New York has a very large Steam Engine Association.
The association was formed in 1960 to promote and encourage interest in the operation, ownership and preservation of antique vehicles powered by steam, kerosene or gasoline.
They have over 100 acres of property near Canandaigua, New York and this steam show and tractor pull is put on every year.
The campground owner of Southwoods RV Resort, where our seasonal site is located, enjoys a good tractor pull and he has been to this one several times as it is only an hour from Southwoods. He thought we would enjoy it as we had never been to one and it has a steam engine museum and antique tractors on display. So we decided to get outside our bubble and see what a tractor pull was all about.
First off, the steam engines were pretty cool. The Allis Chalmers Corliss Steam Engine (located in the museum building) in the above left hand picture is pretty interesting. The flywheel is 12-feet in diameter and its calculated weight is about 9.2 tons. To run the engine at full load, a 300-HP boiler is required. The engine’s maximum speed is 150 RPM.
The engine is coupled to a 2300-volt, 60 Hz (cycles per second), three-phase alternator with 50-amp output per phase. A 125-volt, d-c exciter sits behind the alternator and beside the steam engine.
This particular engine and alternator were part of the first electric power house on Mackinac Island in Michigan. The power plant was called the Chippewa unit, where the engine remained in service until about 1948.
I’m sure some of this mechanical info will be interesting to some of you. I however had to copy this info from the museum as my eyes started glazing over when I was starting to read all these facts and figures. It completely went over my head. Mechanically inclined I am not. David on the other hand found it pretty interesting and to see that this particular engine was from Mackinac Island, a place that we have visited, brought it full circle for us.
The tractor pull portion of this event took place in the late afternoon and went on into the night. Luckily our friend Mike was in the first weight class of tractors, so we didn’t have to wait to long to see him pull.
What happens at a tractor pull? Well, there are generally different weight classes. This is how heavy your tractor is. Some tractors are beefier and can pull more. Therefore, there is a scale where everyone gets weighed in and you can add some weights to your tractor if need be. Then you go into whatever weight class you are. There are several, so the tractor pulls can go for hours.
You can see on Mike’s tractor he has some weights hanging off the side of his tractor. This added weight can help with keeping your front end down on the ground. Although, when you get close to the end and your tractor is struggling with the weight it is pulling, that front end is coming off the ground no matter what.
Speaking of the weight, this is all regulated as well. There is a weight on a sled that gets hooked up to your tractor. The weight is also on a pulley system. So with every movement forward, the weight shifts forward and therefore creates more weight pushing down. Therefore, the further you travel on the track, the heavier your load gets and the harder it is to keep going forward.
It can be pretty interesting. However, we are also thankful that our friend was in the early round of pullers. If we had to sit through hours of pulling, I think it might get old. At least for us.
All in all it was an interesting day. We got to learn about steam engines and see some really interesting steam driven tractors that looked like they were right out of a Willy Wonka factory.
And how did our friend Mike do in the tractor pull?
He took first place!