For Sheldon F. Parker, 70, a retired sawmill operator, antique steam engines, century-old machines and early 1900s farm equipment are a fascinating hobby and repairing and restoring them a lifelong endeavor.
Parker, who lives on a 10-acre farm at the southeast corner of Salt Lake County, will be among several members of the Utah Antique Machinery Association who will display antique engines and machines at the Wheeler Historic Farm Sept. 16-18.Among the items Parker and his sons, Lyle and Ken, have collected over the past few years are a 20 horsepower coal- or wood-fired steam donkey made by the American Manufacturing Co., St. Paul, Minn., in 1900; a New Huber return flu 30 horsepower steam tractor made from 1914 to 1916; a 28-ton Reeves & Co. steam tractor made in Columbus, Ind., and six antique John Deere tractors.
"Steam tractors and steam thrashing machines were once popular on farms all over America," Parker said. "That was in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, collectors have restored these giant machines and they get together with their families and hold modern thrashing bees just for fun."
Parker said he has been to thrashing bees all over the West and enjoys sitting atop the giant engines that are still capable of pulling heavy loads.
"Steam is quiet and cheap. Diesel engines have replaced most steam engines in factories and on farms and in construction, but there are still a few steam engines left and they do a great job. I used a steam engine to run my sawmill for years and still use it on occasion."