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Gardening and More: Old-time farm equipment to be used during steam engine rally

HART PARR, HARDY HAR — This tractor was made by Hart-Parr, a company that no longer exists. It is one of the earlier attempts to replace steam power with internal combustion. It was started on gasoline and ran on kerosene, which was much cheaper than gasoline at that time. Attendees can see old farm equipment, like the one pictured above, at the 47th annual rally of the Western New York Gas and Steam Engine Association to be held Sept. 5 – 8 in Alexander, N.Y. Photo submitted by Connie Oswald Stofko.

ALEXANDER — See steam-powered farm equipment thresh grain, plow fields and saw logs into lumber, during the 47th annual rally of the Western New York Gas and Steam Engine Association. The event will be held from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday – Sunday, Sept. 5 – 8.

The display will take place at the 200-acre property owned by the association at 10294 Gillate Road, Alexander, which is near Darien Lake.

The donation to enter is $6 for adults and free for children 12 and younger. There were more than 10,000 paid admissions, last year.

“This is a family activity about how farming used to be done in our grandparents’ time,” said Dave Mischler, president of the WNY Gas and Steam Engine Association. The group aims to preserve and display old farming equipment and to educate the public about them.

The original steam engines, for farm use, had a tractor seat on the front, but required a team of horses to steer them. Mischler said there were two reasons for this. First, it allowed people to steer the way they were used to steering. Farmers didn’t know how to drive machinery yet, but they were certainly adept at steering horses.

Second, steam engines were noisy and spewed smoke. A horse that came across a steam engine would be frightened. But, if the horse came across a steam engine being steered by other horses, it would be far less likely to be spooked.

Steamers stopped being made in the 1920s, and some of the equipment at the rally is close to 100 years old, Mischler said.

Not all of the equipment that will be displayed is steam powered. Some ran on kerosene. While kerosene is now even more expensive than gasoline, at one time it was a cheaper fuel, Mischler explained.

The smallest engines on display will be gasoline-powered Maytag washing machines. Many rural areas didn’t have electricity until the 1940s, Mischler said.

“They did a lot of work [getting electricity to rural areas] during the Depression, but it wasn’t finished until after World War II,” he added.

Instead, many farmers had a gasoline-powered wringer washer, out on the porch. An electric-powered washer had empty space, at the bottom, and that’s where the gasoline engine was placed. The engine had a kick start, like a motorcycle, to make it easier for women to start, he said.

“There were thousands and thousands of these washers built, so many people start their collections with that,” Mischler said.

People used small engines, to replace physical labor on butter churns, small grain mills and anything that was operated by turning a crank.

The rural areas of the Southern Tier of New York state and Pennsylvania also had oil fields, and you can see a demonstration of that equipment, during the rally, as well.

“It was big and heavily built,” Mischler said. “It had to be reliable. It ran 24/7, with no one around. Somebody might come and check on it, once a week.”

Gas evaporates from the oil wells. That gas was captured and used to power the equipment that pumped the oil.

There will be rows and rows of tractors on display, and visitors will see them grouped by color. John Deere tractors were green; Allis-Chalmers, orange; International Harvester, red, and Ford, gray.

Pulls will be held each day, as follows:

– 5 p.m., Thursday: Horse Pullers Assoc. Inc.

– 7 p.m., Friday: Pro-Farm 4WD Diesel Trucks & Light Limited Superstocks, Steamer Pulls, Exhibition Team Pulls, Superstock Modified & Superfarm.

– 11 a.m., Saturday: Semi Antique—1959 & older, Garden Tractors & Team Pulls.

– Noon, Sunday: Farm Stock & Team Pulls.

Other activities include a consignment auction at 1 p.m. on Thursday; music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and an antique car display, on Sunday. Refreshments and dinners will be sold each day.

For more information, go to

Take the family and see the farm equipment that was used, generations ago.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email


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