By the time this is in print, show season should be well under way and all the
winter restoration projects will be out on public view. This last month, there has been a lot of discussion about
show displays on out internet mailing list, and once again I’ve had a problem condensing all the information to
a manageable size! It started with this question:
- This year our local show is going to try to emphasize working displays. What are some of the things other shows/people
are doing that demonstrates to the viewing public what our equipment was built to do?
The ideas and information came in thick and fast from around the world with both practcal and zany suggestions
(a 16HP Galloway-powered pencil sharpener???), along with advice on how to make displays educational and safe.
- I find at shows that the engines in their 'working clothes', actually running a grist mill, brick crusher or
water pump will draw the crowd and evoke the most questions and interest.
- In my displays, I try to have something for the kids to do. You remember what you do far better than what you
hear, see, or say.
I have a corn sheller belted to an engine and a corn grinder mounted on a wagon with an engine. What is neat is
that I have hand operated shellers and grinders next to each rig so not only can the kids operate the hand equipment
(under my supervision only), but they can realize the work saved by our wonderful engines. They also get an idea
about how their grandparents did their daily chores.
- We have a local "farm heritage" show every September were the shelling and grinding is VERY popular
since a lot of people from the city visit to let the kids see how it "used to be". They also have cows
for the kids to pet and have rigged a rubber glove to a wooden cow so the kids can practice milking, "train"
rides around the grounds being pulled by a small tractor and two of the crank type rope makers. We let the kids
make jump ropes they get to take home. We also have demonstrated doing the wash with a tub and wash board as well
as a Maytag washer so they can see progress.
- At our rally, my Moffat Virtue generator set drew the crowds and all sorts of questions. Some had no concept
of generating electricity at all, I don't know where they think the power in their house comes from - I would hate
If at all possible, driving something with an engine is a must at rallies, just so that the younger generation
can understand what it was all about.
- My father WILL NOT display an engine unless it is connected to something, from old washing machines, to corn
shellers/grinders, water pumps and who knows what else. He tries to mount everthing on a 12'X7' trailer and does
a pretty good job of building a very interactive display.
- I have a small water ram that I have shown for the last couple of years. The people love it, and it is fun to
sit back and watch them try to figure out how the recirculating display works.
- The Little Jumbo ran a pulley and gear system that controlled a lady dummy working a hand operated washer, while
a child dummy played on a toy back-hoe. The 3HP Witte ran a wooden washing machine and the 1 1/2HP Fairbanks ran
a dummy which operated an 1880's mower. Also mounted is a complete Maytag washer with sausage grinder and butter
churn. Yes, we do make butter in the churn and pass it out with
-A couple of additions to what others have suggested...
- Light plants - good relevance as to how it improved farm life
- Ice cream makers - nice on a hot day
- Fans & forge blowers - also nice on a hot day
- One of my favorite exhibits is an oil pumping rig I've seen at Coolspring. Real nice Myrick Eclipse belted to
a pump jack. The sucker rod goes through a proper well head. The oil is pumped to a collection barrel and recycled
underneath. The whole works is enclosed in a nice authentic looking power house complete with assorted tools on
the walls, lit yellow dogs, etc. Beautiful.
- We have a Fairbanks pump - we recirculate the water and have rubber ducks in the wash tub. The kids love it,
and we explain the pump was used to fill a reservoir tank in the farm house attic so the farm house could then
have running water all day. We also run a corn sheller and a grinder and sell the ground corn for bird feed.
- At a local show, a friend demonstrated a corn sheller powered by an IHC LB engine. I ran the shelled corn through
a small feed grinder which I powered with a David Bradley walk behind tractor. I had a turning plow mounted behind
the tractor which showed the public how it could be used for gardening, while I was demonstrating its use for stationary
- Some of the displays I recall from our local shows are: threshing, stationary baling, tile trenching, shingle
mill, cooking with steam engine, concrete block making, stone crushing, buzz saws, saw mill, veneer mill, plowing
using horse drawn equipment, corn shelling, grinding cornmeal, pumping water, prony brake to test engines under
load, the ever popular blacksmith, antique construction equipment moving dirt back and forth, contour lathe making
axe handles, etc. and rope making. Of course the shuttles are all pulled by antique tractors.
- Even with something powered by an engine, I've found that the old adverts always draw a lot of attention. I have
them laminated and put a bit of velcro on the back to attach to a display stand. Then they can be easily swapped
out depending on which engines I'm showing. Where I have a lot more info I've made up a book of laminated pages
(with a plactic-coated spiral binding) that also has velcro on the back to attach to the stand. They also allow
the info to be up closer to eye level. That's important for
some of the older visitors at a show who might not be able to get down (or back up) to a ground-level display.
- The key here is like any show. Safety!!! Make sure that the owners stay with the display while running/operating
and keep up those safety ropes.
- You are so right about keeping your perimeter secure with the Safety Ropes. When I displayed my 1/3rd scale model
hay baler which was belted to my 2HP Stover, the ropes were up but every time I turned around the kids were so
fascinated that they had a tendency to slip under to get a really close look and be a part of the action.
- Many children do not understand the danger of moving machiney. You must always be aware of the public. Moving
iron WILL hurt you if you try to touch where you should not.
My machines do not run unless I am watching. Running displays should not be operating without an operator - the
public cannot and should not be trusted to view your operating display without YOUR supervision.
So, once again we finish with a safety warning, but it is an important part of the hobby. Hopefully this will have
given you some ideas for displaying engines and equipment at rallies, and the spectators won’t be asking the question
I asked about three years ago, when I first saw stationary engines: “But what do they DO??” Have fun!