Tracking down tractors, engines
‘Doodlebugs’ part of the scene at Orange show
Colt Stewart, 17, who lives in Athol, gives kids a ride on his 1-inch scale model train engine at the Yankee Engine-uity Show at the Orange Municipal Airport on Saturday. The engine is a replica of Heisler Company train engine that was built between 1890 and 1930. The engine was built primarily for logging. Stewart purchased the engine as is and had to rebuild it with the help of his dad.
Riley Boudreau, 2, hitches a ride with grandfather Randy Lefrancois, on a lawn tractor Lefrancois bought at the Yankee Engine-uity Show's flea market Saturday. The two rode it all the way back to granddad's house down the street from the Orange Airport, where the two-day show was held.
ORANGE — “Yankee Engine-uity” is more than just a catchy name for a 37-year-old tractor and engine show.
Take, for example, the “doodlebug.”
When factories started churning out material for World War II, farmers who couldn’t find tractors for sale had to build their own. Model A’s and T’s, as well as other vehicles, were often salvaged by farmers and re-engineered into homemade tractors affectionately referred to as doodlebugs.
“This was a 1930 Ford AA,” said Liam Bashista of Petersham as he stands next to his own doodlebug at the Yankee Engine-uity Show at the Orange Municipal Airport Saturday.
“My dad had a doodlebug when he was 10, and I always wanted one,” said Bashista, 14. When Bashista turned 10, his father got him his own, named “Klam Digah” by its previous owner. The two have restored its body and mechanics and still add to it here and there.
When the 1930 AA was reborn during the war, it was given a second transmission to give it a super-low gear ratio and a rear axle from a dump truck to handle all the torque and towing. A tractor seat was tacked to a new wooden body, and the truck became a tractor. The doodlebug spent its farming days in Seabrook, N.H., before it was retired.
Though many doodlebugs were thrown together with whatever was handy, it’s quite a bit harder to find parts for some other machines at the show.
“When you need a part for an old steam engine, you either beg, borrow or steal it, or make it yourself,” said E.C. Jones, of Williamstown. Jones, a staple at this show, finds himself in his machine shop when something needs to be replaced on one of his several steam engines.
“A lot of the time, you have to rely on a picture” to mill a new part, he said.
Jones used to run a steam boiler in a factory, and has been tinkering with his own steam engines on and off since the 1960s. Saturday, he borrowed some heat from his replica 1900s boiler to heat up a branding iron, which he used to burn designs into wood blocks for souvenirs.
Though most people drove their cars, pickups, vans and SUVs to the show, they didn’t have to leave the way they came.
Many modes of conveyance were represented at the show, from ponies and motorbikes to boats, snowshoes and bicycles, and many were for sale at the show’s flea market.
You could even buy a tricycle that mows your lawn as you pedal.
Randy Lefrancois, however, opted for a less strenuous way to cut the grass.
“I came here looking for a lawnmower,” he said Saturday.
Well, he found it. He picked up a 9-horsepower lawn tractor, and drove it all the way home, with his grandson on his lap. Don’t worry, they’re only a stone’s throw from the airport, right down East River Street.
While Lefrancois came to buy, his grandson came to watch.
“I like to see all the big tractors,” said Riley Boudreau, 2. “And the airplanes.”
Those who chose to arrive in style could fly into the airport for free, avoiding the $2 parking fee. People also parachuted in. Their colorful canopies could be seen floating to the ground in waves throughout the weekend, the airport’s Jumptown skydiving providing them with a birds-eye-view of the show.
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279