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100-Plus-Year-Old Westinghouse Separator Still Threshin'

Antique Westinghouse Company threshing machine helps "keep the past alive"

| March 2004

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    The antique Westinghouse Company threshing machine.
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    Bob Honsberger, with pitchfork, operates the Westinghouse Co. grain separator.
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    A glimpse at the separator's inner workings.
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    Circa-1870s Westinghouse Company threshing machine in action.

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The tall tailings elevator tossed the straw into an ever-growing pile, while wheat slowly worked its way through the swaying separator’s sieve-filled belly and fell into bags below.

Like a threshing crew from days gone by, Bob Honsberger and his son, Russ, fed wheat into the 19th-century Westinghouse Company threshing machine as a crowd stood fascinated by a sight rarely seen in the 21st century outside of farm shows and museums.

“The world today is in too big a hurry to go nowhere and do nothing,” Bob says as he swings a pitchfork full of unthreshed wheat.

That’s why Bob and Russ wheel out the vintage separator each year to demonstrate how the rare and historical piece of farm equipment works.

“It keeps the past alive,” Bob says.

Hidden treasure

Bob has owned the separator since he inherited it from friend and longtime farm equipment collector Barney Haas. Barney, who was well known in Ohio old-iron circles, died in 1999 and willed the machine to Bob. Yet, the separator might’ve never seen the light of day if not for a chance rainstorm, Bob says.

Back in 1970, Barney’s father, Ernie Haas, hid from the rain in an old barn near Clarion, Pa., Bob explains. Inside, Ernie discovered the separator sitting under a thick layer of dust. After the storm passed, Ernie located the machine’s owner and asked if he could buy it. If Ernie’s plan was to plant the separator in a museum, the farmer wouldn’t sell. But if he planned on putting it to good use, then they had an agreement. With a promise and a handshake, the deal was sealed, and the thresher again saw daylight.


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