Mid-Iowa Magic: Antique Power Show

The Mid-Iowa Antique Power Association's annual Antique Power Show has it all.

antique power show - Stover Model U stationary engine

Wayne Judge’s 1919 Stover Model U greeted folks at the entrance to the show.

Farm Collector Magazine Staff

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Whether your passion is animal power, steam power, or petroleum power, the Mid-Iowa Antique Power Association's (MIAPA) annual Antique Power Show has something for you. Now approaching its 22nd year, the show is still expanding, but it hasn't yet outgrown the group's 40-acre grounds west of Marshalltown. With that much space, MIAPA members grow their own oats and corn and have space for extensive field demonstrations, permanent installations, and hundreds of exhibitors. "We still have room to expand," explains avid show supporter Les Tempel. "That gives us a lot of flexibility with the demonstrations, and lets us try new things without crowding out something else."

The MIAPA was born in late 1984 out of an effort by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee to enhance relationships between local towns and associated farming communities. By August 1985, the group had incorporated and held its first Antique Power Show on land offered by the Marshalltown Community College's board. "It was a real community effort," recalls founding member Irene Ellsberry. "The college even provided ground to grow oats for the threshing." Within five years, the MIAPA had outgrown that space. In 1990 they obtained a long-term lease from Marshall County on a parcel along U.S. Highway 30 about 8 miles west of town.

Today the MIAPA event focuses on live demonstrations, and though static displays are welcomed, hands-on is the name of the game. From horses plowing down a rank stand of red clover, to steam engines powering large stationary machines, to any manner of petroleum power being put to the test, Marshalltown provides diverse stimulations for old-iron senses. Last summer's 21st Antique Power Show featured Allis-Chalmers tractors, Percheron draft horses, and Stover stationary engines, but the celebration welcomed all comers. "We aren't particular," says MIAPA member Vernon Waterman, while cranking up his 1923 Waterloo Boy. "We just require folks to have a good time."

Fieldwork Brings Them in

In most parts of the developed agricultural world, land plowing is a practice of the past. However, as anyone who has done it knows, turning the soil with a well-scoured piece of iron coupled to a seasoned source of power is about as close to heaven as fieldwork gets. At Marshalltown everyone is invited to experience that magic.

Mike Mayland of Iowa Falls prefers the power of horses. "I am just a horse guy," Mike explains, stopping at the end of the furrow to let his team rest. "A good team is a joy to work with." Mike's seasoned pair of Belgian draft horses clearly demonstrates that they know what they are doing in the field. In practice, Mike prefers the sulky plow to the walking plow, but notes that it still requires some effort to keep it together. "I have to keep an eye on the plow, the furrow and the horses," he says from the seat of his Oliver single-bottom plow. "Lucy and Buttercup are better at it than I am."

Tractors are also used. In one instance, a John Deere multi-bottom gangplow was pulled by an 80 hp J.I. Case steam engine, and in the other, a petroleum-powered Aultman & Taylor shouldered the burden. At one point no fewer than 30 machines sporting metalwork in various shades of green, red, gray, yellow, orange, blue, and rust turned the earth in parade-like fashion. "People love to plow," Les Tempel says as he climbs up into the seat of his John Deere 60. "But some take it a lot more seriously than others."

Last August, the MIAPA hosted an International Plowmen's Association sanctioned state-level match. According to Les, MIAPA member and avid plowman Mike Fitz was largely responsible for bringing the match to Marshalltown. "I have been plowing competitively for 20 years," Mike says. "I am really pleased that we could host a match this year."

In competition plowing, participants are required to turn a very specific section of ground within a specific period of time and are judged on how straight and uniform their furrows are, the quality of the tilled surface, whether they adequately cover the stubble (or clover in this case), and a number of other specific measures.

Demonstrations Tell the Story

Back in a little valley along the southern edge of the MIAPA's show ground, a 50 hp Case steam engine has been belted to an Avery Yellow Fellow wooden threshing machine, and under John Glessner's watchful eye, the pair is ready to work. "The men grow the oats up on the hill," explains Irene Elsberry. "It is cut with a binder, shocked, left in the field to cure and then collected in wagons for the threshing." Irene's family took part in many threshing runs as she was growing up, so she is familiar with the cooperative nature of the process. Today, MIAPA threshing crews continue that spirit and welcome younger members. "I am concerned that the knowledge will be lost as we lose the older generation," Irene explains. "That's why we encourage younger members to get involved."

As the oat shocks pass through the Yellow Fellow, the rest of the valley begins to stir with activity. Norma Binney hitches Doll and Babe, her team of Suffolk horses, to the nearly full grain wagon and hauls it to the horse-powered wagon dump, where Jay Anderson urges Kate and Kathy, his team of Percheron-Paint crossbred horses, to turn the sweep power. Through the sweep, the horse's forward movement causes a long drive shaft to spin, which in turn drives the winch that raises the front of the wagon so the force of gravity will spill the grain once the tailgate is opened.

Mike's team of Belgians spell Kate and Kathy on the sweep, whose output shaft now powers an elevator conveying grain from the wagon's tailgate into a waiting truck. The entire operation spans at least 100 years of technology in less than a quarter of an hour. As one group of volunteers handles the grain, another loads racks with straw and shuttles it to the stationary baler where an engine stands belted up, ready to convert the disheveled piles of oat stems into neat and stackable bales.

Elsewhere, MIAPA members Don Dass and Denny Hammer feed cedar billets into the organization's Brinks & Co. shingle mill. This relatively simple mill's horizontally oriented blade took its power from an arbor belted up to a tractor. Don and Denny earlier demonstrated member John VanNordstrand's 1917 cart-mounted, Economy-powered Sears & Roebuck buck saw, while other volunteers operated the club's large sawmill and edger. Power shelling, grinding, corn shredding, black-smithing, and stock-dog demonstrations rounded out three full days of activities.

Features and Favorites

The show grounds' exhibit area is comfortably nestled in a grove of mature trees. John VanNordstrand had many of his approximately 30 stationary engines on display at the 2005 event. John is partial to Iowa-built gas engines and his display included a lovely collection of Associated Manufacturers engines with names such as Three-Mule Team, Hired Man, and Chore Boy.

Alan Hasselbusch of Clarence, Iowa made a nice display with a 1930 Stover Model CT engine belted to a Big 3 washing machine. In the air-cooled engine department, Don Dass and Paul Sams had a selection of Gade engines on display (including Paul's beautifully restored Gade Model C), and Paul also had a 1 hp International Harvester Tom Thumb on hand. Among many other IHC engines, Paul's 1915 Famous upright, Patty Price's 1913 1 hp water-cooled Titan, and John Van-Nordstrand's 1 hp Mogul Jr. really stood out. The number of models and makes of engines at the show was phenomenal, and many were belted to grinders, water pumps, ice cream freezers, and other machines.

Among the hundreds of tractors at the show, many were orange. Of about 200 Allis-Chalmers tractors, nearly two dozen were Dan Wilkey's, hauled from his place in State Center. "It takes quite a while to haul that many tractors," Dan says. "But since it is my favorite show and they were featuring my favorite brand, I had to do it." Dan's dad bought his first AC tractor new in 1955, and Dan spent more hours than he can remember at its helm. For a number of years, that WD-45 was the family's main powerhouse, even serving time under the corn picker.

Among Dan's favorite factory-built tractors is his 1949 Model G. This unique-looking Allis was built specifically with the small post-war farmer in mind and continues to be a favorite on small truck farms, where its design is especially useful for close work. The tractor's rear engine and drive train, and open tubular framework, allow the operator quite literally a clear view of the ground beneath. Couple that with a belly-mounted cultivator, and you can imagine how well suited the outfit is to precision cultivating — and many other tasks as well. Dan likes the G so well that he recently completed a working half-scale model of the machine, using pieces and parts he found in his junk pile.

Another of Dan's favorites is the Allis-Chalmers Model B, and he has a few of them. "There isn't any shortage of Bs around, so I thought it would be fun to make a few that had never been made," Dan explains with a smile, wiping dew from the hood of his Model B articulated four-wheel drive.

In the old iron hobby, and at shows like Marshalltown, fun is what it's all about. FC

For more information about their antique power shows, contact the Mid-Iowa Antique Power Association.


Oscar "Hank" Will III is an old-iron collector, freelance writer and photographer. He splits his time between his home in Gettysburg, Pa., and his farm in East Andover, N.H.