Annual Steam School

Heritage Park's Steam Engineer School is held to help promote and encourage the hobby of steam engineering. Two levels of classes are provided, a Beginners class and an Advanced class.

The Beginners Class requires no prior experience. Attendees of the seminar will be instructed in the safe operation and care of steam boilers and engines. Topics on boilers will include types of boilers, basic boiler operation, safety devices, proper boiler start up and shut down procedures, use of injectors and pumps, forced draft induction, firing a boiler under load, holding constant steam pressure and how to handle emergency situations. Steam engine topics will include basic operation of the steam engine, starting and stopping the engine, introductory levels of how the valve gear works, how a steam engine governor works and how to lubricate the engine and drive train.

The Advanced Class is for those students who have prior operator experience and have already attended a steam school somewhere and would like to get into more detailed aspects of boiler work and engine maintenance. Topics and hands on experience include boiler testing calculations, safety valve sizing, in depth engine timing, injector internal operation, horsepower calculations, tube installation and removal, steam gauge calibration, and bearing babbitting,

As part of the course, All Attendees will help prepare one or more steam traction engines for steam up. This will include washing the boiler, visually inspecting the boiler, ultrasonically testing the boiler, installing hand hole plates, checking for leaks as the boiler is filled with water, cleaning the flues and lubricating the engine and drive train. Students, under the supervision of experienced engineers, will steam-up one or more steam traction engines. They will have hands-on experience operating the steam traction engine including proper firing techniques, ways to check boiler water level, starting and stopping the injector and/or pump, starting and stopping the engine, maneuver the engine through a prearranged course and help trouble shoot problems.

Although Iowa does not require a license to operate steam boilers, Heritage Park of North Iowa has instituted their own operator licensing requirements. To that end, a test that is similar to the test required by the States of Minnesota and Ohio for their Hobby Steam Engineers License will be administered at the conclusion of the seminar for attendees wishing to become a licensed Heritage Park Engineer. All attendees successfully completing the seminar and test will be provided a certificate of completion. In addition to passing the Heritage Park Engineer’s written test, 50 hours of hands on experience is required and the student demonstrate their competence by performing a number of steam traction engineering operating tasks. Each task must be signed off by a Heritage Park licensed engineer.

Heritage Park's Steam Engineering School is accredited by the State of Minnesota and the State of Ohio. Those students who successfully complete the course will be given credit for 16 hours of experience toward the 50 required hours to get a Minnesota Hobby Engineer License.

The course is held the third weekend in May at Heritage Park's show grounds that is on the south edge of Forest City, Iowa. Tuition is $75 and includes the student handout, continental breakfast, lunch and break refreshments.This is an increase over the last several years, but as our cost go up we must pass the increases along. We still feel is is a tremendous value. Also we must ask that if you sign up you are committed to attending the class. We have had a number of last minute cancellations in the past that we were unable to fill. Tuition is due on the first day of class.

The school is limited to 50 Beginners and 25 Advanced. Registration can be done by clicking the links below.

Beginners Class 

Advanced Class

Camping & Hotel Information

Heritage park has camping available for attendees of Steam School, there are also various area hotels available. The above link has all of the information.

Steam School Topics

Over the two days of steam school a number of topics will be discussed. Below is a high-level overview of the topics discussed. You may download a full outline of steam school topics for more detail.

  • Properties and power of steam
  • Boiler construction
  • Boiler safety devices
  • Boiler testing
  • Water feed devices
  • Boiler explosions
  • Basic boiler operation
  • Basic boiler maintenance
  • Steam engine construction
  • Steam engine operation


The following are quotes from attendees of past Steam School Events.

“A very nice course. Great experience”

“I really appreciate what you guys do for us students. The experience was fantastic and the use of the equipment was wonderful.”

“I look forward to steam school every year. Everyone is so friendly. The food is great. To get a chance to actually run an engine is wonderful. You have a good group of field instructors who are glad to answer questions and help with any questions you have. Thank You”

“It was a very enjoyable experience and I learned a ton. Enjoyed the cookies and food too”

“Very impressed with everything. I will be back next year”

© 2021 Heritage Park of North Iowa