Three Weeks, Three Shows

Portland, Indiana Mi Pleasant, Iowa Ottawa, Kansas

1/2 HP Plunket Jr. Engine

Nameplate on Russ and Marilyn Rieder's 1909 1/2 HP Plunket Jr.

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Mt. Pleasant, Iowa - Old Threshing Reunion

Although the Mt. Pleasant show is noted more for its steam engines than its stationary engines and tractors, this is a fantastic show for stationary engine fans. Rain has hit every show I've gone to this year, but the weather in Mt. Pleasant for the August 30-September 3 Midwest Old Threshers Reunion was nothing less than spectacular. Finally, blue skies, moderate temperature, and no rain.

Mt. Pleasant, if you've never been before, is a beautiful little town situated in southeastern Iowa, and the show is held at the fairgrounds on the south side of town, only blocks from downtown. And while the Mt. Pleasant show doesn't compare to Portland in terms of size, the quality is certainly there, and there are lots of gas engine to see. I should note here that when I called the Midwest Old Threshers to get a final attendee count, the number given was 113,000, quite a few more than the count given by Alvin Confer for the Portland show. For anyone attending both shows, there's no question but that Portland feels the larger of the two, and I can only imagine that there were more people making a short trip of Mt. Pleasant versus the massive camp out in Portland.

Zachary Tuller explains the inner workings of a Hercules hit-and-miss. This little guy was impressive; he could describe and explain all the parts that make an engine run.

Some of the first engines to catch my eye were exhibited by Russ and Marilyn Rieder, Newhall, Iowa, who brought not one, but two Plunket Jr. HP engines, both of 1909 vintage. Small and simple in design (Plunket's are headless), Russ said both these engines were originally used to power sewing machines. It's not known how long the Chicago-based J.E. Plunket Company was in business, but it's thought to have only been a year or so, making these engines very rare.

Sitting next to the Rieders was the Tuller family, from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and Three Way, Tenn., who brought a variety of engines, including a stunning 1914 1 HP Brownwall. The Tullers also oversaw the exhibition of a 1 HP Hercules that had been carefully cut down the right side to expose the hopper, the upper part of the cylinder barrel, and the combustion chamber and valve gear. This was a great exhibit, allowing anyone unsure about how an old stationary engine works the chance to spin one over and watch the interplay of the various parts of the engine. The exhibit also included a schematic of a single-cylinder engine printed on heavy card stock for attendees to take home, a nice little reference source on the inner workings of a gas engine. A great exhibit. Scott Wiley, Marion, Iowa, had a 1910 20 HP Clinton marine engine on display. Built by the Lamb Boat & Engine Co., Clinton, Iowa, this four-cylinder engine spent its early life powering a ferryboat on the Mississippi. Ernie Ledger, Brighton, Iowa, had an IHC LA on hand, running a mud pump to show attendees the sort of duty these engines were designed for. There was also a nice, circa 1907-1908 6 HP sideshaft Abenaque on hand, courtesy of Denny Puck and Bob Ellsworth. Made by the Abenaque Machine Works in Westminster Station, Vt., these are fairly uncommon engines.

An unknown: C.H. Wendel, who brought this two-cylinder opposed twin, says this approximately 18 HP engine was built sometime between 1914 and 1920. It looks similar to engines built by the Phillips Engine & Motor Co., Chicago, III.

Denny Puck and Bob Ellsworth's circa 1907-1908 Abenaque 6 HP sideshaft.

There were also some pretty impressive tractors on hand, including the 1912 IHC 25 HP Titan belonging to Jerry Shahan, Brashear, Mo. Sitting next to Shahan's Titan was an equally impressive 1922 Aultman & Taylor 30-60, owned by Ron Magnuson, Good Hope, Ill.

All told, a pretty fantastic show. The weather helped, of course, but even so Mt. Pleasant combines a unique mix of old equipment. Even with as much old iron as there is to see in Mt. Pleasant, it all feels accessible, and I can't wait to go back next year.

Ottawa, Kansas - 7th Annual Power of the Past Antique Engine & Tractor Show

Even though the 7th Annual Power of the Past show held at Forest Park in Ottawa, Kan., Sept. 7-9, was the smallest of the three shows, it was, in some ways, my favorite. In some measure that's probably due to its proximity to me; this was the first show of the year I could get to in less than 30 minutes. But more than that, 1 think its because some of these smaller shows, such as Ottawa's Power of the Past, capture the essence and the early spirit that drove and indeed drives the old iron hobby and its growth.

Anyone looking for a new project didn't have to look hard at this year's Ottawa show. Plenty of engines were for sale and waiting for a new home.

According to Lee Gottschamer, Power of the Past club member and one of the organizers of this year's show, about 2,000 people attended the show, and that's not bad considering this was only their seventh year. This year's show was definitely an improvement over previous years, Gottschamer says, owing in large measure to a change in venue from the open ball fields on the other side of the Marais des Cygnes river to tree-filled Forest Park, a few blocks from downtown Ottawa. Attendance likely would have been higher if not for the gale-force storm that swept through the area on Friday night, the first day of the show. But thanks to Forest Park's topography, with gentle, sloping rises and honest drainage, the show was free of the muddy quagmire that usually follows a heavy rain.

This is a decidedly tractor-driven show, and featured tractors this year were Massey-Ferguson. In keeping with a tractor show, exhibits were setup around Forest Park to show attendees how farmers used their tractors to get their work done. Among the exhibits were threshing operations, a shucking rig, two balers, a working sawmill, and a rock crusher, all of them belted to exhibitors' Massey tractors for power, of course.

For those interested in gas engines, a respectable selection was on hand, although Gottschamer says he thinks the rain kept some exhibitors away. Even so, there were some great exhibits, such as the one put on by Elouise and Bob Alexander, Lompoc, Calif. The biggest draw of the Alexanders' exhibit was a New England Butt Braiding Machine, circa 1899, powered by a 1 HP Gilson 60-Speed hit-and-miss.

Elouise tended the braiding machine while Bob tended the variety of engines they brought, including a 3 HP Samson running a pump and a 1 HP Fuller & Johnson Model NB belted to an antique corn sheller. This really was a great exhibit, themed toward the tremendous utility and purpose gas engines provided farmers early in the 20th century.

Leonard and Vicki Walburn, Humansville, Mo., brought their extensive collection of Maytags, including a relatively rare 1936 Model 92 short base, deep tank, an engine used exclusively for Model 19 washers.

Bob Alexander, Lompoc, Calif., gets ready to start his 3 HP Samson, one of several engines he had on hand and belted to a variety of implements.

Maytag fans didn't have to go farther than the exhibit staged by Leonard and Vicki Walburn, Humansville, Mo., which featured several Model 92 engines, including a relatively rare 1936 Model 92 short base, deep tank, an engine used exclusively for Model 19 washers. Curiously, the biggest showing of Ottawa engines (which were manufactured in Ottawa, Kan., starting around 1907 and continuing into the mid 1920s) was brought from Blain, Pa., by collectors George and Helen Myers. Ottawa fans to the core, they had five engines on hand.

This was a show you could pretty much take in over the course of morning, provided you didn't mind missing some of the scheduled activities, of which there were plenty. Hardcore engine fans I talked to said they'd like to see more gas engines, but most were satisfied with the selection on hand, confident that as the show builds it will attract a larger number and a greater variety of engines from around the area. Special thanks to club president Richard Mullins for putting on a great show.

Putting their backs into it: Club members thresh for attendees, complete with a period 1934 Ford pickup receiving the grain. Once they were done threshing they put the straw through a baler located behind the thresher.

Five-year-old Charlie Backus found his favorite tractor at the Ottawa show, a 1951 Farmall H belonging to Lee Gottschamer, Overbrook, Kan.

Three weeks, three shows, and three very different experiences, all of them great. It's kind of sad to think that this year's show season is over, but as we all know, there's always next year.

Contact Gas Engine Magazine editor Richard Backus at: (785) 274-4379,1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or email at: rbackus@ogdenpubs.com.