Skip to main content

Antique engines let off steam at 34th annual event

CHAMBERSBURG - The process of using boiling water to achieve mechanical motion dates back more than 2,000 years.

When Spanish inventor Jeronimo de Ayanz y Beaumont secured the first patent for a steam engine in the year 1606, he likely created the spark needed to inspire others to improve upon the concept. Although historians describe some of the earlier devices as impractical, by the late 1800s steam engines were ready to play a vital part in the Industrial Revolution and they ruled the day until the advent of internal combustion engines and electric motors.

Such history continues to enchant steam engine enthusiasts, who gather every year for the Cumberland Valley Antique Engine and Machinery Association’s (CVAEMA) Steam and Gas Show.

This year’s event, to be held August 12-14 at 1501 Criders Church Road in Chambersburg, will offer a little something for everyone, according to Stanley Stratton, CVAEMA treasurer. “It’s a good, wholesome, family affair where kids and adults can learn how things were done in the past,” he said.

Attendees will have the opportunity to view a variety of steam engines, along with hit-and-miss engines (popular from 1910-1930), oil field engines that were once used to drill oil, and other engines like those used for coal mining, according to show coordinator Alex Baker.

National Harvester's year

Between 400 and 500 farm tractors will be on display during the three days of the show, with National Harvester taking center stage as this year’s featured brand. “If someone has a variety of tractors in their shed, for instance, this year they will bring one of their International Harvesters,” explains Baker, referring to the popular tractor brand that dates back to 1902.


Groundskeeper Joe Pyles said it’s a fun, affordable show suitable for the entire family. “Parking is free, admission is free and it’s a place you can let your kid run around and everyone watches out for each other,” he said. Pyles said he takes his three granddaughters to the kid-friendly event every year. Activities created especially for the little ones include a petting zoo that features farm animals, a candy scramble and kiddie pedal tractor pull.

One of the highlights enjoyed by young and old alike is the tractor parade that takes place each day at 1 p.m. “The parade runs between an hour and an hour-and-a-half and features at least 100 tractors. Some are new, some are rare and a narrator provides details on each one, some of which date back to the early 1900s,” said Pyles.

A flea market, too

And then there are those who come for the bargains. Dawna Brindle, flea market organizer, said about 150 vendors will be on hand selling everything from crafts to wholesale items, antiques and an array of other merchandise one would usually find at a yard sale.

There will be live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and for many it’s a big opportunity for neighborly socialization, according to Baker. “It started with a group of individuals who shared common interests, owned old equipment and wanted to share it with others,” he said.

As the word spreads, the show continues to gain in popularity, due, in part, to social media. Organizers run a Facebook page and recently announced that a group of 18 will be traveling from Great Britain to attend the event. “We’ll give them the award for the farthest traveled,” said Baker, with a laugh.

Brett Reichard, President of the CVAEMA, said part of the allure for him is witnessing the changes that have occurred throughout the years. “We see how things were done with horses, then steam tractors, then tractors. It amazes me and I’m sure it amazes others.” Reichard, who is 20 and one of the youngest members of the organization, said, “I take every opportunity I can to learn from the older folks because they have the knowledge and one day that knowledge will be gone.”

When you go:

Cumberland Valley Engine and Machinery Association’s 34th Annual Steam & Gas Show

August 12-14

1501 Crider’s Church Road, about 5 miles west of Chambersburg.

9 a.m.- 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. 

Admission and parking free

No alcoholic beverages on grounds