The Great Oregon Steam-up

I spent an afternoon at the Steam-up.

No, it isn’t about espresso or broken fans in a shower room…

The Steam-up is an annual festival, an Antique Powerland event, in honor of archaic technologies and old machines.

red wheels

People come from all over the place for this two-weekend goings-on every summer, where steam-powered tractors are the stars but there are all kinds of old free-standing motors and other odd machines from the past.  There is a parade of all the old vehicles, and they drive by noisily while the crowd watches, like a moving timeline of antique equipment.

steam-powered tractor

I thought the steam-powered tractors looked like locomotives which had escaped the rails.

I liked the machines with old worn-out paint after endless years of hard use.  But many are completely restored to a condition my dad might have described as “all dolled up”– spotless and shiny with new paint and no rust at all. Like this tomato-red orchard tractor, made with a cover to keep its wheels from tangling with limbs.

orchard tractor

Different men with microphones took turns talking about the machines as they drove by in the parade. They often knew the drivers and joked with them.

There were quite a few women driving tractors.

woman driver

But the great majority of drivers appeared to be older farmers.

still driving his old tractorThese machines mean a lot to their people. The nostalgia was as thick as the petroleum fumes, steam and wood smoke. It is a kind of pride and passion, and is being handed down to children.

farm kidThe children may grow up to start the hottest new software companies, or work in politics, or teach music, but right now they look a lot like farm kids.

driverSome of the steam tractors could carry wood fuel with them into the field, like the one in the next image.

steam tractor with firewood

The announcer guy recommended no one fall down in front of the moving steam roller.

steam roller

The grounds are huge, like a fair, with outdoor exhibits and some indoor ones.  There were thousands of people there.  They gathered to hear and see the old machines and to learn about how they worked.


Some people came to remember.


It was a breezy sunny day, like the air conditioning was on outside, nice.

sunny day

There were women and children, but mostly men who looked like retired farmers (as if farmers ever retire) –or possibly just guys who appreciate the old machines.


I was with some people who skied Mt. Hood as children in the 1950’s. They enjoyed seeing the old Sno Cat.

sno cat

You could buy ice cream that was being made on the spot in this enormous wooden bucket with an elaborate machine arrangement to stir it as it froze–

ice cream maker

It came out as soft ice cream and it sold immediately so it never was completely frozen, but it was great, with lots of vanilla. (I didn’t try the chocolate or strawberry…)

On the way to the old car show there was a guy who sold carvings he makes from giant pieces of wood, using a chainsaw. This statue of a logger was maybe twelve feet tall.


There were some car clubs who brought their vehicles to show at this event.

shiny cars

I like the older cars better.

I really love the color of this one from the 40’s– a dark plum that looked like deep water.

purple car

In other news, the Oriental lilies (‘Muscadet’) are blooming.



About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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18 Responses to The Great Oregon Steam-up

  1. Roberta says:

    Very nice. I do believe that don’t “fall down in front of the moving steam roller” will be my motto for the day.

  2. kininvie says:

    I loved that, Linnie. People really love their ancient machinery, don’t they? (And I imagine Mr O is one of them, with that ‘picturesque’ road grader which you featured some time ago?) But, disappointingly, you don’t say whether the fair featured giant inflatable bananas like those at the Oregon state fair.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Kininvie
      Oh yes, and there was even a road grader pulled in the parade. No giant bananas though, since there weren’t any carnival booths. (This was a serious archaic machinery event.) However, the State Fair is coming at the end of August, and I will see if the bananas make a return appearance because really most of my blog hits are in search of giant stuffed plush (non-inflatable) bananas, as you know.

  3. *sigh*

    I’m not sure which I covet the most; the plum-coloured car, the young buck in the white Stetson on the red tractor or the freshly made ice cream…

    It looks like a great day out, though, and there is definitely a charm to old machinery, and especially BIG machinery like tractors. I have a few friends who find me strange because we’ve been on some road trips where I spent half the time spotting tractors and combine harvesters and identifying them; I can tell the difference between a Claes and a Clayson combine harvester from half a mile’s distance! (And I can drive one when needs be.)

    • linniew says:

      We agree.

      I’ve never driven a combine. I did drive a thirties flatbed truck one summer night, in a hayfield. My job was to move the big old truck around in the moonlit field while two guys on the ground loaded it with bales of hay. Unfortunately I couldn’t actually SEE the loading and I frequently drove away just as they were ready to toss on a heavy bale. I thought it was terribly funny but they didn’t…

  4. Susan says:

    Nothing better than a sunny day, the smell of axle grease, and the conversation of good people.

  5. Holleygarden says:

    My husband would be in heaven at this event! I would like it, too, just not as much! 😉

  6. b-a-g says:

    I started having images of Tillie in a sauna. I’m feeling much better now.

  7. Alistair says:

    Muscadet totally over shadowed today Linnie. I love all this stuff and some of those machines are older than myself. I wonder if those women have escaped the Amish community for the day.

    • linniew says:

      Some of those machines are older than anybody!

      I don’t know of any Amish people in this region– I think the young women in the photo are Mennonite, which can be a less restrictive life-style than the Amish. I thought they looked so pretty in their cotton dresses on the beautiful breezy day.

  8. Grace says:

    I had to Google it to see where it was located. Right there in Salem it looks like. This after I searched two different sites. (The first site was full of information, except WHERE.) I probably would never attend such an event but your photos and prose make it interesting so kudos to you. Love the ice cream “machine.” And sheesh, let’s talk about ‘Muscadet.’ Now there’s a beauty. I bet it smells as good as it looks. Very nice.

  9. Bridget says:

    Here in Ireland we have similar days out. Usually called Vintage Days, my Father loved these and I accompanied him to many of them. The last time just a few months before he died in 1992.

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