Austin, Manitoba, Canada
661 19 Street Brandon, Manitoba, Canada R7B 1K
The sun shone, the clouds and wind were gentle, helping to provide perfect weather for the four day event. Huge crowds took advantage of this festive occasion to roam the grounds, examine exhibits and watch the parade of antique equipment each day.
Over five thousand people, ranging from antique equipment buffs through the mildly curious, from centenarians who had cut their teeth on equipment of this genre to babes in carriages, thronged the grounds daily to reminisce and to see implements at work that, once common, can now only be seen here. Seven hundred dedicated volunteers greased bearings, stoked fire boxes and kept hundreds of pieces of antique equipment running like new.
The highlight of each day's activities was the Grand Parade past the grandstand. Leading off were the ponies and draft horses, the brightest star of this section being a hitch of six matched white mules pulling a fully restored 1880's stage coach. The parade followed in roughly chronological order; following the horses were the steam tractors with old threshing machines, huge gas tractors from the early 1900's, antique cars and trucks and, bringing up the rear, a monster eight wheel drive, 600 HP Versatile tractor.
The steam tractors made their usual great impression on the packed grandstand. Each spoke with a clear shrill voice as it passed the stand, and received a spontaneous ovation from the enthusiastic crowd. The most glamorous unit was the big old Case 110, with its power steering and enormous size. Other steamers included other models of Case, George White, Rumely, Sawyer Massey, Cock of the North and numerous others. The George White steamer was manufactured in Brandon, Manitoba, only 50 miles from the site of the museum.
The gas and oil tractors pulled their share of attention. There were huge tractors from the early 1900's; an English Marshall, probably the largest, dwarfed some of the others. There were Hart Parr, Rumely Oil Pull, Case, Moguls, Titan, Waterloo Boy, Happy Farmer, Grey, Wallis, Eagle and almost any other make you can name.
Several old cars and trucks brought up the end of the parade. A 1929 IHC one ton truck in showroom condition and a 1917 Model T Ford touring car drew the majority of the attention.
Ongoing displays included stationary engines, some dating back to 1907. Several were in running order, and others were repaired on site and made to run while the show was in progress. The shop on the grounds was made available to the volunteers, who made good use of it. Some of the engines included early IHCs from one to 20 horsepower, Fairbanks Morse units up to 10 horse, Judson, Economy, Waterloo, John Deere, and many others.
We enjoyed running these old workhorses that we worked so hard to restore. An early 1920's Fairbanks Morse 1? HP hit and miss, with dishpan flywheels, was belted to an open geared pump jack and an ancient pump. A 20 horse IHC hit and miss engine spoke with authority as it ran easily after Doug Pigg and I made final adjustments. The 10 horse Fairbanks Morse with one flywheel and huge bull gear for its pump jack stood in the corner silently. When Jim Lundlaid and I cleaned the ignitor and primed it, it came to life and fired evenly with a loud report as it had no muffler.
There is a huge 185 horsepower stationary steam engine with a 14 foot flywheel running in a separate display. This engine powered the flour mill at Souris, Manitoba from 1899 to 1928 and, during the Reunion, runs an old flour mill daily. Several other stationary steam engines run daily powered from a single boiler.
A great crowd pleaser is the miniature display. These miniature engines attest to the skill, patience, precision and craftsmanship of the enthusiasts who built them. They never tire of answering questions and demonstrating their toys. The pint sized engines, both gas and steam, were great attention grabbers as they ran their miniature saw mills, threshing machines, pumps and other implements.
After four event-filled days, I still had only scratched the surface of the numerous displays. A new 30 x 50 building houses the Manitoba Amateur Radio Museum with its host of old radios, transceivers, vacuum tubes, etc. An old townsite has been created at the museum, building by building from many different places, displaying a variety of lifestyles of the pioneers. The Reunion attracts visitors from all across Canada, throughout the United States and from overseas. I even met one visitor from Australia.
The Manitoba Agricultural Museum is located two miles south of the Trans-Canada Highway, 75 miles west of Winnipeg, Manitoba at Austin. The Thresherman's Reunion will take place this year on July 24 to 27, 1991 and will feature the Ford family of fine cars and trucks. You can be sure that this little town, 50 miles west of Brandon, will come alive to the throngs of happy people in the holiday spirit. There are plenty of good camping facilities within a short driving distance.
As the late Ed Sullivan may have put it-'It will be a really big shoooo.'