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July 2014

A Connecticut Visit

By Paul Harvey

Sometimes it is just good to get away.  The winter had been long and hard and the museum's June engine show seemed to be approaching all too quickly.  That meant six weeks of panic, preparation, and hard work.  So I did the reasonable thing and invited a friend to join me for a weekend of relaxation at the Kent, Connecticut, engine show.  On the first weekend of May we headed east! 

Leaving early Friday morning, we made many stops and side trips as we enjoyed the warm spring weather.  Western Connecticut always seems as if one is stepping back into a simpler time of life and we enjoyed our drive along the Housatonic River.  The water was high with beautiful white water rapids spilling over ancient hydroelectric dams, still in operation.  Magnificent magnolia trees were in bloom everywhere.  Finally, close to Kent, we had a good dinner and settled into our motel looking forward to the morn and our day at the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association (CAMA) show.  Their logo is Photo 1.

Next morning, we passed through the quaint village of Kent then into the lane to the showgrounds.   All the CAMA buildings are in a grove of large trees with a display and parking field to the east and the river to the west, magnificent and tranquil.  The museum was just awakening with activity in all directions.  I was quickly attracted to their steam locomotive which had just backed out of the engine house and was being readied for a long day's work giving rides to all the guests, Photo 2.  It is a 1925 Baldwin, 36 inch gauge, that had originally served in the sugar cane fields of Hawaii.  Then I turned to the Welcome Center, Photo 3, to check in and explore.  And what a vast and interesting diversity I found!

Passing through the flea market, I headed for Industrial Hall,  Photo 4, where several large stationary steam engines operate.  Upon entering, I was greeted with the aroma of hot steam and oil and the music of an engine in operation.  The Greene Steam Engine, Photo 5, built in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1904, was gently turning under live steam.  The 12 foot diameter flywheel and all the valve mechanisms seemed to move effortlessly.  The Greene valve mechanism, Photo 6, circumvented the Corliss patent of 1849 to provide an equally efficient engine.  Further into the building, the Brown steam engine was silently operating, Photo 7.  Built by the C. H. Brown Company of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 1880, it served in a sawmill in Gorham, New Hampshire.  Note the ten spoke flywheel.  Photo 8 is a Nagle Corliss engine built in Erie, Pennsylvania.  George Henry Corliss patented this design in 1849, and Professor Hawkins describes it in his 1897 work, "New Catechism of the Steam Engine," as "elegant in design, efficient in action, and regular in motion beyond any ever known before."  My three favorite stationary steam engines and two in operation!

I next wandered toward the river and found the oil field rod line pumping power exhibit with several operating jacks along the bank of the Housatonic, as seen in Photo 9.  Following the squeaking and reciprocating rods back from the "oil wells," I found a small wooden building, the engine house, with an A. C. Thomas converted engine operating a Bessemer pumping power.  A vintage "South Penn" sign on the structure made me feel back home.  Note Photo 10.  Wow!  I had just gone from a New England steam plant to the Western Pennsylvania oil fields in just a few hundred feet.

Photo 11 shows the oil field engine building containing six nicely restored engines.  It is also backed by the river and a forested hillside beyond which seemed so appropriate.  A 15 hp Pattin brothers, built in Marietta, Ohio, is seen in the foreground of Photo 12 with two "half breeds" in the background. 

Walking back from the oil field display, I came upon the blacksmith shop.  Photo 13 depicts the building with both an outside and inside forge so that two smithies can display their arts simultaneously.  The inside forge, in operation as seen in Photo 14, shows the blacksmith attending his fire.  He uses coal and an air blast to turn the iron white hot. Then it can be forged into many shapes on the anvil. The shop is complete with all appropriate tools and a line shaft operating the blower and other items.  I was amazed at the mirror-like polished face of his anvil which he kept wiped clean with oil after each use. 

Next, Photo 15 is the big gas engine building which certainly appears to be an industrial powerhouse. It contains many large and interesting engines far beyond the scope of this writing.  But just inside that open door, one is greeted by a big Clark engine, Photo 16, which was manufactured in Olean, New York.  This engine is a two-cycle model that was once very common in the Bradford oil fields.  They are all gone now, but this one still happily lives on.  Photo 17 displays a four-cylinder Buffalo engine.  Originally designed as marine  engines to be used in vessels plying the Great Lakes, they were later found to be well adapted to oil field use as stationary power units.  This one is complete on its cast iron base, clutch, and flat belt pulley.

Photo 18 shows the Mining and Mineral Building which provides vast displays of mineral and mining equipment and technology.  Actually, Connecticut has a varied array of mineral deposits including iron ore, limestone and marble.  Nearby lies the remains of the massive Kent Furnace which produced iron in the early days of the state.  This was complimented by a marble quarry which provided the flux to produce the iron and the vast forests, soon depleted, which gave the wood for the charcoal fuel.

The day was quickly passing, as I realized that I was hungry.  Finding the food pavilion,  Photo 19, I was soon satisfied with two hot dogs, a big bowl of chili, and a Coke.  While resting, I realized what a diversity of displays I had seen in a few short hours!   But now I was ready to continue onward.

I then strolled to the Diebold Agricultural Hall, Photo 20, which is on the edge of the wooded area and borders a vast display field.  This structure houses tractors and all sorts of mobile mechanical equipment.  Photo 21 shows part of one row of tractors featuring some very early Caterpillars.  Long before Caterpillar was used for construction, the durable little crawlers were popular for farming in wet areas.  There were many steam traction engines and construction equipment such as road rollers and maintenance machines.  Larger machines, notably cable shovels and backhoes, are displayed outside.

Probably the most unique display is the Cream Hill Agricultural School shown in  Photo 22.  The magnificent white building, with its manicured gardens, was moved to the CAMA grounds in 1994.  The school, located in Cornwall, Connecticut,  was founded by Dr. Samuel Gold in 1845 to teach scientific agricultural principals.  Dr. Gold and his son, Theodore, were the instructors and, with agriculture, they offered a wide range of subjects including mathematics and humanities.  Photo 23 shows Dr. Gold's desk and study.  Open to boys only, the students lived in a second floor dormitory and shared meals with the Gold family.  Being needed for chores and work at home, they could come and go as needed.  The classroom and library is located in the wing of the house to the left in the photo.  Quite successful, the school lasted for 24 years.  Theodore continued in educational pursuits and founded a school that eventually developed into the University of Connecticut.  So well done, this structure and its furnishings tell a wonderful story.

With the day drawing to a close, I walked out through the display area and was fascinated with this woodsplitter belted to a Sattley engine as seen in Photo 24.  The newest building, the sawmill, is seen in the background of this photo.  The organization has a great display as well as a source of needed lumber. Slowly I ambled back toward the main part of the grounds to bid farewell to my friends there.  Reflecting on the great day, I was overwhelmed with the diversity of knowledge that is here in one small area.  It's "a little bit of everything!" 

By the time you are reading this, it is July and Coolspring Power Museum's big June show, which featured foreign engines, is history.  A full report with many photos will be my August Flywheel article.  Now our museum is preparing for our July 19 event which is History Day accompanied by our third annual Car, Truck and Tractor show.  Get in your old jalopy and drive down for a fun filled day.  We will display your vehicle while you can visit with our engineers and see all the big engines run. All the details can be found by calling 814-649-6883.  See you then!


Photo 1: CAMA logo


Photo 2: 1925 Baldwin steam locomotive

Welcome Center

Photo 3: Welcome Center

Industrial Hall

Photo 4: Industrial Hall

Greene Steam Engine

Photo 5: Greene steam engine

Greene Valve Gear

Photo 6: Greene valve mechanism

Brown Steam Engine

Photo 7: Brown steam engine

Nagle Corliss

Photo 8: Nagle Corliss steam engine

Pump Jack Exhibit

Photo 9: Oil field rod line and pump jack exhibit

A.C. Thomas Engine

Photo 10: A.C. Thomas engine

Oil Field Engine Building

Photo 11: Oil field engine building

Oil Field Engines

Photo 12: 15 hp Pattin Brothers engine

Blacksmith Shop

Photo 13: The blacksmith shop


Photo 14: A blacksmith at work

Gas Engine Building

Photo 15: The gas engine building

Clark Engine

Photo 16: Clark engine

Buffalo Engine

Photo 17: Buffalo engine

Mining and Mineral Building

Photo 18: Mining and Mineral Building


Photo 19: Lunchtime at the food pavilion

Diebold Agricultural Hall

Photo 20: Diebold Agricultural Hall

Tractors in Agricultural Hall

Photo 21: Just a portion of the tractor display

Cream Hill Agricultural School

Photo 22: Cream Hill Agricultural School

Teacher Study

Photo 23: Dr. Gold's desk and study

Woodsplitter Sawmill

Photo 24: Woodsplitter, Sattley engine, and sawmill


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