2003 McLouth Threshing Bee

Gas Engines on the Rebound at the 46th Annual Show

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Gas engines were on the rebound at this year's McLouth Threshing Bee in McLouth, Kan. Hosted by the Heart of America Antique Steam & Model Association, this year's show, the 46th, saw a greatly improved event for stationary engine fans.

McLouth resident Darrin Jantz, chairman of the engine area, pins this year's successful crop of engines on the show's pairing with the Mo-Kan Antique Power Association, an antique engine club that draws collectors from eastern Kansas and western Missouri. In recent years the engine side of the show seemed to be slipping, but this year several Mo-Kan members brought their equipment to the show, and there's no question the pairing worked, with plenty of nice engines on display.

Darrin, who's collecting interests run towards engines and antique garden tractors, had an impressive display of equipment on hand. His sentiments clearly lean toward originality, and most of his equipment reflected this. Little of his equipment is restored in the traditional sense of the term; instead it has all been mechanically sorted but left pretty much as found.

On the engine side Darrin had a very nice 4 HP 1912 Sparta Economy sitting alongside a 5 HP 1928 Galloway, not to mention a 2 HP 1916 Rock Island, a 1-1/4 HP Monitor and a 2 HP 1916 Witte. On the garden side he had a very original Model T-45 Shaw Du-All powered by a Nelson Bros. VC4 air-cooled single. Built in 1932 by Shaw Mfg. Co., Galesburg, Kan., Darrin's T-45 is a rare survivor of Shaw's early product line. Sitting next to the T-45 was Darrin's 1936 Viking Twin Model CF garden tractor. Powered by a 5 HP two-cylinder engine, the Viking was built by Allied Motor Co., Minneapolis, Minn., and survivors are few and far between.

John Matthis, Atchison, Kan., had a nice display set up on the far side of the grounds, including a very nice, very original tank-cooled 4 HP Cushman Model CI, an IHC LA, a Fairbanks-Morse Z, a McCormick-Deering Type M and an assortment of Maytags.

Paul Huffman, Sabetha, Kan., had his equipment set up next to John, displaying his impressive 6 HP 1916 Stover. The Stover, which hasn't been cosmetically restored, is mounted on a buzz saw rig from an IHC, its original long gone. This is one engine that's lucky to be around; the fellow Paul bought it from had bought it as junk from fellow Kansas engine man Wayne Harsh years ago. When Paul got the Stover 15 years ago he found the cylinder was broken through to the hopper, the head was cracked, the stanchion for the exhaust rocker arm was almost broken off and the governor was so worn the weights had cut into the flywheel. 'This old girl was worn really bad,' Paul says.

Even so, Paul coaxed the Stover back to life, bronze-welding the engine's various cracks after heating the cylinder in a forge - followed by three days of cooling time packed in sand to keep the cast iron from cracking again. The cylinder was sleeved and Paul made a new crank gear out of machined steel, but the engine is still running on its original babbitt bearings. It still has its original nameplate, too, but almost by accident. Paul and Wayne have occasion to see each other from time to time, and some time back Paul was telling Wayne about his engine. Listening to Paul, Wayne realized it had to be the old engine he had sold for junk, and a while later he surprised Paul with the Stover's nameplate. It turns out Wayne removed the nameplate when he sold the engine, figuring the Stover was going to end up as iron slag.

John Matthis' very nice 4 HP Model C1 Cushman, serial no. 53372, complete with original skids, cooling tank, battery box and gas tank. This style of Cushman was first introduced in 1910.

Another nice engine was the 6 HP 1919 Fairbanks-Morse Z in Bud Neal's collection. Bud, Edwardsville, Kan., has had the Z for the past 20 years, and he says it spent its early life powering a buzz saw outside of Omaha, Neb. 'It had a very sheltered life,' Bud says, noting that the Z was always covered and overall was in excellent condition when he bought it. Restoration work was limited to a thorough cleaning, grinding the valves, replacing the gas tank and giving it a new coat of paint. Bud had two other Zs, as well, including a 1928 2 HP throttle-governed Z and a 1926 1-1/2 HP hit-and-miss Z.

Beyond Engines

Including a scale Case, six steam traction engines were on hand for the show, and threshing demonstrations were held every day with B. J. Robinson Sr.'s 1919 Rumely belted to a Wood Bros. Hummingbird thresher. Tractors made a good showing, as well, and there were some notable standouts, including Dan Hoffman's 1927 McCormick-Deering 15-30. In the same family since new, Dan, Mooney Creek, Kan., got the tractor from his father, Fred. Price when new? $800 with single disc plow.

George Mathews brought a very nice 1924 Wallis 15-25, and someone had an Empire tractor from the Empire Tractor Co., Philadelphia, Pa. Built between 1946 and 1948, Empire tractors used Willys engines and transmissions sourced from surplus military Jeeps, and it's estimated some 6,800 of these little tractors were made. Another interesting tractor was the 1922 Twin City 27-44 belonging to Joe Turner, Overbrook, Kan. Built by Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co., Minneapolis, Minn., these tractors featured an advanced four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and twin camshafts. Impressive stuff for 1922, to be sure. Sitting next to the 27-44 was a 1920 Case 15-27 belonging to Chris Edmonds, McLouth, Kan. Although it needs a total restoration, Chris' 15-27 appears to be a remarkably complete, original example of this wonderful and rare machine.

There was, of course, much more. The Lawrence (Kansas) Antique Garden Tractor Association hosted a garden tractor pull, and members made a fine showing, with dozens of small riders on display. Ted Boyle's 1960 Panzer and 1966 Sears Suburban were standouts. The weekend also saw full-size tractor pulls, daily parades, shingle cutting and sawing demonstrations.

August is notoriously hot in Kansas, but fine weather - with highs 'only' in the low 90s - helped to ensure a great show, and if this year's crop of engines is any indication, next year's show can only be better.

Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact him at: 1503 S.W. 42nd. St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or via e-mail at: rbackus@ogdenpubs.com