Travel Story Vintage treasure-troves

A Rumley Oil Pull Tractors working at the Tri-State Gas Engine Show.
Photo of Angie Tomlinson

Enthusiasts for farm machinery, your next stop is the USA.

A man once paid $600 for a spark plug that didn’t work. It was a rare and antique specimen, mind you, and just the thing the ToursGallery tour guest, an antique spark plug collector, was looking for.

“You may think that he is nuts but that was the love of his life,” says ToursGallery owner and vintage machinery enthusiast Ken Osetroff. “You can spend a whole day rummaging through what people would normally consider junk but our guests will find treasure in it.”

Ken has been leading vintage farm machinery tours for 27 years after his interest was piqued by a friend. The friend had just launched a magazine on the subject and Ken suggested a tour that would give readers a sense of camaraderie.

From that first journey in 1990 came annual tours, visiting the UK, Europe, New Zealand and the US. The latter is the destination for an upcoming jaunt in August next year.

While the countries have varied, the motivation for the trips has not.

“The camaraderie is the thing that most people like — the fact they are meeting other people with the same craziness,” Ken says.

He has caught that particular brand of “crazy”, stemming from his love of all things old and his passion for Australia’s heritage.

“There are some magic people out there that keep history alive,” he says of the Australians spending the time effort to restore machinery. 

“The talent out there from some of these old guys is just amazing. You can’t just go down to the shop and buy parts for these things, you have to physically make everything.”

Ken’s favourite event is the Great Dorset Steam Fair in the UK, laying claim to being the world’s largest heritage and cultural event, covering 243ha. Ken has taken 10 groups to the fair over the years.

For the USA Restore Antique and Vintage Machinery 2018 trip, Ken is looking forward to the huge Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show in Indiana, where more than 3000 engines, 800 tractors, 6000 spark plugs and a 1923 100HP Fairbanks- Morse diesel will be on show.

A second rally, the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, will also be a high point, with traction steam engines, trolleys, trains, antique cars and trucks, gas engines, stationary and steam engines, crafts and demonstrations.

Other highlights include Steamtown USA historic park and a visit to the John Deer Plant. “You normally think of an assembly plant as something that knocks out cars, but when you see a great big whacking combine harvester travelling along the line, it’s pretty outstanding,” Ken says.

Top picture: A Rumley oil pull tractor working at the Tri-State Gas Engine Show in Indiana.

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