Labor saving devices are nothing new, but they rarely inspire the kind of dedicated stewardship that antique engines do. This week in Fort Meade, Florida, the 1500 members of the Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club opened the gates of their unique 240-acre clubhouse to give the public a first hand look at the fruits of this devotion. If you harbor a secret wish to operate a tractor, bulldozer or backhoe, these are your people.
With a mission to "preserve the past for the future" they have built numerous display buildings, a running vintage steam powered sawmill (check out the video below), a tractor pull track and a large construction field where members can pull levers and push dirt with vintage cranes, backhoes and bulldozers.
There's a huge swap meet area too but don't be disappointed if your money isn't good here. At least half the "vendors" are proudly showing off restored tractors and century old hit-and-miss engines, a particular favorite of this crowd because of its tough reliability and unique sound.
Hit-and-miss engines are four stroke combustion engines noted for its distinctive sound of a loud pop on the hit stroke followed by numerous woosh, woosh, woosh strokes until the speed decreases and it needs power (a hit) again. They are running reliably unattended all around the property, some being used for the noble task of churning some of the best homemade ice cream you have ever tasted.
These engines are big and heavy, slow and steady, making between 250 and 600 rpms but there is something really romantically appealing about them with their bright colors and huge flywheels and it's easy to see why they inspire such dedicated loyalty.
Also getting a large amount of love here are antique tractors which come in many sizes, shapes and specialties. It's hard not to think of Italian racing cars when you see some of the streamlined orchard tractors with flowing bodywork and slim profiles made to work the isles between trees. Each afternoon of the 4-day event they stage a parade; an incredible assortment of beautifully restored tractors chug around the property giving the spectators a great perspective on the sheer variety of machines from yesteryear.
The club is proud to point out that all the buildings in the village were made from wood from their working sawmill and when you see the quality of the buildings, it's clear that while these machines are harder to use than their modern counterparts, the extra effort still produces impressive results.
Check out the photo gallery of engines, tractors, the village, displays and tractor pull. The Florida Flywheelers open house takes place three times a year – the next event is February 24 – 27, 2016. It's worth going for the ice cream alone!