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By the time this is in print, show season should be well under
way and all the winter restoration projects will be out on public
view. This last month, there has been a lot of discussion about
show displays on out internet mailing list, and once again I’ve
had a problem condensing all the information to a manageable size!
It started with this question:
This year our local show is going to try to emphasize working
displays. What are some of the things other shows/people are doing
that demonstrates to the viewing public what our equipment was
built to do? The ideas and information came in thick and fast from
around the world with both practical and zany suggestions (a 16HP
Galloway-powered pencil sharpener???), along with advice on how to
make displays educational and safe.
I find at shows that the engines in their ‘working
clothes,’ actually running a grist mill, brick crusher or water
pump will draw the crowd and evoke the most questions and
In my displays, I try to have something for the kids to do. You
remember what you do far better than what you hear, see, or say. I
have a corn sheller belted to an engine and a corn grinder mounted
on a wagon with an engine. What is neat is that I have hand
operated shellers and grinders next to each rig so not only can the
kids operate the hand equipment (under my supervision only), but
they can realize the work saved by our wonderful engines. They also
get an idea about how their grandparents did their daily
We have a local ‘farm heritage’ show every September
where the shelling and grinding is VERY popular since a lot of
people from the city visit to let the kids see how it ‘used to
be.’ They also have cows for the kids to pet and have rigged a
rubber glove to a wooden cow so the kids can practice milking,
‘train’ rides around the grounds being pulled by a small
tractor and two of the crank type rope makers. We let the kids make
jump ropes they get to take home. We also have demonstrated doing
the wash with a tub and wash board as well as a Maytag washer so
they can see progress.
At our rally, my Moffat Virtue generator set drew the crowds and
all sorts of questions. Some had no concept of generating
electricity at all, I don’t know where they think the power in
their house comes from-I would hate to ask. If at all possible,
driving something with an engine is a must at rallies, just so that
the younger generation can understand what it was all about.
My father WILL NOT display an engine unless it is connected to
something, from old washing machines, to corn shellers/grinders,
water pumps and who knows what else. He tries to mount everything
on a 12′ X 7′ trailer and does a pretty good job of
building a very interactive display.
I have a small water ram that I have shown for the last couple
of years. The people love it, and it is fun to sit back and watch
them try to figure out how the re-circulating display works.
The Little Jumbo ran a pulley and gear system that controlled a
lady dummy working a hand operated washer, while a child dummy
played on a toy backhoe. The 3HP Witte ran a wooden washing machine
and the 1? HP Fairbanks ran a dummy which operated an 1880’s
mower. Also mounted is a complete Maytag washer with sausage
grinder and butter churn. Yes, we do make butter in the churn and
pass it out with crackers.
A couple of additions to what others have suggested . . .
Light plants-good relevance as to how it improved farm life.
Ice cream makers-nice on a hot day
Fans & forge blowers-also nice on a hot day
One of my favorite exhibits is an oil pumping rig I’ve seen
at Coolspring. Real nice Myrick Eclipse belted to a pump jack. The
sucker rod goes through a proper well head. The oil is pumped to a
collection barrel and recycled underneath. The whole works is
enclosed in a nice authentic looking power house complete with
assorted tools on the walls, lit yellow dogs, etc. Beautiful.
We have a Fairbanks pump-we re-circulate the water and have
rubber ducks in the wash tub. The kids love it, and we explain the
pump was used to fill a reservoir tank in the farm house attic so
the farm house could then have running water all day. We also run a
corn shelter and a grinder and sell the ground corn for bird
At a local show, a friend demonstrated a corn sheller powered by
an IHC LB engine. I ran the shelled corn through a small feed
grinder which I powered with a David Bradley walk behind tractor. I
had a turning plow mounted behind the tractor which showed the
public how it could be used for gardening, while I was
demonstrating its use for stationary power.
Some of the displays I recall from our local shows are:
threshing, stationary baling, tile trenching, shingle mill, cooking
with steam engine, concrete block making, stone crushing, buzz
saws, saw mill, veneer mill, plowing using horse drawn equipment,
corn shelling, grinding cornmeal, pumping water, prony brake to
test engines under load, the ever popular blacksmith, antique
construction equipment moving dirt back and forth, contour lathe
making axe handles, etc. and rope making. Of course the shuttles
are all pulled by antique tractors.
Even with something powered by an engine, I’ve found that
the old adverts always draw a lot of attention. I have them
laminated and put a bit of Velcro on the back to attach to a
display stand. Then they can be easily swapped out depending on
which engines I’m showing. Where I have a lot more info
I’ve made up a book of laminated pages (with a plastic-coated
spiral binding) that also has Velcro on the back to attach to the
stand. They also allow the info to be up closer to eye level.
That’s important for some of the older visitors at a show who
might not be able to get down (or back up) to a ground-level
The key here is like any show. Safety!!! Make sure that the
owners stay with the display while running/operating and keep up
those safety ropes.
You are so right about keeping your perimeter secure with the
Safety Ropes. When I displayed my 1/3 scale model hay baler which
was belted to my 2HP Stover, the ropes were up but every time I
turned around the kids were so fascinated that they had a tendency
to slip under to get a really close look and be a part of the
Many children do not understand the danger of moving machinery.
You must always be aware of the public. Moving iron WILL hurt you
if you try to touch where you should not. My machines do not run
unless I am watching. Running displays should not be operating
without an operator-the public cannot and should not be trusted to
view your operating display without YOUR supervision. So, once
again we finish with a safety warning, but it is an important part
of the hobby. Hopefully this will have given you some ideas for
displaying engines and equipment at rallies, and the spectators
won’t be asking the question I asked about three years ago,
when I first saw stationary engines: ‘but what do they
DO??’ Have fun!