Old-fashioned engines and tractors filled the McFarland Living History Ranch grounds with their distinctive pops, bangs and roars on Oct. 1 and 2 for the Antique Equipment Show. At the same time, the organization that mounts the event celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Many who brought equipment to exhibit spoke about the importance of passing on knowledge of older technologies and the ways those machines fit into people’s daily lives.
“We’re dedicated to preserving the history of it,” said Julie Alvey, with Branch 13 of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association (EDGETA).
The show is “a stepping back in time, trying to show people a more relaxed atmosphere, how people used to live,” Alvey said.
The engines on display had a wide range of uses, from running washing machines or butter churns to pumping water or powering mills.
“They did the work that you would have to do around the farm,” EDGETA member Bob Lobdill said.
A variety of engine sizes were also evident. The biggest engine, a 24,000-pound behemoth built in 1919, once powered a silver mine in Nevada and had enough energy left over to provide electricity to the nearby mining town. On the other end of the scale were Ray Fontaine’s model engines, most no more than a few inches tall.
Fontaine said he focused on model engines after retiring from his job as a mechanical designer.
“The thing with models is they don’t take up as much room,” Fontaine continued. “Plus, they’re fun to watch and run and actually build.”
Stationary gas engines replaced a lot of hand and horse labor, but as the 20th century unfolded, electric motors and tractors in turn replaced them.
In the afternoon, the tractor owners took turns testing their vehicles in the sled pull, dragging an 11,000-pound sled as far as they could. The weight of the sled gradually shifted forward, making the pull progressively harder.
Additionally, the Galt Area Historical Society, which owns McFarland Ranch, held an antique sale and a raffle. The raffle winners went home with prizes like wine, spirits or Christmas decorations. Out of all the items, the favorite turned out to be a commercial-grade hose.
Multiple equipment show exhibitors described the engines and tractors as relatively low maintenance, as long as they were treated well.
Carl Dunfee explained what it takes to care for his 1945 John Deere tractor.
“Basically nothing. Just keep it clean, and pour a little gas in it.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Wallom’s 1949 John Deere never stopped working farms.
“We pulled it directly out of the field,” Wallom noted.
The farmer said another tractor that he’d brought — a 1948 McCormick-Deering — had been a birthday present from him to his father, and it wasn’t the first tractor Wallom has given as a gift.
“I’m kind of crazy that way,” Wallom said.
Wallom said he keeps old tractors operating to preserve the “agricultural heritage”.
“We’re just kind of the caretakers for the next generation. Keep them running, and hope that somebody younger than me will be interested as I am in them,” Wallom said.
The show normally invites local schools to make field trips on the first of the two show days, but organizers said COVID-19 restrictions prevented that from happening this year. They look forward to teaching children about the machines in 2022.