WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 05, 2010, 11:43 AM

Old engines come alive in Rollag

Rollag, Minn. (WDAY TV) - The popular steam threshers event in Rollag is in its 57th year, but how many more years can it last? Most of the machines in the show are more than a century old, surely they have to be put to rest at some point, right? Workers say it won't be anytime soon.

Engines built more than 100 years ago, still come alive every Labor Day weekend in Rollag.

"I'm not going to say we don't have breakdowns, but you ask any farmer today he might have a breakdown with a brand new combine he's got out in the field."

President of the steam threshers association Ellis Aakre (au-kree) says all of the tugging and pushing, twisting and spinning takes a toll on these machines.

"It’s repairable equipment. A lot of it came in during the industrial revolution so it was complicated at the time."

Now, technology and better knowledge keeps it going. Aakre says when a machine breaks down they have several options. Hire a professional, especially with an engine breakdown or the more preferable option, a farmer can usually figure out what's wrong, and if original parts needed to fix it can't be found, heck they just build a new part.

"Everything was built at one time and we're capable of rebuilding it."

Successful maintenance on the machines is so common Aakre says these machines will hold up as long as someone is willing and able to run them.

"I'm not so worried about the equipment, some days I'm more worried about the people that will learn to operate this equipment, but we keep seeing those kids come out passing that information and things along they're digging right in so to say."

It looks a little rickety up close, but Aakre says people can expect to see the smoke at Rollag for years to come. The event's final day is tomorrow.

One machine at Rollag is entertaining the crowd all while making some extra money for the event. The owner of this saw mill says it was built sometime before 1901. It came to Rollag last year and earned a permanent location at event this year.

The lumber cut on the blade will be sold and donated to the Threshers Association. It takes 8 to 10 people to operate the machine efficiently.

“When we get a little bit shorter, they end up working pretty hard so we got to saw a little bit slower.”

Different engines rotate in and out to run the mill throughout the day.