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Steam engines stars of CAMA spring event


KENT—New steam exhibits, as well as exhibitors showing off the engines they’ve been working on this past winter will greet visitors to the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association during its spring event on April 27 and 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Connecticut Antique Machinery Association (CAMA) will hold its annual Spring Power-Up event April 27-28 with all of its exhibit halls open. It is welcoming exhibitors to share their engines with attendees. Contributed photo

“We’ve been really busy making sure all the trains work and the steam hall exhibits are installed,” explained Dean Gilbert, president of CAMA during an April 13 interview. The name of the event has been evolving and there are references to both Spring Power-Up and Spring Startup this year.

“It has been called other things. It started very informally as people would come in as we were firing everything up,” he said. The association decided that people were attracted to seeing members run the steam engines after the winter break. This is the 14th year of the spring event and it has been a two-day event for the past six years.

“It will now be the last full weekend in April,” Gilbert said, noting they changed from the first weekend in May because it conflicted with a similar event held in Northeast Connecticut. “It has always been a big draw for people. This year we are asking people to bring in what they’ve been working on over the winter to exhibit.”

The Spring Power-Up showcases CAMA’s own extensive collection of engines, tractors and model engines. All exhibit buildings, including the sawmill, blacksmith and Mining Museum, will be open to visitors. There will also be train rides. Exhibitors are free to join and there is a $25 fee for vendors who want to sell items that are machinery-related.

The Industrial Hall at the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association (CAMA) will feature a number of new steam engines during the annual Spring Power-Up event April 27-28. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

Food will be offered for sale by the Kent Lions Club.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children older than 12. Those younger than 12 are admitted free, as are CAMA members. Free parking and the “people mover” wagons will be in operation to bring people up the hill.

Visitors to the Industrial Hall will see a lot of new steam exhibits, thanks to one of their members, Frank Vopacek.

“In the last year, we’ve put 20 new displays in the Industrial Hall,” Gilbert said. “He (Frank) is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—steam certified trainer and technician in the country. He’s currently taking care of some of the last steam-fired plants in New York City and Newark, NJ.”

As Volpacek moves into retirement, he’s been visiting Kent more often to donate and install old steam engines that have expanded the collection, Gilbert explained.

There is an active membership of 100 people at CAMA and a full membership of about 1,200. Visitors will notice that there are more young people on the CAMA grounds. Gilbert said in recent years they’ve forged a relationship with the Litchfield County 4-H Club Working Wheels.

“We invited them in and gave them memberships and we invited them to hold their meetings on our grounds. Since then, four of them have become full members,” Gilbert said. “And it attracts other young people because they want to hang out and do something. There are things for them to do, like working on garden tractors.”

Gilbert said the younger members have helped make a dramatic shift for CAMA.

“We’ve gone in one year from the average officer’s age being 80 to it being 40,” he said. “Now we have this whole new blood.”

CAMA has recently redesigned its website and added several social media accounts. .

The regular season opens May 1 and the grounds at 31B Kent Cornwall Road are open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a visitor center with a staff member, in addition to volunteers on site when CAMA is open. Buses and tours are welcome with advance notice. The organization has already had three school tours booked for the new season.

(Editor’s Note: The name Vopacek was spelled incorrectly and has been corrected.)

Lynn Worthington
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  1. Avatar


    April 23, 2024 at 10:38 pm

    I love it!

    • Avatar

      jean bindschedler

      April 30, 2024 at 6:23 am

      so much passion, and dedication to the power of the past… is something special and comes to Life at cama!!!

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