Field Day of the Past

By Staff

P.O. Box 375, Oilville, Virginia 23129

The engines were reved up and running full tilt. The sound on
the track where the tractors are lined up, waiting their turns to
pull, mingled with the noise from the center of the field. There a
constant putt-putt hummed as visitors strolled by taking in the

Occasionally the deep sounds of the steam whistle announced to
the crowd the sawmill was sawing boards. The noise from the shingle
mill added to the din. All these sounds commingled with the smells
and sights that proclaimed another Field Day of the Past.

In October more than 12,000 visitors and guests converged on the
rolling hills near Centerville in Goochland County, Virginia where
the third annual Field Day of the Past was being held. Each year
this event, sponsored by the Rockville-Centerville Steam & Gas
Historical Association, recreates eras from America’s past.
Antique tractors, trucks, cars, and construction equipment line the
field to present an image of the American workplace since the
Industrial Revolution.

In three years the scope of Field Day of the Past has grown to
encompass many phases of American and Virginia history. The first
show in 1992 brought together steam and gas engine enthusiasts,
allowing them to display their antique engines.

By 1994 the show had grown considerably. Last year the event
conjured up images of the ‘old timey’ county fairs. More
than 200 exhibitors from across Virginia and from as far away as
Florida came together. Exhibits included a 1928 Hercules gas
engine, a 1913 William’s grist mill, a lime spreader, a 1920s
Hocking Valley ensilage cutter, and Ottawa log saw, toy steam
engines and antique sewing machines. A dog powered farm treadmill,
butter churns and butter making accessories, feed grinder, corn
shellers and sundry other pieces of equipment were also part of the

The annual antique tractor pull is still the primary drawing
card for Field Day and the tractor and small engine exhibits still
hold their places of honor on the field. But other attractions are
growing in popularity. The sawmill is powered by a steam engine
built in the 1940s. The sawmill hands lend an authentic air to the
operation. Many of them remember what it was like to earn a living
working at the millthey used to do this for a living.

The Mule Pull, a new event in 1994, recalled the times when
mules were an integral part of farming life.

Near the creek, under the overhanging oak limbs, an antique
washer used in the days of goldmining in Goochland County, Virginia
is a silent monument to the lure of gold.

A sorghum mill and the shingle mill, antique rock crushers, hay
balers and road machines underline the fact that earning a living
used to entail a hard day’s labor.

Indian camps, Scottish Highlanders, fur trappers and pioneers,
biplanes and other antique aircraft, and old fire equipment took
visitors back to the past. The Buckingham Lining Bar Gang
illustrated the place blacks once were held as railroad

‘Field Day is not just a show,’ Association president
Joseph R. Liesfeld, Jr. explained. ‘It’s the memory of who
we are and where we have been. We want to represent history the way
it was and emphasize that everyone had a part in making

The concept seems to be working. Wide eyed kids sucking sorghum
cane are led around by parents who stop and point. Old timers
gather to relive the spent days of their youth. And everyone goes
home waiting for next year’s show.

The 4th annual Field Day of the Past is scheduled for 10 a.m. to
6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, October 21, and 22, 1995 in
Centerville. For more information call (804) 784-4195.

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines