Top 10

Things to Do at Denton FarmPark

| September 2005

Variety spices the mix at Denton show

The Southeast Old Threshers' Reunion, Denton, N.C., has a history unique among thresher and tractor shows in the U.S. It started as a fly-in, where proceeds from airplane rides benefited local charities. That was 35 years ago, and as with the rest of the world, a lot has changed.

Brown Loflin and Howard Latham, fly-in organizers, soon saw the need for activities to keep waiting passengers entertained. Local collectors mustered up an assortment of antique farm equipment. Before long, responding to popular demand, the organizers abandoned the fly-in in favor of vastly less sophisticated equipment. Now in its 35th year, the show has expanded to five days with activities spread over more than 100 acres. During the annual July show (held this year July 1-5), volunteers from the Southeast Antique Machinery Society operate and demonstrate equipment at the Denton FarmPark, and tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country swarm the grounds. Their challenge? To see it all!

Ride the rails

Lots of shows have "trains" … charming remnants of amusement parks, designed to delight the small fry. At Denton FarmPark, the workhorse of the Handy Dandy Railroad is the real McCoy. "This is a Porter saddle-tank engine manufactured in 1942 for Bethlehem Steel, where it was used as a switch engine," explains Engineer John Barden during a trial run one morning. After Howard Latham bought the engine in 1979, he built a tender to add an authentic touch, and added restored passenger cars and a caboose.

Originally oil-fired, the 70-ton locomotive now runs on a steady diet of coal. "This is what I call job security," says John's fireman, Tim Hill, as he pitches another shovel full into the firebox. "It's always hungry." In perpetual motion during the show, the engine requires constant attention, and careful maintenance. "When we're not running it," John says with an affectionate tone, "we're working on it."

Ramble through the enchanted forest

Travel off the beaten path at Denton, and things are not always as they seem. Take the Tucker 1-1/2 hp Type R gas engine displayed in the woods, for instance. Chances are very good you've never seen one like it … the Tucker is, after all, a one-of-a-kind engine built by Randy Tucker, Charlotte, N.C.

Randy didn't set out to invent an engine. But after a two-year parts search for a restoration project proved fruitless, Randy gave up. "I just decided to take that engine (a pushrod Ideal) and make it into a sideshaft engine," he says. The conversion required lots of new parts, which Randy happily built. "I made everything myself," he says, "sideshaft parts, governor parts, carburetor, fuel pump, hopper, cart … it took about a month. But it runs really good; it surprised me." He even taught himself how to produce etched brass tags; the Tucker sports his first effort. "I'm going to start doing more of that," he says.