Portland 2002

Portland Delivers the Goods - Again


| December/January 2002



Tillinghast conversion engine

Zach Williams' Tillinghast conversion engine, conversion head number 298.

PORTLAND. Say the word outside of the old iron hobby and most people think of Oregon and the West Coast, oceans and mountain vistas. But say the word to anyone in the old iron collective and their thoughts turn immediately to engines and tractors, gasoline and oil. The king of old engine events, the annual show in Portland, Ind., gets the blood rushing like no other. And Portland, as we've come to expect, delivers the goods.

August 21-25 saw the 37th annual show at Portland (known formally as the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Association Inc. 37th Annual Anniversary Reunion), and the numbers were pretty much equal to last year. According to Ken Doherty, president of the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Association, 1,933 engines of various stripe registered for this year's show, and that doesn't count the extras that invariably dribble in during the course of the five-day event. On the self-propelled side, 629 tractors registered this year (again, the actual number was probably higher), and there were 35 antique trucks, 30 antique cars and six steam engines on hand. Toss in the 150 arts and crafts dealers and the 300 parts dealers who participated and you start to get an idea of just how big this show really is.

The tractors are impossible to miss as you enter the Jay County Fairgrounds, presenting attendees with a veritable phalanx of antique machinery immediately upon walking through the entry gate. But impressive as they are, they simply whet the appetite. A glance to the left sees rows and rows of parts dealers selling everything from 'remanufactured' Ford tractors to perfectly preserved Olds engines. Wrecked carcasses and complete engines pack the vendor area, surrounded by trailers stuffed with just about every imaginable part needed to complete a restoration. Off to the right steam rises from a grove of trees, the unmistakable chuff of a traction engine under load and the sound of a blade spinning through rough lumber signaling the steam engine and sawing area. And from farther beyond the tractors comes the enticing sound of hundreds upon hundreds of running engines, from little 1-1/2 HP John Deere Model Es to larger 15 HP and 25 HP Reids, and on up to an enormous 1923 100 HP twin-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse Model YV diesel, centerpiece for the large engine area.

The engine exhibit area at Portland is the core of the show, and it's easy to lose yourself as you wander through looking at the stunning variety of engines on hand. And while there are engines that make it to Portland year after year, there are always new additions, or simply engines you never made it around to the year before. Walking though the Portland show, looking at engines ranging from perfect restorations to original runners, is overwhelming, and the engines described here are, at best, merely a sampling of what the Portland show has to offer.

Walking Through

Jim Zook, Converse, Ind., brought a rare 10 HP sideshaft Shelby, built by the Shelby Foundry & Machine Works, Shelbyville, Ind., sometime in the very early 1900s. The Shelby's been in Jim's ownership since 1976, and early on Jim had the good fortune to meet the son of the original owner, who remembered starting the engine when he was 6 - in 1906. Jim's Shelby, which originally did duty at a blacksmith shop, is an interesting engine, featuring separate return cooling lines from the cylinder and head and a separate cast water hopper that could, ostensibly, be removed for conversion to tank cooling if conditions favored.

Jim had to make new sideshaft gears as the originals had worn badly, mostly, he thinks, because someone had fitted an excessively tight spring to the exhaust valve. Jim believes the added load placed on the sideshaft cause premature wear in the gears, and while it still ran okay, he had a new set of gears made up to quiet the engine and keep it in good form. A remarkable engine, made all the more so being in its original state, right down to the battery box.