Built almost 100 years ago, there are only a few hundred steam cars around the United States and even fewer have owners to manage and drive them. But for those who do, it's a unique and fun hobby that involves both traveling the country and meeting new people.
At the American Gothic House in Eldon Tuesday, it was history meets history. Around a dozen steam cars stopped by on their Steamin' Hot Tour, a week-long drive around Southeast Iowa.
"This group stopped by and said this was a place they really wanted to come," said Holly Berg, Administrator at the Gothic House. "They'll be here about an hour, they're all going to get their photos taken in front of the house, get some refreshments while they're here and get on the road."
Most of the cars were made between 1908 and 1920. They do an average of 35 miles per hour and can run between 35 to 40 miles before the tank needs refilling. The cars are certainly crowd-pleasers, but for the folks who own them, it's more about the people they meet and the experience of driving on the road.
"We all feel very lucky that we got into this," said Mike Roach of Libertyville, Illinois. "We're all different, as you might guess, we're all from different walks of life. I'm a lawyer, which no mechanical stuff involved in lawyering at all, so this is a nice outlet for me."
Roach said he's been involved with steam cars for around 20 years and it's always a learning experience. On any drive, there could be a new problem or situation needing to be fixed. The owners of the cars keep in touch with each other, communicating new information and technology about their machinery.
"There's people here from all over the country," said Al Moody, also of Libertyville and the owner of a 1914 Stanley Steamer. "The state of Washington to Vermont and down in Florida, all here with these cars."
The cars will be making their way around Southeast Iowa all week and will end at the Iowa Threshers reunion in Mt. Pleasant Thursday.
Many of the drivers take their cars on week-long drives like this one several times throughout the year. But Roach said the scenic countryside and minimum traffic makes Iowa an ideal spot for steam cars to drive.