Viola Threshers Reunion goes off without a hitch

Robert Blackford/Editor
Fred Hansen, the owner and engineer directs his train down the line. This was the engine of the show.

It was a beautiful day in Viola Saturday, Sept. 11 as the public turned out for the fourth annual Viola Threshers Reunion.

Engine of the show

Fred Hansen of Peoria brought in the "engine of the show" a  1 1/2 scale model of a 10-wheel locomotive. Hansen had the train set up on a bit of track and gave rides to small children throughout the day.

Hansen said his scale locomotive was made in 1998, a replica of a steam locomotive. Hansen said the locomotive weighs 400 pounds dry and can pull loads up to 2,000 pounds and builds up about four and a half horsepower. He fuels the locomotive with kerosene. The engine carries 25 gallons of water and about three and a half gallons of kerosene. He will use about six gallons of kerosene and 40 gallons of water throughout the day.

This is Hansen's third year at the reunion. He pulls the locomotive out about six weekends a year to run at events, usually at other locomotive clubs because they have more tracks.

Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh of Sherrard brought three small engines to the Viola Threshers reunion. One of the engines was a two horsepower mode D4 side shaft made by Domestic in 1917. "I bought it at an auction north of Cedar Rapids," said Walsh. The pump would have been used by a contractor to pump water out of a basement or a ditch during floods. "The crankshaft was broken when I bought it. The bushings and pins were worn out. It had been well used."

Walsh said he was attracted to it because it was a side shaft type. It was a novelty.

Walsh has been collecting small engines for the past 10-15 years. He said he had several more at home.

Walsh enjoys the sounds the old engines make when they run. "It's nice to see how they run. It's something different. They've just got a sound of their own. It doesn't sound like a normal engine."

Walsh joined the Old Threshers group in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa but found that he can see several of these machines locally.

"The young kids have no idea what they are looking at," said Walsh. He hoped to teach them a little more about the way the county was nearly 100 years ago.


Emmitt Gonder, III, a CPA/blacksmith from Galesburg, was busy fanning the flames on Saturday with the help of a couple of young men from Viola - Chris Schultz and Will Bruning. Gonder has been attending the reunion in Viola for the past four years. Schultz and Bruning, interested in the profession, have helped him the past couple of years.

"I'm probably the only CPA/blacksmith in the state. I'm a member of the Illinois Valley blacksmith Association," said Gonder. Gonder worked for the Chicago Transit Authority for 25 years. "'I was a CPA with the CTA,' they used to say," joked Gonder. "I worked exactly 25 years retiring when I could get a full pension. I didn't want to work there a day longer than I had to."

He spent a lot of the time during the day bending rods and using his hammer. "With heat and a hammer I can fix about anything," said Gonder.

Gonder was using an old coal forge he and Viola man Kent Graham rescued from North Henderson. Gonder said the blower was in excellent shape but the large pan was upside down in the dirt when they found it in a shed. It had a couple of holes but Graham was able to fix it up.

Fishing contest

The fishing contest drew in 47 kids this year with family members. The turnout was a little smaller than the year before.

Winners of the contest with the longest fish by age were: five and under, Emma Austin; 6-8 years old, Keagan Wagoner and Connor Engel; 9-11 years old, Lilly Mason and 12-14 years old, Collin Pitman.

The smallest fish was brought in by Casey Baugh.