Tom said he enjoyed the hobby of building scaled-down steam engines for the past three decades. He built a workshop in his garage and completed a lot of the parts fabrication himself, with the help of his son Terri.
Tom’s fascination goes back to his childhood, according to Terri.
“When Tom was a kid, his mom took him to Trolley Park where there was a popcorn machine,” Terri said. “He loved it and it was the inspiration for the one he runs at the fair.”
When Terri was a junior in high school, Tom began showing his engines at the Canfield Fair. He didn’t use hot water to create steam, but chose to run the engines off compressed air. He said it made the engines safer around children as there were no scalding hot parts that could burn a curious child.
While Tom solved the safety factor, there was one other thing that bothered him. It is one thing to show the engine running, but many would ask what it could do. That made sense to Tom and he began making things to demonstrate the power. One way was to run a generator to power lights. The other way took him back to his youth and the popcorn machine.
Tom designed a burner that had a moving pot above it. He put oil into the pot and fired up the steam engine connected to it. As the engine chugged, it shook the pan and made a perfect batch of popcorn. Since its introduction, the steam engine popcorn has become a regular stop for hundreds of fairgoers.
Showing the engines are fun for Tom and now his son and daughter-in-law are joining him to help keep the display moving along.
“I love doing this,” said Kitty Hacon, who now helps operate the popcorn popper.
Tom is still on hand to help out and still enjoys talking about his engines. His son is still involved and helps keep the other engines moving along. It has become a family affair for the Hacons and one that will reach the 30-year milestone in next year’s fair.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Terri Hacon fires up one of several scaled-down steam engines that was made by his father Tom Hacon. The engines were on display at the Canfield Fair last week, and he used one to make popcorn for fairgoers