Pouring rain is not what you want to wake up to on the first day of a show, but that's what greeted Jim LaRose as he awoke to get ready for the 23rd Annual Steam & Gas Engine Show held on the grounds of Frontier Village in Adrian, Mo., this past July 27-29.
Never mind the normal problems attending a steady downpour - muddy roads and wet equipment, tractors digging up the exhibit area as they move into position -there's the very real concern that people who might otherwise make the trip will opt for drier, indoor activities. And that's just what LaRose, club member and one of the organizers of this year's show, was worried about. For a little while it looked like that might be the case, for as Friday's rain held steady through the morning there were few people other than exhibitors milling around the grounds of Frontier Village.
Club member Kevin Johnson and his 1917 Rumley OilPull 30-60, the largest tractor the La Porte, Ind., manufacturer is known to have made. Rumely used oil cooling on its engines, a design that not only dispensed with worries of water freezing and the resulatant damage, but which also made components last longer due to oil's inherent preservative qualities.
But as noon drew near the rain abated, the clouds lifted from their moorings on the ground, and the sky slowly broke through - and none too soon for LaRose, or for the rest of the exhibitors still trying to setup in what had been looking to be a growing quagmire. As luck would have it the rest of the weekend pulled through with fair weather (Saturday ended up being a record day for the show), affording a fantastic opportunity for attendees and exhibitors alike to view the extraordinary array of tractors and engines on display.
This year's Western Missouri Antique & Tractor Machinery Association (WMA&TMA) show also hosted the Minneapolis-Moline Collectors Club Summer Convention, meaning of course that a wonderful collection of M-M tractors found their way to Frontier Village, assembling together as an anchor for the weekend show.
Attendees were given an opportunity to view an impressive cross-section of M-M tractors, ranging from some of the company's earliest efforts and even including a rare 1944 M-M UTX 'jeep.' Not a tractor in the agricultural sense of the word, this machine was built by M-M during WWII to serve duty for the armed forces in a variety of capacities. The 'jeep' on display this year comes from the collection of Clint Stamm of Washington, Mo., and according to him its last military service was at an air force base where it was used to shuttle aircraft around. It's interesting to note that there are those who claim the origin of the term 'jeep' started with this vehicle during early testing at Camp Ripley in Minnesota. The story goes that the term was coined by testers who said it reminded them of a Popeye cartoon character named Jeep, a character who was neither beast nor fowl but knew the answers to everything. M-M even ran advertisements at the time stressing their role in the origination of the term.
Clint Stamm's 1939 Minneapolis-Moline Model RTU, one of approximately 200 built. Stamm brought along photos detailing the restoration of this tractor, a rare survivor as most cabs were removed by owners due to their lack of space.
Clint Stamm also brought along a 1939 M-M RTU enclosed cab model that he recently acquired, along with four other tractors from his growing collection. Few examples of the RTU survive, as most of the tractor cabs were eventually removed by their owners because of the limited view and movement they afforded operators.
Also on display was the 1956 M-M UTS restored by high school student Clint Walton, Covington, Tenn. A project designed to earn Clint his mechanic's proficiency award in the Future Farmers of America, this restoration was stunning - and a great example of what can be done by the younger members involved in this hobby.
Clint Walton conducted a fantastic restoration on this 1956 Minneapolis-Moline Model UTS for his mechanic's proficiency award for Future Farmers of America. This tractor was stunning.
Frick engines were the featured steam engine at this year's show, and as expected the engines were put to work at various chores - running a saw mill, threshing, giving first time visitors a chance to see what these machines were used for and can still do. Saturday also saw a 'slow' race, an obligatory 'Parade of Power' down Frontier Village's Main Street, and also some rodeo games later on in the afternoon.
A decided highlight of Friday's opening day was the firing up of the 1934 Fairbanks-Morse that's on permanent display at Frontier Village. Originally consigned to run a generator for the town of Pattonsburg, Mo., this 150 HP, 2-cylinder, 2-stroke, diesel engine was bought by the WMA & TMA in 1999 and put onto its present moorings on July 8 of that year. Club member Tim Hummel oversaw the moving and installation of this engine, and it's also Tim who takes the engine through its startup.
Starting this engine is accomplished by use of compressed air, the cylinders set just past top-dead-center so that the flow of high-pressure air will push the cylinders down and get enough reciprocation going to get a good intake/compression stroke and resulting combustion. And combust it did, firing up without a hitch much to the delight of the crowd that assembled to watch this now annual rite.
Clint Stamm's 1944 Minneapolis-Moline Model NTK, one of approximately 800 built between 1940 and 1945. Very few survive.
Exhibitor John Hemme fires up his engines, including the 1913 2- HP Stover in the foreground that he had listed for sale at the show.
Club member Gary Nichols and an assistant use a steel pole inserted in the flywheel of the 150 HP Fairbanks-Morse to line up the crankshaft in preparation for starting the 2-cylinder, 2-cycle diesel.
Flea Market vendor Wayne Walker had a flatbed trailer full of early stationary engines for sale, including this John Deere he had up and running, smoothly idling away and waiting for a new home.
Another interesting addition to this year's show was a conversion tractor based on a Ford Model T. Donated to Frontier Village by the family of George and Maxine Sollars, this old unit was coaxed into running in time for the show. Although popular for a short time, conversion tractors were inherently limited in their abilities. Even so, they served many farmers quite well and represent an interesting side note in the history of farm tractors and tractor evolution.
A great many stationary engines made it to Adrian, not least of which was the 1910 Superior brought by Gary Nichols, Page Hill, Mo. According to Nichols this 25 HP unit originally ran an oil pump in Oklahoma, a duty these engines were especially designed for. Nichols rebuilt the engine - a throttling-governor design - five years ago, and currently has it running on propane. For show purposes he lets it 'idle' at about 80 RPM, its 1,200-pound flywheels gently spinning along. With 23 engines to his name, Nichols says his wife thinks 'it'd be better if I did drugs' than collect engines. Not likely.
One of the more interesting exhibits was staged by club member Kevin Johnson, who recreated a trick John Deere is said to have employed when selling Model D tractors. Johnson's tractor was set on four old coke bottles, as done years ago at county fairs by John Deere, and set in motion, engine running and rear wheels turning - a trick used to prove then, as it does now, that these tractors were every bit as balanced as more expensive 4-cylinder models.
The show wound down on Sunday, but the enthusiasm of exhibitors and attendees was still running high even as they prepared to pack up and take their leave. Around 500 tractors (including approximately 125 M-M tractors), crawlers and stationary engines were on display, and LaRose estimates that a record number of people made it to the show this year, somewhere around 3,750. LaRose thinks a major reason for the show's success is the philosophy of inclusion that the club embraces, encouraging engines and tractors from across the board to participate in the show. 'You need it all,' LaRose says, 'if you don't have it all you're going to lose the crowd.'
For more information about the WMA & TMA, contact Jim LaRose at Route 2, Box 112, Adrian, MO 64720.
Kevin Johnson set his JD Model D on four pop bottles and then ran the engine and rear wheels, proof of the D's smoothness and balance.
A Lindeman crawler-conversion based on a Model B John Deere. John Deere was so impressed with what Lindeman was doing that it eventually bought the company.
Frontier Village is a living museum designed to give people a sense of our farming heritage and how life was lived in years gone by. Part of that heritage revolves around the engines that changed life on the farm in rural America, and some of them are on permanent display at the village.
The village itself has been slowly evolving, a product of the combined efforts of members of the Western Missouri Antique & Tractor Machinery Association. Set up on property owned by the town of Adrian just below the Adrian Dam, the club has a 99-year lease from the city at a cost of $1 a year. The village is not open to the general public, but rather serves as a focal point for the club and its activities.
Many of the buildings in the village are original structures brought in and saved from destruction, and the village's church is routinely used for weddings.
Included in the collection are a number of running engines used to power various elements of the village. There's even a small-scale production line (run by a tractor, of course) that is being used to build sections of track for the miniature rail line set on the village's grounds. Currently there is around a quarter mile of track in use, but with close to 5,000 feet of track manufactured and waiting in the wings, the miniature line still has a lot of growing in its future, as does the rest of the village and the WMA & TMA.
Finding Frontier Village is easy. It's located on the eastern edge of Adrian, just off state Highway 71 in west-central Missouri, approximately 50 miles south of Independence, Mo.