They come to see the shiny new technology, but Canada’s Farm Progress Show visitors are also drawn to the sometimes-shiny old equipment that came before.
Stan Bowes of Regina says he never gets to tour the show grounds to see the new machinery because he’s so busy in the antiques area answering questions.
Young and old alike are drawn to the tractors, trucks and stationary engines that people like Bowes lovingly restore and in some cases polish up.
“Some are shiny and some are pretty original,” he said of the more than 100 pieces that will be on display.
Including this year, Bowes will have attended 37 of the 40 shows; he missed the first two and 2016. Each time he brought one of his antiques.
“This year, I’ve got four small engine displays and a garden tractor,” he said.
Bowes’ father was a Massey Harris dealer and growing up around the equipment and engines fueled a lifelong passion for restoration. He keeps his antiques at the Sukanen Ship museum south of Moose Jaw, Sask.
He said younger people are fascinated with things they can actually work on, unlike today’s technology.
“These old guys say if you got a piece of haywire and a pair of pliers you’re good for another two years,” Bowes said.
Even duct tape came long after most of his engines were developed.
“I’ve got an Ideal lawn mower engine here built in 1910 and it was actually used on a lawn mower,” he said.
“It weighs 150 pounds. I can’t believe they ever used it on a mower, but they did.”
Show-goers this year will also see a 32-volt electric plant hooked up to an electric motor and a pump jack on a 1928 J.H. Ashdown straight wagon.
Bowes said the 32-volt plants, or generators, were the precursor to today’s 110-volt household electricity.
“Then I’ve got another display, it’s got about a 1948 International one-cylinder engine with a grain grinder,” he said. “It’s mounted on an Ottawa Car freight wagon, which as far as we can tell is 202 years old.”
Another item is a small Massey Harris hammer mill, the smallest that Bowes said he has ever seen.
His favourites are likely his two Massey 100th anniversary tractors that were built in 1947.
“The one is a 44 six-cylinder,” he said. “It’s the 56th one that was ever built. I got that quite by accident, but that’s what it turned out to be.”
Bowes said he enjoys restoring equipment and learning the history of the pieces.
On one Bakelite steering wheel he could clearly see where the farmer’s hands had gripped for years to navigate a field. When he said to the farmer that it must have taken him a long time to seed, the farmer said he knew every gopher in the field personally.
“And now a farmer seeds an acre in less than 10 minutes of a calendar year.”
Bowes and the other exhibitors of antiques can be found in the Stockmen’s Arena and Hall 13 this year. There is also the twice-daily parade, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the popular antique tractor pulls. Wednesday, June 21, features a threshing demonstration with a 1952 Case thresher.
Bowes said the most enjoyable part of the three-day show is meeting the thousands of people who want to learn about antiques.