On the Road to Mabel - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

On the Road to Mabel

Junior Dahl explains steam technology Junior Dahl explains steam technology
MABEL, Minn. (KTTC) -

Farms these days use advanced technology to harvest crops, making it as efficient as possible. But one town in southeastern Minnesota hasn't let go of a 19th century technology that made it all possible.

The steam engine serves as a mascot for Mabel, a small town of about 800 people just a few miles north of the Iowa border.

Junior Dahl has been around engines since he was three, known in this area as the premiere expert in steam engine repair.

"I learn something new all the time," Dahl said. "I guess I grew up around the stuff and it stuck with me."

Right now he's busy getting an engine restored in time for Mabel's Steam Engine Days, by far the biggest date on the calendar for everyone in the area.

"It takes so many people to put on a show this big, but everybody is here and everybody is working and all working together," said steam engineer Joe Pearce. "[It's] just an incredible thing to see happen."

Since it moved to Mabel in 1960, tens of thousands have made the trek to Steam Engine Park to take a trip back in time.

"There will be sawmills operating, thresh machines operating, other machinery operating and this side tends to be steam," Pearce said.

Greg Wennes has been there since it started and says the event has endured across the decades, although the same cannot be said for the Mabel community.

"Those small family farms had a richness and integrity and spirituality and a culture that was really unmistakable and  it's sad to see that somewhat dissipated," Wennes said.

But there's still a purpose to parade the steam engines in 2016.

"To educate how the farming was done in the 20s and 30s," Dahl said. "And the young people learn how their grandparents farmed."

Talking with the folks here in Mabel, it's clear this passion spans generations.

"The engineers that are running the engines for the show [this year] are the grandchildren of the men that started the show," Pearce said.

According to these engineers, the machines should be good to go for quite a long time.

"All of these engines could literally last hundreds, literally hundreds of years to continue to tell this story to those that really should see what it was like so they can appreciate what they have now," Wennes said.

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