The Show Must Go On

Northwest Missouri Steam & Gas Engine Association’s 57th annual show

article image
Christine Stoner
One of several murals, this colorful pictoral description of the town can be seen on Hamilton’s main street.

In a year marked by cancellations and few public events, the Northwest Missouri Steam & Gas Engine Association held its 57th annual show on August 21-23. While all state and county Covid-19 restrictions were observed, the virus did not keep the public from turning out to celebrate all varieties of vintage power.

The show is held annually in Hamilton, Missouri. A town famous for being the boyhood home of J.C. Penney, Hamilton is also known as Quilt Town, USA, with many visitors being drawn to the Missouri Star Quilt Co.’s variety of stores that occupy main street. While these shops are temporarily closed, it’s easy to look through the glass storefronts and see why they draw quilters from all over the world.

Magazines in a cardboard box

The weekend kicked off with a tractor cruise while vendors and exhibitors claimed their corner of the fairgrounds to display all manner of relics from the past. Tractors, steam engines, antique jeeps and trucks, sawmills, threshers and, of course, gas engines were among the many historic pieces running throughout the day. In addition to the displays, blacksmiths and broom makers demonstrated their skills for onlookers. Food truck vendors kept attendees’ stomachs full, and a diverse flea market ensured patrons did not leave empty-handed. There were activities for even the youngest of visitors, including a kiddie tractor pull and a sand-box style saw-dust pit that made use of the shavings from the sawmill demonstration.

An advertisement for a gas engine show

Keeping it in the family

Generational ties could be found scattered across the fairgrounds. A Mogul 45 sat at front of the gas engine section with a mounted plaque describing its history. “It belonged to Russell Moss, the oldest of 13 children. My grandfather and my uncle Verl were the two youngest boys. I don’t know when it was built, I just know that the engine, the Mogul engine, came out of a blacksmith shop,” said Gary Moss, who comes from a long line of enthusiasts. The engine was featured in a 1975 issue of Engines and Engineers Magazine, which Gary brought along to add to the backstory.

black and white pages

Many of the events mentioned in the 1974 article are still taking place nearly 50 years later. Yet, attendees enjoy reminiscing about simpler times. “Before we had canopies for shade, Grandma would pack a picnic lunch, and we’d sit around and run engines all day long until they boiled. Then, Grandpa would put eggs in there and we’d have hard boiled eggs,” said collector Barry Chorum. “I miss the simpler times, but I also like air conditioning.” In the past, he enjoyed camping out all weekend long, but nowadays, he prefers to head to the hotel after a long day in the sun.

Green gas engine on grass A plague on a gas engine A close-up of machinery in a gas engine

“At the old fairgrounds, the old-timers would sit, with one light, around an octagon building and would play bluegrass music past dark. They weren’t even a band, they just played together … Back in the ’70s, you didn’t have 200 TV channels and you didn’t have the internet. You came out as a family to an event,” Gary said. “When your grandparents took you to shows you would show up on Friday and wouldn’t leave until Sunday evening, and everyone helped each other load up. Now we have to be back home on Sunday to cut the grass and attend church.”

Enthusiasts of all ages

Despite the distractions of the technology age, the show drew exhibitors from the younger generations. Christopher Llewellyn, 16, attended with his father, Lance Llewellyn, who has been bringing Christopher to engine shows since he was only 6 months old. Christopher found his first engine, an International Harvester, at the Midwest Old Threshers in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. It was running, but without a gas tank, which he later added. He also equipped it with a pumpjack. He had a difficult time finding a gear for the engine to drive the pumpjack, as the original one was missing. “There’s something about mechanical things,” Christopher explained when asked what drew him into the hobby.

A sandbox with an umbrella over it.

A green tractor in a field

A line0up of tractors in a field. Some are different colors, like orange. A pair of horses with a driver plow part of a field A close up of an old steam engine A man in a white golf cart eats a watermelon

Seasoned enthusiast A.R. Wilkinson arrived with a unique display in tow, an 1918 1-1/2hp International M under-strike, mounted on an unusual find. “The stand that it’s on is the stand they displayed them on in the factory showroom floor,” A.R. said, “When I bought it, it had an engine on it and the fella I bought it from said his grandpa had bought it new. It was just like this one, but it was an over-strike, not an under-strike. I put the under-strike on it because it’s more unique. They just made them, I believe, in ’18.”

A man adds fuel to a gas engine

A red gas engine in a fieldA bronze plaque on a red gas engine

“When I got this engine it was in really bad shape.” he said, “I bored it, put the sleeves in it, had to make new valves for it, had to rebuild the carburetor – it was rusted down inside there. I had to make a new wrist pin and a wrist pin bushing.” A.R. has been a part of the gas engine scene since the ’90s and stays busy in his retirement restoring engines. “I work on stuff for everybody else, that’s the reason I don’t work on much of my own. I’ve got a machine shop, just a small home one. I’m always working.”

A grey plaque

A man near a white truck A close-up of machinery in a gas engine

Another unique find was Scott Hosack’s 11/4hp Monitor with a canteen style gas tank. Made by Baker Manufacturing, the Monitor arrived in pieces after he purchased it from another collector in Indiana. Scott said it was in original condition and very rough. Restoration included a new wrist pin and rod bearing, the crank was turned down, the crank bearings were shimmed, and it was overbored by .115 of an inch.

A bronze tag on a white machine

Red gas engine

An old-fashioned washer on a field An old fashioned washer powered by a gas engine

Sam Prior had a lengthy search to find the finishing touch for his 2hp Sandwich Pine Tree Milker. “I hunted for three years to find someone to make me the decals,” Sam said. He finally found a newer company in Montgomery City, Missouri, called Snappy Graphics to recreate the image. The engine was originally green and red but he decided to paint it to match the stickers. “The Pine-Tree Milker was the first milker the Babson Bros. made. They used parts from a Model T Ford — piston and rod, valves — so the farmers could get replacement parts easy,” he said. This is Sam’s first vertical engine and it was not running when he purchased it in Northeast Missouri. He replaced the magneto and fixed the fuel system. Previously used for milking, it also has a pulley to run a generator for lights to see the cows.

A brown gas engine

A bronze tag

With an excellent engine enthusiast turn-out, there were simply too many remarkable engines to mention. See future issues of Gas Engine Magazine for more of what was discovered at the Hamilton show.

A bronze gas engine tag

A series of gas engines on a field

A sticker on a gas engine

Special thanks to the welcoming gas engine community, the Northwest Missouri Steam & Gas Engine Association, and to Lisa Henderson for lodging in her beautiful home.

A line up of gas engines

A green gas engine in a fieldA bronze tag on a green gas engine

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