Gas engines were on the rebound at this year’s McLouth
Threshing Bee in McLouth, Kan. Hosted by the Heart of America
Antique Steam & Model Association, this year’s show, the
46th, saw a greatly improved event for stationary engine fans.
McLouth resident Darrin Jantz, chairman of the engine area, pins
this year’s successful crop of engines on the show’s
pairing with the Mo-Kan Antique Power Association, an antique
engine club that draws collectors from eastern Kansas and western
Missouri. In recent years the engine side of the show seemed to be
slipping, but this year several Mo-Kan members brought their
equipment to the show, and there’s no question the pairing
worked, with plenty of nice engines on display.
Darrin, who’s collecting interests run towards engines and
antique garden tractors, had an impressive display of equipment on
hand. His sentiments clearly lean toward originality, and most of
his equipment reflected this. Little of his equipment is restored
in the traditional sense of the term; instead it has all been
mechanically sorted but left pretty much as found.
On the engine side Darrin had a very nice 4 HP 1912 Sparta
Economy sitting alongside a 5 HP 1928 Galloway, not to mention a 2
HP 1916 Rock Island, a 1-1/4 HP Monitor and a 2 HP 1916 Witte. On
the garden side he had a very original Model T-45 Shaw Du-All
powered by a Nelson Bros. VC4 air-cooled single. Built in 1932 by
Shaw Mfg. Co., Galesburg, Kan., Darrin’s T-45 is a rare
survivor of Shaw’s early product line. Sitting next to the T-45
was Darrin’s 1936 Viking Twin Model CF garden tractor. Powered
by a 5 HP two-cylinder engine, the Viking was built by Allied Motor
Co., Minneapolis, Minn., and survivors are few and far between.
John Matthis, Atchison, Kan., had a nice display set up on the
far side of the grounds, including a very nice, very original
tank-cooled 4 HP Cushman Model CI, an IHC LA, a Fairbanks-Morse Z,
a McCormick-Deering Type M and an assortment of Maytags.
Paul Huffman, Sabetha, Kan., had his equipment set up next to
John, displaying his impressive 6 HP 1916 Stover. The Stover, which
hasn’t been cosmetically restored, is mounted on a buzz saw rig
from an IHC, its original long gone. This is one engine that’s
lucky to be around; the fellow Paul bought it from had bought it as
junk from fellow Kansas engine man Wayne Harsh years ago. When Paul
got the Stover 15 years ago he found the cylinder was broken
through to the hopper, the head was cracked, the stanchion for the
exhaust rocker arm was almost broken off and the governor was so
worn the weights had cut into the flywheel. ‘This old girl was
worn really bad,’ Paul says.
Even so, Paul coaxed the Stover back to life, bronze-welding the
engine’s various cracks after heating the cylinder in a forge –
followed by three days of cooling time packed in sand to keep the
cast iron from cracking again. The cylinder was sleeved and Paul
made a new crank gear out of machined steel, but the engine is
still running on its original babbitt bearings. It still has its
original nameplate, too, but almost by accident. Paul and Wayne
have occasion to see each other from time to time, and some time
back Paul was telling Wayne about his engine. Listening to Paul,
Wayne realized it had to be the old engine he had sold for junk,
and a while later he surprised Paul with the Stover’s
nameplate. It turns out Wayne removed the nameplate when he sold
the engine, figuring the Stover was going to end up as iron
Another nice engine was the 6 HP 1919 Fairbanks-Morse Z in Bud
Neal’s collection. Bud, Edwardsville, Kan., has had the Z for
the past 20 years, and he says it spent its early life powering a
buzz saw outside of Omaha, Neb. ‘It had a very sheltered
life,’ Bud says, noting that the Z was always covered and
overall was in excellent condition when he bought it. Restoration
work was limited to a thorough cleaning, grinding the valves,
replacing the gas tank and giving it a new coat of paint. Bud had
two other Zs, as well, including a 1928 2 HP throttle-governed Z
and a 1926 1-1/2 HP hit-and-miss Z.
Including a scale Case, six steam traction engines were on hand
for the show, and threshing demonstrations were held every day with
B. J. Robinson Sr.’s 1919 Rumely belted to a Wood Bros.
Hummingbird thresher. Tractors made a good showing, as well, and
there were some notable standouts, including Dan Hoffman’s 1927
McCormick-Deering 15-30. In the same family since new, Dan, Mooney
Creek, Kan., got the tractor from his father, Fred. Price when new?
$800 with single disc plow.
George Mathews brought a very nice 1924 Wallis 15-25, and
someone had an Empire tractor from the Empire Tractor Co.,
Philadelphia, Pa. Built between 1946 and 1948, Empire tractors used
Willys engines and transmissions sourced from surplus military
Jeeps, and it’s estimated some 6,800 of these little tractors
were made. Another interesting tractor was the 1922 Twin City 27-44
belonging to Joe Turner, Overbrook, Kan. Built by Minneapolis Steel
& Machinery Co., Minneapolis, Minn., these tractors featured an
advanced four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and
twin camshafts. Impressive stuff for 1922, to be sure. Sitting next
to the 27-44 was a 1920 Case 15-27 belonging to Chris Edmonds,
McLouth, Kan. Although it needs a total restoration, Chris’
15-27 appears to be a remarkably complete, original example of this
wonderful and rare machine.
There was, of course, much more. The Lawrence (Kansas) Antique
Garden Tractor Association hosted a garden tractor pull, and
members made a fine showing, with dozens of small riders on
display. Ted Boyle’s 1960 Panzer and 1966 Sears Suburban were
standouts. The weekend also saw full-size tractor pulls, daily
parades, shingle cutting and sawing demonstrations.
August is notoriously hot in Kansas, but fine weather – with
highs ‘only’ in the low 90s – helped to ensure a great
show, and if this year’s crop of engines is any indication,
next year’s show can only be better.
Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact
him at: 1503 S.W. 42nd. St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or via e-mail