Based in the Midwest as we are, when folks around the Gas Engine Magazine office think of gas engine show sites, they tend to conjure up images of flat, open fields and the occasional grove of trees. But in Vermont there's almost no such thing, and instead of looking for level land for show sites, engine collectors there look for vistas and accessibility. This year's Vermont Gas and Steam Engine Association Show, held on the grounds of the Old Blair Farm outside of Warren, Vt., provided both, with a definite emphasis on vistas.
The Old Blair Farm belongs to Ken and Fran Blair, and it's doubtful a better location for a show exists. Situated in the famous Mad River Glen area of west-central Vermont, the Old Blair Farm sits high on a ridge, with broad, sweeping views of the Mad River Glen below and the Green Mountains beyond. It's a stunning location, especially for a flatlander, and it's just that much better when it's accompanied by the sights and sounds of old engines.
Bob Williams' 1-1/2 HP Empire and his Davis Swing Churn. Empire engines were made by Alamo Manufacturing Co., Hillsdale, Mich.
Club president Bob Williams, Barton, Vt., had his engines set up at the start of the corridor forming the engine display, and like many other members his engine, a beautiful 1-1/2 HP Empire, was running and belted to a stunningly original 1880s No. 7 Davis Swing Churn. Made by Vermont Farm Machine Co., Bellows Falls, Vt., the Davis Swing Churn was available in several sizes and was a very popular item in the Northeast.
Just across the way from the Empire, Bob Gaffney's circa 1910 2-1/4 HP Associated
Bob Gaffney's Marvel Draw Cut Saw No. 2 cuts through a piece of metal stock with Bob's 2-1/4 HP Associated (flywheel just visible) supplying power.
Redman was quietly working away pulling a draw cut saw. Bob had the saw, a Marvel Draw Cut Saw No. 2, pulling a blade across a piece of 3-inch round metal stock, and he kept it cutting throughout the day, resetting the stock whenever a cut was finished.
The husband and wife team of Tom and Diana Holton, West Chesterfield, N.H., had their engines working as well, with a pair of late-model Fairbanks-Morse Zs belted to a pair of water pumps. Their 1942 2 HP Z was pulling a 1917 single-acting Myers while its partner, a 1947 2 HP Z, was pulling a 1923 Douglas double-acting pump. Tom, who got in to engines 25 years ago, says the pumps originally belonged to his father-in-law, who showed them for 20 years before passing them on to Tom.
Jim and Bonny Wilkin, Island Brook, Quebec, Canada, brought this interesting little 2-3 HP engine with condensor radiator built by Modine Engine Co., Racine, Wis., in the 1940s.
Ken Allen Sr. and Ken Allen Jr., Rutland, Vt., were likewise engaged showing their engines working, with a 1-1/2 HP 1935 Stover CT1 belted to a wooden barrel churn and a 1-1/2 HP 1914 Style K Stover belted to a sharpening hone. Bill Thorneloe came down from Marbleton, Quebec, Canada, with his 1-1/2 HP 1920s J.A. Fellows, which he belted to his Manns Green Bone Cutter, all set up next to an impressive collection of antique tools he's amassed over the years.
There were, of course, plenty of engines that were just running or sitting, as was the case with the very original circa 1916 4 HP Meco belonging to William and Valerie Castimure, Sparta, N.J. Made by Manufacturers Engine Co., Kansas City, Mo., (hence the Meco name), these engines were only available for a few years and are a rare sight.
Alden Piper, Leominster, Mass., brought his 8 HP 1918 Simplicity, an engine he worked with when he was a kid in the 1930s filling a silo and cutting wood. When William Flint, the engine's first owner, put the engine aside, it ended up stuck under a barn and it sat for decades. When William decided to try and sell the engine Alden made his interest clear, so William gave it to Alden, instead - William saw it run one more time before passing away a few years ago.
Brice Winters, North Bangor, N.Y., had an interesting sideshaft 4 HP circa 1915 Wisconsin on hand. Brice says he's had the engine for 30 years, but just got it running in the last five. The engine was in rough shape, missing many of its critical parts, including the cylinder head, valve chest, piston and rod cap. Brice fabricated a new cylinder head and a new valve chest, and while he readily admits it isn't original, he's justifiably proud of having it running.
Doug Lunna, Stockbridge, Mass., had his 12 HP 1921 Hercules Model EK on hand, an engine that spent its early life in a dowel factory. Doug, who's had the engine since 1971, says
the Charlie Handley Mill of East Granville, Vt., (just over the ridge from the show site) was the engine's first owner. They worked the engine hard, Doug says, noting that the timing gears were worn to a point when he got it. This was the largest engine at the show, and its local history was a great addition.
Doug Lunna's 12 HP 1921 Hercules EK, serial no. 245339. This was the biggest engine at the show, and an excellent running piece of equipment.
It's interesting to note there were no Abenaque engines on hand, especially considering the Abenaque Machine Works was right down the road in Westminster Station. Bob Williams isn't surprised, however, noting the high cost of Abenaque engines. 'Most of those engines were probably shipped out of state,' Bob says, noting that an Abenaque was probably out of reach for the average Vermont farmer.
This is very much an engine show; the only tractors visible were a few John Deeres and what looked to be a derelict Farmall F-20 slowly becoming one with the earth.
It's also a small show, but that hardly detracts from its quality. With a stunning location, great engines, and of course great people, the Vermont Gas and Steam Engine Association put on a memorable event. Sadly, the Blair's have to sell a large portion of their 300-acre farm, and at this writing it's unclear if next year's show will be at the farm. Ken says he's hopeful the new owners will allow the show to continue, and if they do engine fans in the Northeast can look forward to another fine weekend in Vermont.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org