Sometime in the late 1990s I became good friends with an engine collector in Sint Annaparochie in northern Holland. We met through the Internet, and in 2000 Harry Terpstra came to visit me. During his visit we attended shows in Oregon, Washington and California, and visited many collectors in those states as well as Idaho and Montana. We also visited British Columbia and Nevada. This first tour became known as the "Hell On Wheels" tour by our friends on the Internet since we did all this in a 10-day period, and we tried to visit a couple collectors each day or attend a show. An average day started early, involved driving hundreds of miles and ended with a late dinner before going to bed.
The following year Harry came back for more. This time we pulled a trailer load of engines all the way to Portland, Ind., for the show. We visited collectors again in every state we drove through and tried to visit at least two collectors each day on our way to Indiana. On our return trip we also attended shows in Iowa and Minnesota.
During our travels and exchanges of e-mails, I developed an interest in European shows and in 2002 I traveled to Europe. Harry and I traveled through eight countries and visited about 20 collections in less than 10 days, plus ended the trip with three days at the Historische Motoren en Traktoren Vereniging (HMT), or in English, the Historical Stationary Engine and Tractor Club Show at Panningen in the Netherlands.
The HMT show is the best overall show I've attended. It has engines, tractors, a tractor parade, tractor pulls, model engines, vendors, music, steam, etc. In other words, it has everything any of the big American shows have. The nice thing about European gas engine shows is that you can still see American tractors and engines, plus you see engines and tractors from all over the world.
This year I returned to Holland to attend the 2006 Internationale Stationaire Motoren Show at Nuenen, The Netherlands - a premier showcase of European gas engines. I've heard about the Nuenen show for many years and have wanted to attend it since attending the HMT show and being so impressed.
The Nuenen show is a special in that it is an engine-only show. No tractors. It is also the show where the engine collectors from all over Europe come and bring their good stuff.
Nuenen is a bit unique in when it is scheduled each year. It is seven weeks after Easter each year. Since the Monday of the seventh week is a national holiday, the show is a Sunday-Monday show and Saturday is a setup day. Easter varies each year so the Nuenen show may be in May or it may be in June.
Although I recommend the HMT show to everyone, if your primary interest is engines, the Neunen show is the one to attend. At the 2006 show, there were exhibitors from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. A father and son from Hungary even hauled an early German engine weighing over a ton inside their Volkswagen van. There may have been more countries with exhibitors, but I'm reporting the ones I talked to.
There were slide valve engines from the 1800s, inverted engines and sideshaft engines galore. There were engines from America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Czech Republic, Austria, Australia and probably more.
Several things make the Nuenen show so enjoyable. First are the people you meet. The European collectors are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. It doesn't matter if you only speak English, there are enough people at the show able to speak multiple languages that communication really isn't a problem. Most collectors speak at least a bit of English and pointing and smiling goes a long way.
The father and son from Hungary brought a vertical German Gnom engine. It was an 806-mile drive for them. The son said they were stopped twice by the German police, as the police suspected they were smugglers. Their van had dark tinted windows and with the big engine in the van it was riding a bit low.
Their engine was on a cart and to get the engine in their van they had to remove the axles and wheels, plus several parts from the top of the engine to decrease the height so it would fit in the rear door. It was quite a process getting the engine out of the van and many people lent a helping hand getting the engine out. This was all done by hand and was quite interesting.
The engines are simply amazing. You'll see some of the oldest and most rare engines at this show. The variety in engine design is amazing. Although I'm American, I've been really impressed with the quality of the European engines and the variation in engine designs. We may have had a lot of engine manufacturers in the U.S., but Europe is where the majority of early engine history occurred.
I did an engine count on the last day of the show and would guess that there were about 500 engines on display during the show. Czech-made engines were the featured engine this year and I counted 10 different makes of Czech engines at the show. Having four Czech engines of my own, I have an appreciation for the quality of the Czech engines.
Exhibitors are treated very well. The engine display areas are roped off prior to the show, meaning exhibitors do not have to provide their own stakes and ropes for their display. Exhibitors are also given coupons good for food and drinks at the concession stand. Then to top it off, at the end of the show they're given a nice cast-brass plaque.
After the show my friend and I visited four collections in Germany, four in Belgium and a couple in Holland.
If you find early engines interesting, or just want an excuse to visit Europe, the Neunen show is well worth the trip. I'm not sure when, but I am sure that I'll be back there some time in the future.
Contact George Best at: 24696 S.W. Daniel Road, Beaverton, OR 97007; (503) 649-3576 (evenings); (503) 402-3391.