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Ag event showcases historic tractors

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Kevin Scanlon, 21, and his grandfather, Bill Dietrich, both of New Tripoli, Lehigh County, look at the antique tractor display at Ag Progress Days on Tuesday.

ROCK SPRINGS — Ag Progress Days provides a look at modern high-tech farm machinery.

However, at the corner of Main and East Fifth streets, visitors to Pennsylvania’s largest outdoor agricultural exposition can go back in time and enjoy an antique tractor display, which is in its 13th year.

“The manager (Bob Oberheim) was a good friend of my cousin. He asked us if we could put in an antique tractor display. We started here near the museum with one steam engine and seven tractors, 13 years ago,” said Dick Smeltzer, 84, Centre Hall.

This year’s display includes 37 tractors and two engines.

The oldest item on display is a 1914 10-horsepower engine owned by Jim Strudle of Port Matilda. The oldest tractor is a 1933 Massey-Harris owned by Elwood Homan of State College.

“There are a lot of older people who say they were raised with these with their grandfathers or fathers. People just enjoy seeing these old tractors,” said Lynn Tice, 75, who is contact person for the display. “This is what made this country great. They were used in the 1940s and 1950s when recovering from the war (World War II). Some people spent what they had to buy these things after the war. It is like a history lesson for people.”

“They say they farmed with one of them or grew up on a farm with them; they reminisce about the old days,” Smeltzer said.

All of the tractors on display are from Pennsylvania coming from as far away as Lancaster County.

“We more or less get them by word of mouth. They ask, ‘What do I have to do to get a tractor in?’ We just say, ‘Bring your tractor,'” Smeltzer said.

Ironically, neither Tice, Smeltzer nor Tom Smeltzer, 79, Dick’s uncle — the men who run the exhibit — were farmers.

Needless to say, today’s tractors are much more complex.

“They are a lot more complex with electronics. These (old ones) are 20-40 horsepower. Now most are 100-150 horsepower or more. People who had these farmed up to 100 acres. Now guys are farming a thousand acres,” Tice said.

The new equipment is also more dangerous.

“This equipment will kill you if you screw up. It is much more complicated and dangerous. If you make one mistake, you could be gone. There is no room for error with this equipment,” said Jim Claycomb, 75, Osterburg, who stopped by the display.

Ag Progress Days, which concludes today — open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — features the latest technology and research exhibits, educational programs and guided tours. Exhibits showcase the latest in Penn State research, as well as information on best management practices and changing regulations in the agricultural industry.

Sponsored by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Admission and parking are free.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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