It was old engines day at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY this past weekend. But as I write this story and think about all of the engines that I saw, it was really a story of how the gasoline engine has forever changed our methods of transportation, our ways of farming, and our homes in which we live.
But why did I come home with all of these pictures of tractors when there were old hit and miss engines to be seen and heard, old motorcycle engines, old engines which powered our washing machines, or pumped our water, or generated enough electricity to power some lights in our homes or in our barns? Why just pictures of tractors? Because it was the tractor engine that changed my life as I was growing up on a farm in Ohio. It was in an old 1940 SC Case tractor which in a year’s time transformed my life as a five year old farm boy who carried some buckets of water to the chickens into an adult who was now fully capable of pulling a two bottom plow single handed or pulling a wagon load of hay bales into the barn!
I watched closely as a grandfather started his old hit and miss engine mounted on a trailer. The engine backfired a couple of times and then finally began to freely spin its flywheel, coming to life again only when the speed of the flywheel slowed down. And then I looked at the two boys who were obviously his grandchildren playing with their small hit and miss engines. I am sure that for the moment, the engines changed these little boys into men who were now fully capable of doing the work of a full sized man!
There was a replica of an “early car” built by Glenn H. Curtiss himself and propelled by a rear mounted gasoline engine and a propeller. During the day, one of the museum attendants would take the children on a ride around the parking lot. The only thing that held down your speed would be your fear of controlling the direction of the machine with its single front mounted steering wheel. I am sure that Glenn H. Curtis used to sit upon his “air car” and wonder why he couldn’t attach some wings onto the contraption and take to the air!
There were gasoline motors which powered water pumps, turned generators which generated enough electricity for a single house and barn, motors which turned bicycles into motorcycles, wash tubs into washing machines, and kites into airplanes! But it was the motor in that old 1940 SC CASE tractor which turned a five year old farm boy into a man. That’s the antique motor that I will always remember!