Let’s Talk Rusty Iron: Sure sign of spring: Engine and tractor shows


Well, Mother Nature is playing an April Fool’s Day trick on us — it’s snowing as I write this. However, it must be spring; I’ve already been to my first tractor show.

Last weekend I traveled to Fort Wayne, Ind., and spent about six hours taking in the Maumee Valley Antique Steam & Gas Association Spring Show at the Allen County War Memorial Arena.

The feature was Minneapolis Moline, along with Cockshutt and Co-op tractors and equipment and there was a nice selection of tractors and machinery from all three marques.

Unusual items

Two of the more unusual items were a 1948 Co-op Blackhawk walk-behind garden tractor sold by the Ohio Cultivator Division of the National Farm Machinery Co-operative in Bellvue, Ohio, as well as a rare 1939 Co-op bicycle.

Co-op tractors included an original 1936 No. 2, as well as a nicely restored No. 3 and an equally nice Model C. The Model C was equipped with a live PTO that took power from a pulley on the front of the engine crankshaft.

V-belts drove a long shaft that ran to the rear along the left side of the tractor to just behind the operator’s seat. More V-belts then drove the PTO shaft under the seat and above the drawbar.

Cockshutt tractors

There were a number of later Co-ops as well, and a nice selection of Cockshutt tractors including a Blackhawk 20 and a Blackhawk 35. Someone displayed a selection of garden tractor sized Cockshutt tillage tools. There was a double gang transport disc, a field cultivator and a chisel plow, all painted and decaled exactly like their full-sized brethren and with actual small hydraulic cylinders to raise and lower them.

Farmall tractors

There were a lot of shiny red Farmall tractors glistening in the arena lights, including a nice Cub pulling a little Model 100 International manure spreader. I remember when my uncle bought one of those little gems to pull behind his Ford-Ferguson to spread the manure from his dairy herd. And speaking of shiny red paint, the Alan Felger family from Churubusco, Ind., displayed an absolutely stunning 1924 International one-ton Model S Red Baby truck; I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a nicer.

Prairie Gold!

Of course Prairie Gold paint looks pretty good too, especially when set off by bright red wheels, and there were many fine examples of Minneapolis-Moline equipment.

Even though M-M built only about 125 examples of the famous UDLX Comfort Tractor, there seems to be at least one at every M-M show and this was no exception, although I didn’t see the owner’s name.

Even rarer than the UDLX is the M-M NTX, a later variation of, I believe, the Model Z tractor, that was built during World War II as a military tug, but there was one there. Owned by Laverne Thenen of Marshall, Mich., the streamlined machine was no longer Army drab but glittering Prairie Gold.

Allis- Chalmers

There was a decent array of John Deere tractors, a dozen or more from Allis-Chalmers, a few Massey-Harris, and a half dozen examples from Case, all painted and polished.

I saw one B.F. Avery V, a 17-30 Minneapolis, a Silver King and a couple of golf course tractors: a Model A Ford based Toro and a Dodge powered Worthington.


Garden tractors included Simplicity, Bolens, Wheel Horse, Deere, and an original Sears Handiman riding model from the early 1940s.
There were a half dozen gas engines, although they weren’t permitted to run them in the arena, and six or seven antique trucks, as well as a nice, original 1906 one-cylinder Cadillac Model M car owned by Galen Wilkerson.

Someone exhibited a near perfect antique wooden wheeled stock wagon with wood racks and a hand winch to help persuade a reluctant cow to step aboard.

Then there was the Western-style chuck wagon display, complete with a life sized wagon skinner on the seat, a cabinet at the rear containing utensils and provisions and a campfire with a large coffee pot boiling over the (fake) fire.

Amazing models

The Machinist Group of Northeast Indiana had a large table set up with a good selection of the model engines of all types they build.

The best exhibit was the 1:16 scale model of a tracked log loader that was built by member John Crunkleton. The boom, which pivots, raises, lowers, extends and retracts, the tracks, which actually move the machine, the log grapple, which pivots, opens and closes, and even working outrigger jacks, are all run by tiny geared electric motors. An on-board Stirling hot air engine, powered by propane, drives a generator that charges hidden batteries that furnish electric power for the motors (it was verboten to run the butane burner inside the arena so it was powered by an external power supply).

It was fascinating to watch as John picked up 1:16 scale logs and loaded them onto a 1:16 scale trailer. It’s difficult to imagine the skill and patience required for such a project.

Another nice model was the 1:2 5/8 model of a 1920 Twin City 25-45 oil tractor that was built by Brian Culy. This hefty model looked as though it was ready to conquer the prairies with a miniature 6-bottom plow.


Jim Gibbons from Petrolia, Ontario, had a large table covered with his scratch-built 1:16 models of tractors and machinery, all of which are perfect in paint and details. These guys that can do such intricate machining fill me with wonder (and not a little envy).

A number of vendors were set up in the hall and I managed to drop almost a hundred bucks on a couple of things I couldn’t imagine living without, but that are of no earthly use to me.

One is a Hubley toy telephone company line truck from the 1940s (in honor of my years with Ohio Bell), and the other is a Ford-O kerosene tail light that was made for a Model T Ford that, although the outside is rusty, has never been used and even has intact glass bullseye lenses.


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Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules.



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