Antique Steam and Gas Engine Show 2009

Trip Report 20091024

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The Experience

Twice a year an exhibition of antique gas and steam powered farm equipment is held in Vista, CA. This event has been going on for years, but I never knew about it. This year, based on the urging of my good friend Kai, I went. And what a show! I was blown away by the large number of function, but very odd, pieces of equipment that were there. I took a ton of photos, but the set below are the most representative of what was there.

I have to say that I was very impressed that this set of old equipment was actually functional. The members of this club have spent a large amount of money acquiring these artifacts and a huge number of hours restoring the equipment to operational status. Some of the larger items were donated by industry when the equipment was retired from active service. The collection is located at a city park within Vista, on the north side of the city.

These photos were taken with my Leica M8 with a 24 mm lens.

The photos below are what we saw.

This was impressive and in excellent shape. This motor has a 7 inch bore and a 12 inch stroke and displaces 462 cubic inches. It runs on gasoline or kerosene and was used to run a man-hoist at a gold mine in Banner Canyon near Julian, CA. Total power output of the motor: about 10 horsepower. The square box at the top of the device is the radiator reservoir, which is open to the atmosphere. No high pressure system here!

This is a 1916 Fairbanks-Morse motor that puts out 6 HP at 400 rpm. Like the motor above, this runs on mixed fuel as well and has an open radiator that needs about 9 gallons of water. The motor was running (note the steam from the radiator) and driving a DC generator. The motor weighs 900 pounds!

Both of the motors on the trailer were operated at some point during the day. The bigger motor even got the hotrod paint treatment, which was very well done. These motors were very interesting to hear in operation. They have some kind of speed governor that would allow the motor to run many revolutions without firing the cylinder until the speed decreased sufficiently to force the cylinder to fire. This was done as a fuel conservation mechanism, but it produced a very odd, non-periodic sound.

One of the stars of the show. This tractor was running and the crew was filling the water tank in anticipation of driving it around the show area. Note the smoke coming out of the stack. Lots of gears and moving parts on this baby, but oddly enough, not like a steam locomotive, they were very quiet. The large wheel off the ground is the precursor to the modern power take-off (PTO) that is used to drive farm implements. Back then, shafts were not used, but rather leather belts as you will see in some later photos.

Another large tractor. Lots of moving parts here as well. We will see this in operation later in this photo set.

These tractors are quite heavy when fully loaded with water and fuel. I never did get a weight, but I have to guess that they are on the order of 20,000 pounds or so.

This is an actual steam roller that was used for rolling asphalt on roads. This unit runs on fuel oil rather than coal and was donated to the museum by LA Asphalt Company.

Here you can see the power take-off belt in use. The tractor is stationary and the belt is being used to drive a wood saw. The sign on the top says "1895 Steamer".

This monstrosity had to be mounted on a concrete foundation. This engine was used to power an ammonia compressor used to as part of a refrigeration unit to cool produce. This fellow is big.

The slab had other examples of stationary steam powered equipment. Most of these were operational, although only a few were in actual use when we were there.

This engine is massive (note the human to the left of the photo), but I never got the full story on what it was used for or who donated the equipment.

There were a substantial number of restored farm tractors at the show as well. Some were restored to mint condition.

Speaking of mint condition, check out this IH rig. The owners put a ton of time into this.

The "Power Horse" was one of the odder rigs at the show. This unit was build assuming that there was still a large field population (pun intended) of farm equipment that was meant to be pulled by teams of horses. So, they built it to literally replace the horse, including being steered with reins. Inventive, but odd.

One of the small motors was used to power a water pump with a leather belt.

This is a 3 HP 1926 Fuller and Johnson gas engine that saw service on a cement mixer.

A fully restored 1934 Cletrac crawler.

There were plenty of examples of odd tractors there as well. Above, Parker examines one of the odder examples: a front engine road scraper.

One of the Marine's F-18s on display. This is an active duty machine and is in service within the fleet.

At one o'clock, the parade started. Each of the functional machines came down the main street of the exhibition.

This was one of the odder "big" tractors. Note the size of the steel wheels.

We saw this one earlier when used to drive the sawmill.

A true horseless carriage.

No hillbilly parade is complete without Jed and Granny. Complete with double barrel shotgun.

Note the belt driven governor on the top (with the small iron spheres) and the steam coming out underneath.

This one was pulling a wagon that was labeled "cook shack". The steering is accomplished through a worm gear and a rotating shaft that pulls on the steering chains that are attached to the front wheels.

This steam roller is oil powered (most of the others run on coal) and was not configured to drive auxiliary equipment. The large wheel on the top is a simple flywheel.

I had never heard of an "Oil Pull" tractor before this event.

This one is a prize and will be seen later powering a grain thresher. Note the steam cylinder on the side of the pressure tank.

Steam-powered equipment is complex to run and very high maintenance. So, when the diesel engine was perfected, steam became obsolete almost over night. Above is an early bulldozer that was donated by SDG&E.

Another early bulldozer. Note the cables used to lift the blade. Practical hydraulics would not be invented for another 20 years.

From the very big to the very small.

This gal (actually a guy in drag) flopped her fake boobs at the crowd. Note the "bumper dumper" on the front.

The paint on this rig is better than my BMW.

Power Horse in action. And it DOES actually steer by pulling on the reins.

WTF? This was the oddest rig in the group. Note the concrete used as ballast in the front wheels.

A 1923 bulldozer, gas powered.

Something a little different.

International Harvester "Titan" .

I caught this guy on his way back to the storage shed.

The biggest of the steam tractors was pulled up next to the thresher and the belt was attached. Now that the engine was under some load, the noise level increased as did the smoke.

Look at all the belts and pulleys on the side of this bad boy!! Plenty of places to lose a finger or hand if you stick it in the wrong place at the wrong time. When this was running, it sounded like a jet engine.

I was blown away by some of the equipment at this show. In addition to the antique gas and steam engines and tractors, they also had a blacksmith shop where they built replacement parts. All the equipment in this show was belt driven and therefore authentic for that period of our industrial history.

If you are in the area, you should check this out. This show happens in the spring and the fall.

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