Public Relations Midwest Old Threshers 1887 Threshers Road Mt.
Pleasant, Iowa 52641
With the help of five wonderful, rain-free days of weather, the
1996 Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, was a tremendous
success. This year’s dates were August 29 through September 2.
The large crowds, in upwards of 125,000, gathered on 120 acres to
celebrate our agricultural history.
Let me first express Old Threshers deepest thank you to all of
you who came to Mt. Pleasant to join us in this festival of steam.
It was a terrific time and we wouldn’t be here without you.
For those of you who have never made it, but ‘always wanted
to get down there for that,’ mark your calendars for next year,
August 28 through September 1. It is an experience you cannot
The Old Threshers Reunion has been called the largest Steam Show
in America and for good reason. With over 100 traction steam
engines, 300 gas tractors, 1000 gas engines, eight operating
historic trolleys, steam trains, horses, antique cars and trucks,
carousel, stationary steam engineswhoa! Let me begin again.
The Old Threshers Reunion is home to many enthusiasts, and the
whole culmination of the event is something to behold in sheer
With the wonderful weather, all five Cavalcades of power were
held, along with the tractor pulls and the Invitational Horse
The Traction Steam Engine area was at full steam this year. The
demonstrations included a full scale saw mill and veneer mill,
shingle mill, Prony Brake and Baker Fan demonstrations, steam
threshing of wheat and oats, and sorghum mill operation. Boiler
explanations were also included this year.
Many of the traction engines also participated in the tractor
pull on Friday and Saturday mornings. It is amazing to see the
horsepower that these huge machines hold.
The steam engine of the year was an 18 HP Colean owned by Larry
Nelson of Muscatine, Iowa. The engine was built in 1905 by the
Colean Manufacturing Company of Peoria, Illinois. The company made
steam traction engines, separators and special steel geared steam
traction engines for railroad contractors before gas engines
replaced the steam powered equipment.
The black steam engine, trimmed in gold, is one of four
remaining in the world. There is only one 18 HP, one 25 HP, and two
30 HP, which makes owning one even more special. The engine weighs
over 18,000 pounds and travels up to 13 mph. The engine was
purchased in 1982 and then restored (the former owner had restored
it in 1960). Nelson did most of the work himself, and it runs
great. His wife and two sons are in charge of the painting and
A favorite spot of many Reunion visitors was the tractor area.
There were 360 registered tractors this year. All tractors must be
1939 un-styled or earlier models. Many exhibitors brought more than
one tractor, and some displayed an entire collection of one model
Tractors had the opportunity to show their stuff at the tractor
pulls on Friday and Saturday mornings. It is a popular event at the
Reunion, for the participants and spectators.
The featured tractor for 1996 was a 1936 English Fordson owned
by Paul and Dorothy Martin. The blue and orange Fordson has 28 HP
and was built in England between the years of 1931-45. Before that
time, the tractor was made in the United States from 1918-1927. The
tractor was made by the Ford Motor Company in grey and the blue and
The Martins have been attending the Reunion since 1974 and own
about 70 antique tractors.
There were over 1000 gas engines at the Reunion this year. Once
again, a wonderful turnout. Demonstrations were as varied as
one’s imagination. Exhibits depicted jobs made easier by the
gas engine as well as the diversity they offered the farmer.
This year’s featured engine was the Foos Gas Engine Company
of Springfield, Ohio. The company was in engine production from
1883 to 1930.
The Foos is also a central piece of equipment to be restored for
a new mill project at Old Threshers. The new project will
reconstruct a mill operated by Joseph Hiram Marvin in the late
1800s as a buckwheat and saw mill.
The Southeast Iowa Antique Car Club displayed over 100 cars and
trucks of yesteryear at the Reunion. The featured car of the year
was a 1935 Cabriolet owned by Harold and Joan Lunsford of Palmyra,
Missouri. Harold restored the engine and replaced the leather
interior, but everything else is original. Ford produced 17,000
Cabriolets in ’35. The Cabriolet comes complete with a rumble
seat, fold-down top, and a V-8 engine with 85 HP. Lunsford’s
auto is gunmetal blue with green apple trim, and was one of the
faster cars of its time. The selling price in 1935 was $625.
Young and old love the lure of our trains and trolleys. These
relics of the past are put to good use on the grounds transporting
our visitors to and from their destinations. Narrowgauge steam
trains and eight historic trolleys offer a ride and history lesson
that few can pass up.
This year’s Reunion was dedicated to the volunteers of
Midwest Central Railroad and the memory of the late Stanley
Mathews, founder and president of Midwest Central Railroad. The
railroad had an excellent year transporting visitors and had very
few mechanical problems.
Midwest Electric Railway celebrated their Silver Anniversary at
the ’96 Reunion. The Southern Iowa Car #9 and the Chicago,
Aurora & Elgin #320 were brought to Old Thresher grounds in
1968. The first year of operation was in 1971 on a short straight
track. Since then, more track has been added and Old Threshers
bought the electric line from Midwest Central Railway. There are
now eight historic trolleys and 150 active members of Midwest
Electric Railway who maintain and restore the trolleys.
One of our more recent additions to Old Threshers is the fully
restored 1894 Herschell- Spillman Carousel. It is one of six steam
powered carousels still in existence. The carousel returns to Old
Threshers after almost 20 years in hiatus. The steam powered beauty
offered rides to young and old throughout the Reunion.
The involvement in the Log Village and Snipe Run has once again
increased. Both areas give Reunion visitors the opportunity to
experience the food, clothing, crafts, daily activities,
mannerisms, and entertainment of the 1850 time period.
The craft areas gave Reunion visitors the opportunity to watch
skilled craftspeople demonstrate their expertise. Visitors could
purchase these crafts as well as many quality antiques throughout
The free entertainment was at an all time great this year with
over 30 acts, many of them returning by popular demand from
The professional country music acts drew large crowds each night
due to their high popularity and low cost ticket prices. Acts
included the Fellingham Family, Trisha Year-wood, Collin Raye, Neal
McCoy and Louise Mandrell.
Administrator Lennis Moore stated, ‘The entire Reunion was
well run by the Association’s Board of Directors, staff and our
many volunteers. People are dedicated to making the Reunion the
best event possible, and contribute to the success of Old Threshers
because they enjoy it.’ Moore concluded by saying, ‘Our
volunteers truly make this event a Reunion in every sense of the
word; a place people can always come home to.’