The Antique Farm-Engine and Tractor Association: History with a Roar


By Chelsea Royer

chehalis sheet metalImagine a day when nothing was as easy as flipping a switch. Engines were bigger, louder, heavier, and so much more difficult to transport.  A 35 horse-power Foos, weighing in at 10,000 pounds would have been used for pumping oil and water or to generate electricity. This enormous stationary engine is one of Tim Stangeland’s favorite pieces of antique equipment to show off. As loud as it is large, the mechanically inclined of any age are sure to be drawn to the noise this giant makes as soon as they hear it.

antique tractor
Tim Stangeland, once a teacher, poses in front of a machine he and his former students built.

The Antique Farm-Engine and Tractor Association (AFETA) boasts many members. A few of the local ones are Tim Stangeland, Jim Borden, and Colin Mcafee. Each one has an affinity for the mechanical and a passion for history.

Stangeland, who began showing tractors and engines many years ago when he lived in California, developed an interest in engines early on in life. “I started off with a Maytag washing machine motor on a little soap box derby set of wheels that I used to ride around town,” Strangeland reminisces.  “It had no brakes, but you stuck out your tennis shoes and drug them on the ground and it worked well. ”

After moving from California to Grays Harbor County, Stangeland searched hopefully for people possessing similar hobbies. That’s when he met Jim Borden, retired president of AFETA and long-time engine enthusiast. He once more began showing his machinery and collections for public viewing.

“These things (taking equipment to shows) don’t do me much good.  I know how they run and what they sound like. But part of the responsibility of owning these things is sharing them with others so they can enjoy some of things that I do,” Stangeland explains.

Borden’s wife, Yvonne, expounds, “The purpose is to show people how their ancestors lived and see restored equipment so they can see how they did things 40-60 years ago. Our goal is to educate the public as to where the equipment came from, how it was used, and how they survived. It brings back really good memories for the elderly and educates the younger.”

antique tractorAntique machinery has an odd way of connecting the old and the young. The young find fascination with the gigantic metal machinery and roaring noises while the elderly find memories and familiarity.

AFETA board member Colin Mcafee recalls, “Many years ago I went to an event in Montana. They had a steam thresher running and nearby was a guy over 90 years old standing there with canes. He was talking to people and all of a sudden I saw him tilt his ear and he listened for a while…I don’t remember what was wrong, but he predicted exactly what went wrong with that thing because not two minutes later they shut it down and had guys crawling all over it and then announced over the loudspeaker exactly what he had predicted. He’d run them (the steam threshers) when he was a teenager and 80 years later could still identify what was wrong.”

The annual show for AFETA includes many personal favorites of the members. Borden’s contribution is a 1939 John Deere L, while his wife is excited to show off her 1947 Gibson A. “I bought it because of the name.  If that’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a Gibson girl, that’s what I’ll ride. I always thought they were sexy ladies,” giggles Yvonne.

While many of the displays are collector items and climbing or touching the tractors is discouraged, Yvonne loves letting kiddos explore her Gibson when she’s around.

antique tractorThe annual show begins July 12 at the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds and lasts for two days. Tractor pulls, a variety of stationary engines, tractors and farm equipment, vendors, food, and a poker run are all organized to keep people busy and having fun.

The shows aren’t merely a place for the tractors to look pretty, it’s a place where history comes alive. Many members have poured hours and hours of their time solving mechanical issues, oiling rusting parts, and seeing to the renewal of the outer parts.

With owners standing proudly nearby, the engines are given the opportunity to make as much noise as they will and serve as a memorial to those who used the machines to the benefit of their towns and the building of our community.


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