In Appanoose County, Iowa, near the small town of Numa (population 103), the estate sale of B.D. 'Red' Buchanan drew bidders from 28 states and Canada interested in the 138 gasoline engines advertised for sale. A lifetime resident of this area, Red Buchanan was well-known for his expertise and skill in many areas. But even his closest neighbors were surprised at the extent of the engines in his collection.
A Collection Starts
A local high school graduate, Red served in the military as a torpedo man on PT boats, and after WW II he and his brother-in-law owned and operated a watch repair shop in Centerville, Iowa. Finding the watch repair business unsatisfying, Red moved on, turning to carpentry instead and working as a carpenter for several seasons. When construction started on nearby Lake Rathbun, Red hired on with one of the crews, and working there he got the opportunity to learn how to operate large earth moving machines. He was hooked, and within a short time he bought his own earth-moving outfit, contracted jobs in the community and found his niche - and a love of gasoline engines.
Red not only operated, but also maintained and repaired his equipment. He started attending gas engine shows and auctions, and his hobby interest grew rapidly. He and his wife, Beverly, traveled many miles through many states, searching for that 'certain' engine that would complement his collection. And with Red's background and love of engines, bidders at the auction found a collection of engines in excellent condition. Many bidders already knew about some of the engines that would be placed on the block, making arrangements during the days prior to the sale to inspect and identify engines they were interested in buying.
The Auction and Engines
For a novice, it was quite an experience watching and listening as the Nixon Auction Co. of Wakefield, Neb., brought each item from Red's collection to the block. A crowd of over 500 (400 auction card numbers were issued) was on hand, watching and listening attentively as the sale proceeded throughout the sunny day. And with food served on the grounds, it was easy for bidders to remain on the premises for the entire 18-hour event.
Among the 138 engines listed for sale was a row of Maytag engines and several tables of related instructional books, tools, parts, magnetos and other engine related items. Many engines were small enough to fit in the back of a pickup, and others required a lot more hauling space for transport, but buyers knew what they wanted, sellers knew what they had to sell, and things moved efficiently throughout the day.
Some of the engines included: Sandow 1-1/2 HP, Tom Thumb 1 HP, New Holland 1/2 HP, Brownwall 1 HP, Handy Andy 1 HP, Witte pump jack, Workwell 1 HP, Emerson Branting-ham front mag 1-1/2 HP, Gade 2-1/2 HP, Webster hot tube 2 HP, Lauson Lawton sideshaft 1-1/2 HP, Racine two-cylinder inverted 2 HP, McVickers gearless 4 HP, Renfrew sideshaft 6 HP, Reid 8 HP, Gray 4 HP, Garhat 3 HP, a very rare Davis upright 2 HP, Parmaco 5 HP, Maytag 'Fruit Jar,' Southern Engine and Boiler Works 2 HP, Sta-Rite 'donut flywheel' 2 HP, Fairbanks-Morse early charter patent 2 HP (tank-cooled, on trucks), a rare tank-cooled Globe; and the list continued.
End of an Era
Aug. 10, 2002, marked the end of an era in Appanoose County, Iowa, and it's likely many will never witness such an outstanding sale event again. Red's son, Barry, is also a collector, but he resides in another county, making it unlikely this scene will ever be repeated in Appanoose County. Red had an eye for the unusual and the unique, actively seeking out engines that satisfied his curiosity. As the auctioneer's flyer noted: 'Mr. Buchanan was a collector for many years and was very knowledgeable on many engines. His collection of rare and extremely rare engines have been running and most are in original condition.' Most likely, this was just one of many reasons the sale was so well attended, and many of those there took home their own prized purchase to add to their own collections.
Freelance writer Ethel M. Lira knew Red Buchanan for many years, counting him among her good friends. Even she did not realize the extent of his collection until the day of Red's estate sale. Contact Ethel at: 16803 Hwy J-46, Numa, IA 52544-8716.