Southeast Kansas Gas Engine & Tractor Club Impresses at Annual Show

Southeast Kansas Gas Engine & Tractor Club showcases variety, including David Bradley walk-behind garden tractors and Hercules engines.

| September 2013

  • 1954 David Bradley Tri Trac
    Kenny Wilson's 1954 David Bradley Tri-Trac. The Trac sold for $598 ($5,178 today) in 1954. The way it was designed, it was an expensive little tractor, he says.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Restored Tractors
    Handsomely restored tractors were displayed along classic cars and trucks.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • McCormick Deering 1530 Tractor
    McCormick-Deering 15-30 tractor hand-built by the late Allen Smith.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Tri Trac Close Up
    “I live in a subdivision and the Tri-Trac is really popular there,” Kenny says. “get it out and the neighbor kids hook their wagons to it.”
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • A display of street rods added unmistakable flair to the Pittsburg show.
    A display of street rods added unmistakable flair to the Pittsburg show.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Kenny Wilson With Corn Shellers
    In addition to his David Bradley Tri-Trac, Kenny Wilson displayed a few old corn shellers. He gets kids interested in antique farm equipment by letting them try their hand at grinding corn.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Andy Smith Girard Kansas
    Andy Smith, Girard, Kan., and his dad, Luther Smith (not pictured), maintain working quarter-scale models designed and built by Smith.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • 1919 Hercules 5EK
    Jamie Gull’s 1919 Hercules 5EK. Except for physical size, notes C.H. Wendel in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, every engine in the Hercules line was virtually identical.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Richard And Kathy Shannon
    Richard and Kathy Shannon with part of their collection of apple peelers and cherry pitters.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Kid Display
    Loren Erwin says he designs his displays “to keep the kids entertained.” Mission accomplished. When a crowd of children spies the displays, a chorus of “Awesome!” fills the air.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Joe Winter With Butter Churns
    Joe Winter with his collection of butter churns.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Possible Butter Churn
    Joe isn’t positive that this is a butter churn — but with a whip-like mechanism inside, he doesn’t know what else it might be. He believes it to be among the oldest pieces in his churn collection.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Barrel Style Churn
    This favorite churn was manufactured by J. McDermaid, Rockford, Ill. McDermaid produced four models of barrel-style churns. The patent he won in 1876 (no. 183,585) was among the first granted for barrel churns.
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus
  • Two Handled Churn
    This churn was equipped with two handles. “You could sit down and crank it with two handles,” Joe says. “It just made it easier to use.”
    Photo By Leslie C. McManus

  • 1954 David Bradley Tri Trac
  • Restored Tractors
  • McCormick Deering 1530 Tractor
  • Tri Trac Close Up
  • A display of street rods added unmistakable flair to the Pittsburg show.
  • Kenny Wilson With Corn Shellers
  • Andy Smith Girard Kansas
  • 1919 Hercules 5EK
  • Richard And Kathy Shannon
  • Kid Display
  • Joe Winter With Butter Churns
  • Possible Butter Churn
  • Barrel Style Churn
  • Two Handled Churn

For sheer spectacle, there’s nothing like an enormous, sprawling tractor show. But don’t underestimate the appeal of a small local show. Hometown shows have their share of gems, and there’s nothing the local folks would rather do than show them off.

The Southeast Kansas Gas Engine & Tractor Club’s annual show is a classic example. Held the third weekend of June in Pittsburg, the show offered a surprising mix of antique farm relics big and small wrapped up in a bear hug of warm hospitality. Adding a celebratory touch to the club’s 25th annual show, a bluegrass concert was held on the lawn Friday night. Other special events included a rolling pin contest, women’s skillet toss, a car show and baling demonstrations.

Feature tractor: David Bradley

Kenny Wilson, Carl Junction, Mo., is a big fan of collectible garden tractors — and that’s pretty understandable, especially once you hear his story. “When I was growing up, we mostly farmed with horse power,” he recalls. “We had a truck patch and it kept us kids busy, pulling weeds and picking off potato bugs. Mom canned all summer. The house would be super hot all summer, but if we wanted to eat that’s what we had to do.”

The advent of walk-behind garden tractors — like those built by David Bradley Mfg. Co. — was a major leap forward. “It was such a big boon to the farmer,” Kenny says. “David Bradley had no trouble selling those. They were economical; just about anybody could afford one.” Equipped with a 4 hp Briggs & Stratton engine and 16-inch wheels, the early walk-behind unit was also easy to handle. Kenny recently acquired a walk-behind David Bradley unit. It is scheduled for restoration in his shop, and if an already completed David Bradley Tri-Trac is any indication, it will be a gem.



The Tri-Trac is a remnant of the era when Sears, Roebuck & Co. owned David Bradley Mfg. Co. Produced from 1954-’57 by David Bradley at Sears’ behest, the Tri-Trac was an idea after its time. “They just didn’t go over,” Kenny says. “If they’d made them before or during the war, they would have sold a lot of them. There was a big demand for garden tractors then because everybody had a ‘victory garden.’ But by the 1950s, the troops were back home and they were farming on a big scale.”

The Tri-Trac had a 6 hp Wisconsin engine and a bore and stroke of 2-7/8 by 2-3/4 inches. Sears offered 10 pieces of equipment for the Tri-Trac. “Those are hard to come by now,” Kenny says. The Tri-Trac had forward, reverse, neutral and a speed changer; it weighed 894 pounds. “It was heavy compared to its competitors,” he says, “but it was relatively easy to turn.” A versatile unit, it also had an adjustable front wheel to accommodate row widths from 48-72 inches.