Steam engines offer up sounds of farm history

Posted: July 29, 2013

The Winchester Star

Macie Byrd, 7, imitates the whistle on a steam engine Saturday afternoon as she and her father, Mike Byrd of Summit Point, W.Va., make their way through the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Show at the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Visitors to the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Show look over a row of antique Farmall tractors Saturday. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

BERRYVILLE — Seven-year-old Macie Byrd loves the whistle of a steam engine.

So at noon Saturday, when the hundreds of steam engines at the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds sounded, the Kearneysville, W.Va., native didn’t hold her ears.

“I want to, but N.O.” she said adamantly.

Macie was in attendance with her father, Mike, for the 46th annual Steam Show held by the Shenandoah Valley Steam and Gas Engine Association this weekend.

“They’re just, like, history and just older than what we got now,” she said of the antiques. “And I like to learn about them.”

Mike, 48, has attended the show for the past 15 years.

“There’s no batteries in these,” he said. “There’s no computer games here, either. There’s just American history.”

The show featured a wide variety of antique tractors, with brands such as Farmall, Speedex, Rumely, David Bradley, Mogul, Twin City, Ford and John Deer.

Throughout the event, an array of gas and steam engines kept the fairgrounds alive with their constant whirring and chugging. There was also an antique tractor pull, a horse pull and a mule pull and jump.

Other attractions included a concert by the bluegrass band Back Creek Valley Boys, a church service on Sunday, an old-time blacksmith shop and a children’s barrel train ride.

The event is a family tradition for Liz Carroll, who lives in Hamilton. Every year, the event falls on or around her 8-year-old son David’s birthday.

“What I like most about it is the steam tractors, the steam-powered ones,” David said Saturday as he watched the parade of tractors and engines go by. “I like how they run, and I thought about how it would be to work with one of those.”

Liz, a mechanical engineer, loves the steam engines, too.

“They’re just a thing of beauty,” she said. “The sound of them, the smell of them.”

Pennsylvania residents and husband and wife duo Shirley Bentzel, 75, and Glenn, 77, have celebrated their anniversary at the steam show for the past 10 years.

This year marks their 56th anniversary.

“I just like the fun of it,” Glenn said.

The couple come for the people and to show off their 1910 stationary engine, which was used in a feed mill.

The couple travel to many different shows across the country, but they always come back to Clarke County.

“It’s one of our favorites,” Shirley said.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at