Rough and Tumble Engineers Museum Built on Lobbyists' Legacy

The Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association's museum in Kinzers, Penn. features seven buildings housing a huge collection


| November 2000



Flywheels spin nonstop during the summer show at the Rough and Tumble museum, where more than 50 large gas engines are displayed in two buildings. Many of the engines are in operation during shows.

Flywheels spin nonstop during the summer show at the Rough and Tumble museum, where more than 50 large gas engines are displayed in two buildings. Many of the engines are in operation during shows.

Not every club can trace its roots to an early political action committee. But the Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association in Kinzers, Penn., is not every club.

The Pennsylvania Threshermen and Farmers Protective Association, formed early in the last century, served as the incubator for what is now a collectors club with more than 2,200 members. Eighty years ago, the group's concern was legislative attempts to ban steam traction engines from newly built roads. But as equipment evolved, that threat passed. By mid-century, the group was about to disband, when one last gathering - a picnic - was held. Many in the large crowd brought their steam engines for a sort of "last hurrah." Little did they know what they'd started.

More than 50 years later, Rough and Tumble is a thriving organization. The club's annual schedule includes a tractor pull, spring and fall gatherings, and regular workdays at their 35-acre showgrounds. But the big event is the summer show. The 53rd annual Threshermen's Reunion, held in August, regularly attracts thousands of visitors, many of whom are amazed by what they find.

"People say they've never seen so many gas engines, or so many steam engines, in one place," says Gerald Myer, club president.

Good reason for that: The Rough and Tumble museum is one of a kind. More than seven large buildings house a permanent collection of steam engines, large gas engines, gas tractors, antique cars, and stationary steam engines. There are at least 20 antique cars, 75 gas tractors, 50 gas engines and some 20 steam traction engines.

Some of the equipment belongs to the club. But many pieces belong to members, who agree to operate the equipment at shows in exchange for a place to keep it the rest of the year.