Three Weeks, Three Shows

Portland, Indiana Mt. Pleasant, Iowa Ottawa, Kansas

Ted Brookover

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Ted Brookover, Kansas City, Mo., applies pinstriping to Jim French's Tillinghast at the Portland show.

Three weeks, three shows. No, I don't say that because it's particularly impressive, it's just the way things worked out. What's more interesting is that the shows ended up, not due to any planning, following a progression, from largest to smallest, and in the process giving an interesting perspective of just what you get as you step from one level of show, size-wise, to the next. A lot of folks might think in terms of the bigger the better, but while the big shows are great, that doesn't mean the smaller shows are any less enjoyable.

Portland, Indiana - 36th Annual Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show

The first in the line of three was the 36th Annual Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show, held August 22-26 at the Jay County Fairgrounds in Portland, Ind. This is not your average show - not hardly - and if you've never been, it's almost hard to describe this show simply because of its sheer size. There are more engines, tractors and sale items assembled together at this show than any other. Period.

And it's not just the volume of equipment that's impressive: it's the number of people (estimated at about 75,000 by Al Confer, president of the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Association, down a bit from last year due to heavy rain on Wednesday) and the fact that this show, more than probably any other in the U.S., is fast becoming an international event. During the course of a few days, I met engine enthusiasts who had flown in from Japan, Australia and England, and who had driven down from Canada.

Nameplate of Tommy and Isaiah Turner's 8 HP IHC, built prior to 1905 and believed to be the oldest IHC engine extant.

For them, this was the seminal event of the year, a chance to get together with people in the old iron hobby they'd been emailing for the past year, a chance to enjoy some shared community and see more engines in one place than can be experienced anywhere.

This increasingly international flavor is due, in large part, to the influence of the Antique Tractor and Internet Service, or ATIS as it's commonly called. ATIS, which traces its roots back to 1993, oversees a number of internet bulletin boards, or lists as they're often called, for collectors, including a stationary engine list. And there's no questioning but that internet forums foster communication between people from around the world. It's fantastic to meet collectors and enthusiasts from literally the other side of the globe, and it's equally fantastic to see how much they enjoyed this, the biggest of all engine shows.

Fittingly, there were a number of engines from outside the U.S. on hand for this year's show. A very interesting engine was the 1 HP The Little Tuerk owned by Audry McGennan, Kippen, Ontario, Canada. According to Brian Triebner, who brought the engine to the show, there are only three known to exist, and not much is known about the company. The engine was built sometime in the early 1900s in Berlin, Ontario. Another unusual engine was Keith Munter's 10 HP, sideshaft Ruston-Hornsby, built in Lincoln, England, and originally sold in 1924. Also in attendance were two Czechoslovakian Lorenz sideshaft horizontal engines, courtesy of Steve Royster, Asheville, N.C., and Arnie Fero, Pittsburgh, Pa. Both were unrestored, both were sitting on their original trucks, complete with intricate cast wheels, and both were, quite simply, beautiful. Unfortunately, I never did manage to catch up to the owner of the vertical 3 HP Petter, built in Yeovil, England.

Among the amazing variety of domestic engines was an 8 HP 1HC brought by Tom Turner of Magnolia, Ky. Wearing s/n 33, Turner claims this engine was built prior to 1905 and says it is believed to be the oldest IHC in existence. An 1899 2-1/2 HP Industrial Iron Works, one of the oldest engines in the show, was brought by Ted Brookover, Kansas City, Kan.

Tim Christoff Basehor, Kan., had a fabulous 2 HP Model C New Way on hand, and David Babcock, Cass City, Mich., brought a fantastic 30 HP Foos, circa 1920 vintage. Doug Mixter, a 16-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pa., had his beautiful 1907 Bessemer 2 HP vertical running the entire time. Mixter received the engine as a Christmas gift from his father and grandfather when he was 8 years old, and he's been chasing engines ever since. He also displayed a stunning circa 1910-1911 3 HP Stickney.

Anyone looking for oilfield engines didn't have to look hard. Steve and Mel Webre, Lafayette, La., brought a 20 HP Simplex, original and running beautifully, and Mark Smith brought his restored 15 HP Reid featuring the Clerk 2-cycle design (for more information, see Russell Farmer's discussion in Oil Field Engine News on page 7). Speaking of Russell Farmer, among the collection of engines he brought was a 1923 Faibanks-Morse 50 HP Type Y. And last, but not least, the fabulous 15 HP Tillinghast, affectionately dubbed 'Tillie,' newly belonging to Jim French, a 40th birthday present from his wife, Helen. Jim and Helen both flew in for the show from England, and Helen, it should be noted, stewards The Stationary Engine List, a regular column in GEM featuring a different thread culled every month from the ATIS Stationary Engine List.

This 1920s, 20 HP Muncie Oil Engine was restored in 1993 by the Delaware Machinery & Tool Co. of Muncie, Ind., which occupies the location where Muncie Gas Engine & Supply Co. formerly operated and where this engine was built.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at o-dark thirty on Saturday morning, so after a long day Friday, followed by a final gathering of ATIS members over in the low-rent district at the fairgrounds, I fumbled my way through the grounds and back towards my motel. That last walk was, in some ways, the most memorable of the show. Walking through the fairgrounds, around the edge of the display area, I could clearly hear the rhythmic, mechanical intake, pop, and exhaust of some of the old engines in the distance, still running even though it was 11:30 at night, the noise gently filtering through the trees. 1 could only imagine who was still up, still puttering, and 1 wished 1 could go and join them instead of preparing to head off. There's always next year. And if you haven't been, make plans now to go next year. It's an experience you'll never forget.

The Munter family's 10 HP sideshaft Ruston-Hornsby, built in Lincoln, England.

Finally, it should be acknowledged that ATIS, at its annual banquet on the Thursday night of the show, a festive gathering of members and friends, raised almost $3,000 for local charities during its annual auction. Additionally, it was suggested and agreed during the auction that a portion of that money would be sent to the Medina County Fair Victims Fund to help victims of the steam engine explosion at the Medina County Fairgrounds this past July 29.