1996 Midwest Old Threshers Reunion Was a Great Success!

By Staff

Public Relations Midwest Old Threshers 1887 Threshers Road Mt. Pleasant, Iowa 52641

With the help of five wonderful, rain-free days of weather, the 1996 Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, was a tremendous success. This year’s dates were August 29 through September 2. The large crowds, in upwards of 125,000, gathered on 120 acres to celebrate our agricultural history.

Let me first express Old Threshers’ deepest thank you to all of you who came to Mt. Pleasant to join us in this festival of steam. It was a terrific time and we wouldn’t be here without you.

For those of you who have never made it, but ‘always wanted to get down there for that,’ mark your calendars for next year, August 28 through September 1. It is an experience you cannot miss.

The Old Threshers Reunion has been called the largest Steam Show in America and for good reason. With over 100 traction steam engines, 300 gas tractors, 1000 gas engines, eight operating historic trolleys, steam trains, horses, antique cars and trucks, carousel, stationary steam engines whoa! Let me begin again.

The Old Threshers Reunion is home to many enthusiasts, and the whole culmination of the event is something to behold in sheer wonderment.

With the wonderful weather, all five Cavalcades of power were held, along with the tractor pulls and the Invitational Horse Pull.

The Traction Steam Engine area was at full steam this year. The demonstrations included a full scale saw mill and veneer mill, shingle mill, Prony Brake and Baker Fan demonstrations, steam threshing of wheat and oats, and sorghum mill operation. Boiler explanations were also included this year.

Many of the traction engines also participated in the tractor pull on Friday and Saturday mornings. It is amazing to see the horsepower that these huge machines hold.

The steam engine of the year was an 18 HP Colean owned by Larry Nelson of Muscatine, Iowa. The engine was built in 1905 by the Colean Manufacturing Company of Peoria, Illinois. The company made steam traction engines, separators and special steel geared steam traction engines for railroad contractors before gas engines replaced the steam powered equipment.

The black steam engine, trimmed in gold, is one of four remaining in the world. There is only one 18 HP, one 25 HP, and two 30 HP, which makes owning one even more special. The engine weighs over 18,000 pounds and travels up to 13 mph. The engine was purchased in 1982 and then restored (the former owner had restored it in 1960). Nelson did most of the work himself, and it nans great. His wife and two sons are in charge of the painting and detailing.

A favorite spot of many Reunion visitors was the tractor area. There were 360 registered tractors this year. All tractors must be 1939 unstyled or earlier models. Many exhibitors brought more than one tractor, and some displayed an entire collection of one model or make.

Tractors had the opportunity to show their stuff at the tractor pulls on Friday and Saturday mornings. It is a popular event at the Reunion, for the participants and spectators.

The featured tractor for 1996 was a 1936 English Fordson owned by Paul and Dorothy Martin. The blue and orange Fordson has 28 HP and was built in England between the years of 1931-45. Before that time, the tractor was made in the United States from 1918-1927. The tractor was made by the Ford Motor Company in grey and the blue and orange colors.

The Martins have been attending the Reunion since 1974 and own about 70 antique tractors.

There were over 1000 gas engines at the Reunion this year. Once again, a wonderful turnout. Demonstrations were as varied as one’s imagination. Exhibits depicted jobs made easier by the gas engine as well as the diversity they offered the farmer.

This year’s featured engine was the Foos Gas Engine Company of Springfield, Ohio. The company was in engine production from 1883 to 1930.

The Foos is also a central piece of equipment to be restored for a new mill project at Old Threshers. The new project will reconstruct a mill operated by Joseph Hiram Marvin in the late 1800s as a buckwheat and saw mill.

The Southeast Iowa Antique Car Club displayed over 100 cars and trucks of yesteryear at the Reunion. The featured car of the year was a 1935 Cabriolet owned by Harold and Joan Luns-ford of Palmyra, Missouri. Harold restored the engine and replaced the leather interior, but everything else is original. Ford produced 17,000 Cabriolets in ’35. The Cabriolet comes complete with a rumble seat, fold-down top, and a V-8 engine with 85 HP. Luns-ford’s auto is gun-metal blue with green apple trim, and was one of the faster cars of its time. The selling price in 1935 was $625.

Young and old love the lure of our trains and trolleys. These relics of the past are put to good use on the grounds transporting our visitors to and from their destinations. Narrow-gauge steam trains and eight historic trolleys offer a ride and history lesson that few can pass up.

This year’s Reunion was dedicated to the volunteers of Midwest Central Railroad and the memory of the late Stanley Mathews, founder and president of Midwest Central Railroad. The railroad had an excellent year transporting visitors and had very few mechanical problems.

Midwest Electric Railway celebrated their Silver Anniversary at the ’96 Reunion. The Southern Iowa Car #9 and the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin #3 20 were brought to Old Thresher grounds in 1968. The first year of operation was in 1971 on a short straight track. Since then, more track has been added and Old Threshers bought the electric line from Midwest Central Railway. There are now eight historic trolleys and 150 active members of Midwest Electric Railway who maintain and restore the trolleys.

One of our more recent additions to Old Threshers is the fully restored 1894 Herschell-Spillman Carousel. It is one of six steam powered carousels still in existence. The carousel returns to Old Threshers after almost 20 years in hiatus. The steam powered beauty offered rides to young and old throughout the Reunion.

The involvement in the Log Village and Snipe Run has once again increased. Both areas give Reunion visitors the opportunity to experience the food, clothing, crafts, daily activities, mannerisms, and entertainment of the 1850 time period.

The craft areas gave Reunion visitors the opportunity to watch skilled craftspeople demonstrate their expertise. Visitors could purchase these crafts as well as many quality antiques throughout the grounds.

The free entertainment was at an all time great this year with over 30 acts, many of them returning by popular demand from previous years.

The professional country music acts drew large crowds each night due to their high popularity and low cost ticket prices. Acts included the Fellingham Family, Trisha Yearwood, Collin Raye, Neal McCoy and Louise Mandrell.

Administrator Lennis Moore stated, ‘The entire Reunion was well run by the Association’s Board of Directors, staff and our many volunteers. People are dedicated to making the Reunion the best event possible, and contribute to the success of Old Threshers because they enjoy it.’ Moore concluded by saying, ‘Out volunteers truly make this event a Reunion in every sense of the word; a place people can always come home to.’

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