Summer shows and the ‘stuff’ we accumulate


The summer is flying by and, as usual, we wonder how it goes so fast and why we are not getting more done.

The first part of the season was too wet, but since mid-July the weather has been about as good as one could ask for. A four-day show rarely gets four good days in a row, but the last of July/ first of August weekend brought just such good weather to us at Portersville, Pennsylvania. Some of us thought we might set an attendance record, but the treasurer said we didn’t quite make that benchmark, although attendance was good.

Big loss

We didn’t haul in any traction engines this year partly due to the untimely passing of our main trucker, Jim Lewandowski, just before the show. He was not only our main hauler for the big engines, but was a club director and kept his ear to the ground to keep track of what was available to invite and feature at the show.

He also had a sizeable collection of iron in many categories and scattered in a number of locations. It will keep his family and friends busy over many months sorting it all out, deciding what to keep, sell, and bequeath in various directions.

I’m sure many of my readers have been in the same sort of spot and can sympathize. I was involved in a major way in handling my dad’s estate, as well as Harry Fleming’s stuff and a bit of Clyde Lightfoot’s huge collection.

Sorting through ‘stuff’

Fleming was a dedicated old steam enthusiast, as well as a clock maker by trade. One of his aims was to put together a steam car, so a Stanley engine and some other parts were part of his “stuff.” Willis Abel got the engine and told me a few years later that it was powering a car somewhere.

Fleming’s two-car garage had room for his Chevy sedan, though we wondered if he had to use grease to slide it in at times. But the floor averaged at least 4 inches deep with dirt, nails, screws, clock parts and so on. As we sorted and literally dug bits up from the ground and floor, we repeatedly asked each other, “What is the market today on rusty nails?”

Clyde Lightfoot had wide-ranging interests that extended into mechanical music machines, foundry work and various mechanical and machine areas.

I well recall the shock on my wife’s face when I pushed open the door to the pipe room connected to his organ, as she had no idea where the sound of such a device originated. It was a pipe organ he took out of a theatre somewhere in suburban Pittsburgh.

I don’t know how many lathes Fleming had, along with drills, mills and so on. He also had a large horizontal mill, which came in handy for some big jobs. His shop was rather cluttered due to the fact that he cleared out some iron and went to the scrap yard at one time and scarcely a week later needed a piece he had tossed out — so no more to tossing out was done.

Fleming also built the “Runs Right” John Deere that Jim Lewandowski wound up with. It was a project he dreamed of for a long time and when a neighbor came up with a spare “A” tractor for a reasonable figure, he did it. We were amused when he described how he installed the counter weights needed on the crankshaft, expecting a description of weighing pistons and rods and calculating weights etc. No such thing!

“I just made them as big as I had clearance for and bolted them in.”

Back to Portersville

We entertained the boiler inspector at Portersville for two days and got seven boilers approved to fire up, so we are still a steam show for sure. We threshed and sawed with steam and baled up the straw and paraded and pulled all sizes of tractors and had a lot of fun doing it.

A number of engines have come up for sale recently and so prices have been checked or re-established as only the market can do.

A Russell near Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a 16 horse traction that had not run for about 15 years brought about $18,000 and went to an interested young fellow not too far away. We wish him the best with it. It will need some work but not as much as our basket case engine of several years ago.

Another rather big sale came up at Fairview, Pennsylvania, when the collection of the late Ernie Testo and now owned by his son Ernie Jr. was put under the hammer. It was very clean and well restored and painted equipment and stored in a museum building. Three big traction engines, by Aultman-Taylor, Keck Gonnerman and the Cannonball road locomotive assembled many years ago by the late Fred Hart and featuring an 18 horse Garr-Scott engine. Each of these brought over $20,000, or so I’m told. The two originals went west and only the Cannonball will stay local.

There were some 30 gas engines, all well restored and complete and they also brought premium prices.

Take care of them

I often wonder at sales why the iron is dragged out and left dirty and dusty, as is often seen. Testo’s sale speaks well of the wisdom of having stuff well presented and prepared. I’m told the total sale was close to a quarter million dollars, including several fancy stoves, furniture, tools and other small items as we all have gathered up over the years.

Another well advertised sale is coming up in September featuring about a dozen Oil-Pulls and some parts, so that should cause some more money to change hands. Let’s hope the new owners show all their purchases to the public and enjoy them.

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