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QVEA Old Iron Shows at Zagray Farm

In February, I do not remember what 95 degrees feels like. It is all but unimaginable to me; memory of it seems benign and innocent (“summertime, and the livin’ is easy …”) — nothing at all like the oppressive reality. This came to mind as I recently considered a photo taken at the Quinebaug Valley Engineers Assn. show in the middle of a heat wave last July.

The photo (see Zagray Farm Museum: A Living Link to the Past) showed a Nelson truck loader dating to the 1930s, reportedly used to load shoveled snow into dump trucks. In the 95-degree heat of that July day, just before taking the photo, I stared dumbly at the Nelson and tried in vain to envision snow in such massive quantities that dump trucks and machinery were needed to remove it.

As this winter has proved, I simply wasn’t imaginative enough. Being imaginative was, however, no trick at all for the three bachelor brothers who previously owned the land where the QVEA now holds its shows near Colchester, Conn. The Zagray brothers never saw a piece of old iron they didn’t love enough to add to their collection.

The collection, though, was never intended as a showroom. Pieces were acquired on their merits alone or for possible utility in a new application. One can only imagine the thoughts and plans and schemes that went through the minds of three men utterly captivated by machinery and undistracted by womenfolk and children.

Imagination is also in no short supply among members of the QVEA. The Zagray farm is today a living museum operated by the QVEA and the Colchester Historical Society. But it’s not a place where you’ll go see a petting zoo and quilts, crops and pastoral displays. Instead, the 200-acre complex showcases farm, construction and industrial machinery of the early 1900s in an authentic setting — or at least fairly authentic, as members of the QVEA toiled endlessly to clean up the property while preserving a unique resource.

In the process, the group has created a fascinating backdrop for a series of popular old iron shows each year. A preserved machine shop, cupola furnace, sawmill and working construction equipment: It just goes to show what can be accomplished with a lot of elbow grease — and a little imagination! FC