Breaking Records at Rock River

Participants thresh up a storm at record-setting event

| April 2009

  • windstackers
    Twenty-nine vintage threshing machines were put through their paces at the Rock River Thresheree August 2008. Fading paint on the machines’ windstackers shows manufacturers’ names.
  • labyrinth of belts
    A labyrinth of belts connects separators and steam traction engines.
    Tim Kessenich
  • vintage threshing machines
    An amazing line-up of working vintage threshing machines.
    Jamie Young
  • putting the belt on
    Putting the belt on a Nichols & Shepard steam traction engine.
    Jamie Young
  • on the job during threshing
    On the job during the record-breaking threshing operation at Rock River. More than 200 people were involved in the effort.
  • running the thresher's blower
    A scene from the Rock River Thresheree near Edgerton, Wis. Running the thresher’s blower was a notoriously dirty job, as the air filled with straw and chaff.
    Donna Browne
  • panoramic view of threshing show
    Panoramic view of record-setting steam threshing at Rock River.
    Jamie Young

  • windstackers
  • labyrinth of belts
  • vintage threshing machines
  • putting the belt on
  • on the job during threshing
  • running the thresher's blower
  • panoramic view of threshing show

Put one vintage threshing machine to work at an antique farm equipment show or county fair, and you have a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Fire up 29 of them at one time, and you have the makings for a threshing event that will go down in the annals of agricultural history.

That’s precisely what the members of Rock River Thresheree Inc. accomplished last Aug. 30, when they started up a ring of 29 separators powered by 28 steam traction engines and one gas-powered tractor, followed by a second ring of 29 vintage gas-powered tractors and separators.

Thousands of people, along with print and broadcast media, turned out to witness the record-setting event held at the club’s Threshermen’s Park in south central Wisconsin near Edgerton. Club member Lori Niemuth says the event set a record for the most separators, the most steam traction engines and the most gas tractors threshing at one time.

Lori says the original goal was to bring in 20 separators, but as word of the event spread, more and more collectors declared their intention to participate. “In 2006, our club set a record by threshing with 12 separators,” Lori explains. “When another club surpassed that mark by bringing in 15 machines the following year, our club decided to go all out.

“Our members own several separators, and the Wade Bros. collection, which includes four working separators, was a feature of our 2008 reunion. As word got out, we heard from friends of the club who decided to bring their separators, along with other collectors who wanted their steam traction engines and gas tractors to be a part of the event. And many of our workers came from sister clubs, such as the Badger Steam & Gas Engine Club of Baraboo, Wis.”



Separators featured in the event represented a who’s who of vintage threshing equipment. There were models bearing the nameplates of Case, McCormick, Advance-Rumely, Oliver Red River, Belle City and Huber, as well as Minneapolis, Allis-Chalmers, Aultman & Taylor, John Deere and Avery separators. Among the rare models on hand were a wooden 20-inch Advance-Rumely and a wooden 36-inch Red River Special.

Steam power kicked off the day’s activities, with power provided by a variety of steam traction engines. Vintage engines included numerous Advance-Rumely, Minneapolis and Case models; Gaar-Scott, Frick and Port Huron engines were also represented. In addition, the event featured a 30-98 single-cylinder and a 30-98 double-cylinder Nichols & Shepard engine, as well as a 1924 19 hp Keck-Gonnerman steam traction engine.