Emphasis on Old Engines at Portland Show
The Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor show in Portland, Ind., featured old engines from around the world
Glenn W. Karch, Haubstadt, Ind., with his 1909 Model A Sparta Economy 4 hp engine. Glenn also showed a 1905 Atlas King Bee at the Portland show.
Rhythmic putt-putt-putts of gas engines, puffs of smoke belching from coal-fired steam traction engines, acrid smoke and shrill engine whistles welcomed about 65,000 visitors to the 34th annual Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show in Portland, Ind., Aug. 25-29. Exhibitors came from 37 states, Canada, Australia, England and Sicily, and visitors – including a group of engine enthusiasts from the Netherlands – came from all over.
Old engines and tractors evoke memories of a simpler time, when family farms were the backbone of the Midwest economy. In the early years of this century, engines ranging from 1-10 hp provided power for everything from washing machines to lighting systems, water pumps to corn shellers, grinders and saws. Steam engines furnished the power to thresh grain and run industrial machinery. This equipment represented the peak of technological achievement in its day. However, much of it was obsolete by the 1930s, as electricity became an affordable alternative. The workhorses of an earlier age were largely forgotten until they were rediscovered by collectors in the 1960s and 70s.
Scott Hirshey, Geneva, Ind., finds the classics offer a link to the past.
"I enjoy the people and the constant activity," he says. "People stop to say 'I remember when Dad (or Granddad) had an engine like this' and then share their tales of life before electricity."
Scott doesn't remember his first show: He was just 2, and traveled by stroller. Two years later, his grandfather – the late Harold Hirshey – exhibited a small engine in Scott's name, and a collector was born.
Scott's pride and joy is a 1914 Mogul sideshaft 8 hp engine. He rebuilt the sideshaft, put in new bearings and did the machine work.
"This is the size engine used in small machine shops, small industry, and to pump water," he says.
Scott and his father, Charles, are partners in the collecting hobby. The two own 100 to 150 engines. "We're going for the bigger ones," Charles says. "A 50 hp Bessemer is our largest."
Their collection includes a 25 hp Superior, tractors, and a steam traction engine. At Portland, they exhibited a 19 hp Crossley made in England, and a 15 hp Olin once used to pump oil in Pennsylvania.
Donald Michael, Bryant, Ind., had fond memories of an Indiana tractor once owned by his father. When he heard of one for sale in Mishawaka, Ind., he and son Dwain drove to the salvage yard. It took two trips to the yard's "back forty" to find remains of the tractor. Knowing there was a 1920 Model F Indiana tractor in that rusting pile of junk, the Michaels paid $850 and took it home. The tractor had cast iron parts, but none of the steel was useable. They worked for four years rebuilding every part on the tractor. With no operator's manual to work from, they often relied on Donald's memory.