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
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
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
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
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