The small town of Big Valley was a hub of history and activity over the past weekend Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17 as it hosted the annual Live Steam Days, and with the Alberta Prairie Train pulling up on both days, visitors and guests got an intriguing look into the history of a wide variety of steam engines.
“It is important that the younger generations learn about how things were when their grandparents were working as farmers way back,” said Bill Smillie, president of the Big Valley Historical Society. “The annual Steam Days is all about teaching the younger ones about how the older equipment ran, when technology was quite non-existent.”
There was wonder and amazement on kids’ faces as the vendors explained to them how the engines ran.
“There was a great turnout of visitors who explored the site and witnessed the smell of burning coal, the hiss of steam, and the thump and bump of many steam engines running,” said Lois Miller, mayor of Big Valley. “In addition to this was the classic car show with numerous old time automobiles bringing back memories of earlier days.”
Mayor Lois Miller added, “This is one of Big Valley’s major annual events and has been going on for the past 15 years or so.”
“It is always held on the middle weekend in July and brings in an influx of tourists,” continued Miller. “It also adds an extra attraction for the Alberta Prairie Steam Tour passengers and it is fantastic to see so many exhibitors and visitors having so much fun while learning about the past.”
Brian Manning, one of the vendors who was operating a vertical boiler, run by a two-cylinder steam engine said, “I have been part of the Steam Days in Big Valley from the very first one.”
“I used to bring up a 1/4 scale Advance Rumely steam traction engine, but haven’t for the last few years,” said Manning. “This engine displayed here is a two-cylinder Waterous steam engine, 25 horse power built in Brantford, Ontario around 1910.”
The engine, according to Manning, was originally used on a sawmill in BC, where it ran the main log carriage.
“They were called Dynamite Carriage Feed, due to the fact that the steam engine could return the carriage faster than the original drum and cable system, therefore making it possible to produce more lumber per day,” explained Manning. “I bought it from a collector about 20 years ago, and the engine was half buried in the dirt, rusted solid and it took two winters to restore it.”