Trio of Old Iron Collectors Restore Threshing Machines for Pioneer Power Show

Minnesota trio brings antique threshing machines to life at LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show.

| July 2013

When it comes to antique threshing machines, great minds think alike at least at the LeSueur County (Minn.) Pioneer Power Assn. Three members of that club have joined forces to restore half a dozen ancient threshers, four of which are club-owned. In addition, the trio has 19 threshers (including eight jointly owned rigs), most of which are restored.

Dwight playfully blames Doug. “My interest in old iron goes back to my folks,” says Dwight, who lives in Mankato, Minn. “They collected household antiques. When Doug was a mechanic for my bus garage, he was interested in old iron. Doug kept hinting toward giving him a hand with the threshing at the LeSueur show, so I got started in that field.”

Mark remembers learning about threshers as a boy. At age 5, he listened to his father and a neighbor talk about a thresher. “I was sitting on a stump, watching them,” he recalls. “But I never in my life thought I would buy a thresher and run it.” Mark, who now lives in Good Thunder, Minn., bought his first threshing machine for $350 at a 1995 auction. Working on it at night and on weekends, he spent two years restoring the piece, “wire brushing the angle iron and hand-painting it,” he says.

Doug, also of Good Thunder, was fascinated with old iron as a kid. “Neighbors had vintage equipment,” he says. “They farmed with old 2-cylinder John Deere tractors, planted and cultivated, and that fueled my interest.” When he was 15, he saw a thresher listed on a local farm sale. Doug knew very little about threshers but that didn’t stop him. “In the mid-1970s I bought my first threshing machine for $100,” he says. “It was a 1928 Avery with a 28-inch cylinder. It had been shedded, so it needed mostly belt work and paint.”

The threshers gathered up by the three men represent most of the major lines of the past. Dwight’s set of eight includes five John Deere models (his personal favorites); a 28-inch McCormick-Deering, a 20-inch Belle City and a hand-fed Sterling with a 10 hp Fairbanks-Morse engine on it. Doug has an Avery; Mark has a pair of Red Rivers. Together the three own a 28-inch Case, two Belle City machines (24-inch and 28-inch) two Minneapolis machines (30-inch and 36-inch), two 22-inch Woods Bros. units (one of which is very early) and a 28-inch Woods Bros.

Laying the groundwork

Members of the Pioneer Power association, the three men discovered a shared interest in antique threshing machines in 1997. “Many were just rotting away,” Mark says, “so we went out and looked at machines and started buying them.”