The Schuylkill County Agriculture Museum hosted its first tractor and gas engine show Oct. 6-7, 2001. The show was held in conjunction with the Schuylkill County Fall Festival at the Schuylkill County Fairgrounds, two miles east of Summit Station, Pa.
The Fall Festival, an annual event for the past few years, always had a few tractors and engines displayed by local enthusiasts, but last fall museum members decided to take a more active role in the celebration, partnering with the fair association to start up the new show.
When Saturday morning dawned we had about 20 tractors in the display area, most of which participated in an afternoon parade through the fairgrounds.
Included among the assortment of Farmalls, John Deere and other machines was an unusual home-built unit that started out as a Model A Ford tractor conversion. The old Model A had been modified so many times over the years that very little of the original unit remained. Nonetheless, Ron Wildermuth, who found and dragged the Ford's carcass out of the woods, managed to restore it to running condition.
Another 30 tractors arrived throughout the morning for the antique tractor pull, which was delayed for a couple of hours after some morning rains. After a little bit of surface preparation, how ever, the track was in excellent condition and for the next few hours the pulling track was the main focus of attention.
We had about 50 large engines on display, as well as a working exhibit of model engines. Robert Smith, Schnecksville, Pa., arrived with a collection of antique lawn mowers and gas engines mounted on his trailer, including an unusual Deyo engine from the 1912 era. Deyos have a peculiar valve arrangement whereby a long rocker arm coming directly off the cam gear actuates the exhaust valve. This engine was in wonderful original condition, running beautifully throughout the show.
Ernest Henry from nearby Hamburg, Pa., brought a half-dozen nicely restored engines, including an Associated Chore Boy belted to a reciprocating hacksaw, which he used to demonstrate how these old machines could earn their keep. Bob Kubisch of Martinsville, N.J., showed up with four engines and had two of them at work on a washing machine and a butter churn. On the model side, Henry Turbo and Harold Berkheiser had a group of beautifully crafted models demonstrating how old gas engines had been put to use in days past. Their model hay baler was kept busy all weekend making miniature bales for souvenirs.
The featured engine on our first show pin was the Bessemer, a Pennsylvania-built engine. Our club has a 40 HP Bessemer donated in memory of Robert Obenreder by his family. This engine was removed from a roller mill in Fryburg, Pa. It was originally shipped from the Bessemer factory to J.G. Obenreder on Oct. 16, 1906, and is believed to have powered the mill into the 1940s. Most Bessemer engines earned their keep on the oil fields of western Pennsylvania and surrounding states, but this one spent its life in the cramped quarters of the mill's basement. A crew from the ag museum spent two days dismantling and hoisting it from beneath the mill, piece by piece. It was carefully restored and last summer during fair week it barked back to life after over 50 years of slumber.
Our club also provides a small manifold for steam whistle enthusiasts to make a little noise, the whistles blown on air provided by a 1927 Ingersoll-Rand portable compressor recently restored to operation.
In the ag museum's building, volunteers were on hand to explain the operation of the extensive collection of old farm and home implements, machines and appliances. For this year's show we are completing an addition to our museum, which will create a display area 40 feet wide and almost 300 feet long under one continuous roof. We are very excited about the new addition and creating more accessible displays for our ever-expanding collection. To encourage a good turnout we had no admission fee and no fee for selling at the swap meet located in the engine and tractor area. We heard many positive comments about the wonderful facility we have.
Elsewhere on the grounds committee members set up food demonstrations, making a host of wonderful foods. Fresh apple butter, apple cider, country scrapple (a Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy - you don't want to know the ingredients, but it sure tastes good!) and a sausage-stuffing demonstration were part of the schedule. Lots of fresh made soups kept everyone well fed. One of the large fair buildings was dedicated to crafters, who provided a variety of beautifully made items. People may have arrived empty handed, but when they exited the gates they were clutching bags full of purchases -as well as stomachs full of homemade food.
Our show dates for 2002 are Oct. 5-6. The gates will be open all day on the 4th for early arrivals and setting up displays. Primitive camping is available (free of course - we want you to feel welcome!) and a limited number of spaces are available with water and electric for whatever you feel like donating. This year we are featuring anything International Harvester - tractors, engines, implements, equipment and any other items produced throughout the long history of International Harvester. We would like to see a great turnout this year to grow our show. You can check out our ad on page 327 of the Steam and Gas Show Directory for more information. Looking forward to seeing you in October.
Contact engine enthusiast Brian C. Ferrence at: Box 78, Summit Station, PA 17979, (570) 754-7249, or e-mail: Bferenc@hotmail.com