Most antique tractor shows mirror their community. Antique Power Days in Bristol, New Brunswick, Canada, is a classic example of that. In an area where agriculture and logging are entwined into a proud heritage, Antique Power Days is an apt reflection of a very unique place.
Located on the St. John River, Bristol has long been the center of a thriving farm community, just as it supported dozens of lumber operations in the nearby forests. In established local tradition, more than a few farmers headed to the woods to work in lumber camps until late March, then returned for spring planting. In Bristol, the old saying goes, a man had to be half-farmer, half-woodsman to survive.
Held on June 16, 2012, the 8th annual Antique Power Days drew exhibitors whose displays showcased local traditions and visitors who relished a look at the past. “It really began as a way for the collecting community to get together and put on a display,” says Coordinator Steve Patterson, Greenfield, New Brunswick. “This part of New Brunswick has a rich farming and lumbering heritage. Growing potatoes and cutting timber was how many folks made a living.”
Many exhibitors are members of the Old Flywheel Guys, a local tractor and engine club. “It’s great to have them here,” Steve says. “People enjoy walking among the collections and the guys love to answer questions and swap stories.”
Many antique tractors today rarely see daylight other than when they are displayed at shows. This gathering, however, included more than a few tractors that are still called upon to perform an honest day’s work. Among them was an Oliver 660 holding its own next to several Farmalls.
Ralph Carpenter, Richmond Corner, New Brunswick, is the original owner of the 1960 Oliver 660. Bringing the 660 to Bristol was a bit of a homecoming, he says, since the Oliver was purchased there in 1961. “George Marich, owner of a local hardware store, sold me that Oliver,” he explains. “I watched for a year and no one bought the 660. I was just a young guy but I was dead set on that Oliver. So I showed up with a truck to haul it home and I started talking to George and I kept talking all day. We worked out a deal and you know something? I didn’t pay a cent for a year. It was a different world back then.”
The Oliver’s 4-cylinder gas engine has required few repairs other than bearings and minor work. “We had a paint job done a while back, along with the decals,” Ralph says. “It’s as close to original as we could get.” And it’s still a worker: The Oliver had been used to roll a canola field just before the show.
A single-front wheel 1945 B.F. Avery was attracting a crowd, so I waded in. Averys are a magnet for enthusiasts and this one — a 4-cylinder, 18 hp model — was no different. The bright red tractor sported a nice restoration job done by owner Jim Galloway, Woodstock, New Brunswick. Like many of the tractors here in New Brunswick, the Avery had been used in the lumber woods.
Although Avery tractors are rare in Atlantic Canada, this one’s narrow front end — perfect for negotiating twisting logging trails or getting around stumps — made it ideal for use in the woods. A short wheel-base with a narrow front end made the tough job of cutting and yarding timber easier.
“The last owners had rigged up a drawbar with several hook-ups and were logging with it,” Jim says. “The tractor hauled out a pile of logs and was dented up some. It had seen hard use over the years. Everything in the engine needed attention. But it came together and I’m pleased with it.”
A display of working stationary gas engines delighted the crowd. A 1916 Alpha DeLaval 1-1/2 hp Type F was a favorite, noteworthy for its unusual career. The DeLaval engine line was intended for use on the company’s cream separators. But collector Darrell Green, Stanley, New Brunswick, says this engine took a different tack at some point. Long used as a power source in a woodworking shop, it ran a drill press as well as a table saw. Other stand-out engines at the show included a 1-3/4 hp Galloway, a 1-1/2 hp Gilson with a wooden pulley wheel, a Nelson Bros. 1-3/4 hp Jumbo and a 1 hp Empire separator engine.
One of the biggest engines on display was shown by Bill Myles, Centreville, New Brunswick. His 6 hp Canadian-built Fairbanks-Morse spent its life running a drag saw. “These engines were hauled on skids to a site and set up,” Bill told me. “She’s heavy, probably 900 pounds and was probably built between 1920 and 1925.” The engine’s valves stick occasionally, he says, but it runs pretty steady. “I haven’t done much to it,” he says.
Like many old iron enthusiasts, Bill runs his engine on regular gasoline. I asked many people at the show what they were using for fuel these days. With gasoline blends containing increasing amounts of ethanol, some collectors are beginning to use fuel additives. Others, wary of potential damage to log splitters and chainsaws, have spent considerable time looking for a source of regular grade ethanol-free gasoline.
Bill also displayed a small 3/4 hp Iron Horse engine, which he refers to as “the housewife’s best friend.” Designed as a power source for early wringer washing machines, the Iron Horse was manufactured by Johnson Motor Co., Peterborough, Ontario, in the late 1940s. “Imagine the step ahead it was to have a power clothes washing machine,” Bill marvels. “When you’ve been washing clothes for 10-16 people, babies to adults, with only a washboard, talk about a leap forward!” The engine was designed to be easy to use: The lady of the house hooked up a belt, ran the exhaust hose out the window and kicked down on the starter.
“Can’t you see some old girl kicking her heart out, just desperate to get the wash done before starting supper?” he asks. “But if set properly, the Johnson was a reliable engine.” An onlooker at the show recalled using a similar wringer engine as a power plant for his bicycle. He mounted a pulley, bolted the engine to the frame and, in his words, “hung on.”
A very rare 1909 Aermotor gas engine built in Chicago next caught my attention. Owner Murray Davis, Westfield, New Brunswick, purchased the engine from an elderly neighbor about 20 years ago. “It had been used as a water pump for a cattle barn,” he says, “and I believe the well was less than 30 feet deep.”
The rare eight-stroke engine with drip lubrication has a rather odd muffler. “It has a reverse exhaust and blows the exhaust back on the engine,” Murray says. Equipped with a tri-polar oscillator, the engine generates 2 hp at 300 rpm. “Someone said it should be in a museum,” he admits, “but more folks will see it here than ever go to a museum.” FC
For more information:
—Antique Power Days is held annually on the Saturday before Father’s Day in Bristol, New Brunswick. Bristol is 20 minutes from the Trans-Canada Highway and the off-ramp is clearly marked. Those traveling from Maine can cross at Bridgewater (25-minute drive) or Houlton (30-minute drive). For more information, contact Steve Patterson via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cary Rideout lives in Carlow, New Brunswick, Canada, on his family farm with his artist wife, Lorain. Contact him by email at email@example.com.