Return of the Antique Express
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When asked about what it costs for them to travel to all the shows they travel to each year, they wave off the question, saying that, whatever they may spend, it doesn't add up to the joy they get out of passing history on to another generation. 'It's costly, but we enjoy it,' Gary says. 'Ralph had one boy in the trailer recently who was really interested in this stuff.'
'This boy,' Ralph says, 'was in there over a half hour. We talked about what he saw and all the things he'd seen in his schoolbooks about pulleys. It's times like that that we're paid back.'
Another way the two men are paid back is in the knowledge they gain about their hobby from the people they meet at shows. Oftentimes they meet people at the shows who actually used the equipment that they have on display. 'We gain all the knowledge of people who are fairly well on in years,' says Gary.
Some of their odder pieces do need some explaining, too, and these have become some of their favorites as well. For example, a hay hook that Ralph acquired has a cutting bar on the back for cutting bale straps. 'I think you'd have to be darned careful if you were using that thing to keep from cutting your hand open,' Gary says.
Each man does, of course, have favorites among the pieces in his collection. For Ralph, it's a salesman sample hay baler. 'It was made in 1890. It's plated and has the horsepower unit in the trailer,' he says. 'Very few people mistake these kinds of samples for a toy, because they look like parts that actually work.'
Gary's current favorite item is a Janeway pulley that he found in Florida. 'I doubt you'll ever see another one,' he says.
The trailer has also been a good place to learn about new directions in which they can take their collections. Gary's recently branched out even further than before, venturing (at least figuratively) north of the border and collecting Canadian pulleys. 'They made some really fancy ones up there,' he says. 'The Beatty was a nice one made up in Canada.'
Ralph says that he's always meeting people who help him find new wrenches. 'I like the ones that are a little oddball: B.F. Averys, Lacrosse. Things like that.'
And while they've gained knowledge, they point to one final benefit of traveling with the Antique Express II. 'We've made some permanent new friends who we've met inside our trailer,' Ralph says.
Gary says it's easy to make friends with the people he meets at these shows. 'You're going to find people who are jerks everywhere - there are so many different types of people collecting so many things nowadays. All in all, though, there's not a better bunch of people than the ones you'll meet at these shows.'
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