” he said.

Across the way, sisters Pam Spampinato and Elsa Burleson were setting up their tables for the flea market the next day. They sell their handmade crafts and also secondhand items.

“If it stands still, we’ll decorate it,” Spampinato said. She started attending Steam Show Days with her late husband, who was interested in the tractor side of the event.

Thirty-some years later, “It’s become a family tradition,” she said. Her family members, spread around Carroll, all gather, including her grandson who was celebrating his first birthday.

“We’re raising him right,” she said with a smile, “bringing him to tractor shows.”