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How do you keep the hobby alive?


I think Tanner a few posts up hit it on the head for the most part. I have been at this hobby since I was a kid and I am now about to turn 34. In my time prices have gone up quite a bit. The other thing I see is you have to be very engaging with younger people these days. They just don't seem to have the attention span they used to. Once they are interested they start asking how much it might cost them to pick up an engine and get it running......interest fades. As far as shows going away, things do change whether you like it or not. It can be sad. You can start a new show though. My brother and I have found that finding an event already taking place, a town celebration or something like that, then asking someone in charge if they would like to have an antique equipment display works well. Most of the time they like having another attraction for the folks to come look at. All this being said, us engine guys do seem to be getting fewer and fewer.


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I'm 33 and I sometimes wonder the same thing about what the future holds for the hobby. Most of the guys at the shows are old timers (No Disrespect) so they have the experience and knowledge us younger guys need to keep the hobby alive. I definitely appreciate all the knowledge that fellow smokstakers share, and people I meet at the shows. Without Smokstak I would be lost, so i'm thankful for the online community and a few specific members that keep answering my questions no matter how rookie they are.

I sometimes wonder if prices will climb higher, or if they will drop really low in 10,20,30 years. I would definitely be there ready to buy up a few Maytag Fruit Jar engines if prices ever bottomed out:bonk:

I will say that nearly any engine I've ever come across that I couldn't afford was never sold to me for less out of faith of keeping the hobby alive. Unfortunately when push comes to shove, old or young, everyone sells to the highest bidder with the deepest of pockets and that isn't always the best person to keep an engine alive and in the shows.

In my neck of the woods I didn't grow up around old iron, and there is none around me for miles. I just took an interest and I've been hooked for quite a few years now, and my collection grows. One of these days i'll have to get my engines to a show.

If any of you guys are on Facebook there are a some highly active groups where people are sharing pictures, buying/selling/trading, and much more. I just found a few Maytag groups and I was amazed to see how much activity there was on those boards also.


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Burned through my thanks button rather quickly on this thread with many more to thank when I can again.

Our show like so many others around the county had been in a spiraling downfall for the last 15-25 years losing more and more equipment and more and more spectators for many of the reasons already mentioned in other posts with the membership growing older and dying off, equipment being sold and leaving the area, several members being chased away by others due to poor politics, gas and hauling costs going through the roof, and then having to change our show dates after 40 years of being locked in at the same date every year.

We've gotten a few people to return the last few years and this year we were able to get a couple more people to come back with some very fine equipment that I would have liked to have been able to advertise about earlier before the show to have drawn in even more spectators with, had I gotten the official word earlier that they were actually returning.

Two years ago, we actually had to Vote as to whether or not to continue having a show anymore. I'm Glad enough of us convinced the others to do so. We had made some improvements last year already and even more so this year. With the returning members saying they will be back again next year, I am hopeful we can build things up even more yet.

We've also been fortunate in having a few families bringing in more younger ones in different areas like gasoline alley and at our railroad the last few years giving us a new supply of pre-teens, teen-agers, and twenty-somethings. This year my (mid 20s-early 30s) sawmill helpers brought in another younger lady (22 y/o mainly as a baby sitter, but did help some at the mill too) that seemed to really enjoy herself and will be returning next year along with me taking her in for some of our other open dates at the railroad and museum throughout the spring summer and fall. After seeming to have skipped part of a generation, we are getting more and more younger ones slowly coming in to the club, so if we can keep the show going with them and the returning older ones and slowly get things built back up to what we once were, I think the future might be bright for us.:cool:

Here's to Hoping anyway.:O



Got a question for the old timers, how many of you were actively involved in antiques in your 20-30's?

I'm 34, grew up with antique tractors with my grandfather being a collector and it grew from there. I haven't lost interest and am now at a point in my life where I can become more involved.

While there certainly is a decline, maybe it's just a change and not really a decline.

It's not a hobby for people without disposable income either, That really limits a lot of people I know are interested, but simply can't afford to be active in the hobby.


One thing that I have noticed in my 40 odd years in the hobby, especially on the steam and elderly tractor scene in the UK where I lived for quite some time, is that the prices of old iron has risen to the point that many cannot afford the entry fee. Restored and restorable machinery are bringing huge prices, effectively putting most of it out of reach for many of us. Just my opinion.


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I sometimes wonder if the question of keeping the hobby alive might boil down to the older generations needing to recognize that not everyone shares their vision. As an example, a frequently occurring discussion here on the stak has to do with whether or not an engine should be left in its work clothes, or painted. I believe the most common point of view, and certainly amongst the old guard, (no disrespect intended), is to leave it alone...."It's only original once", is something we read a lot on here.

But how many have been to a car show, and watched which vehicles garner the most attention, and from which segment of the population? My observations lead me to believe that original equipment tends to attract original spectators....meaning folks who recognize it for what it is, possibly because they used the same or very similar equipment in the past.

Younger spectators for the most part, seem to gravitate to shiny, although there will always be exceptions....and if younger membership is the goal, than having displays that appeal to that demographic might be a good way to get your foot in the door, so to speak.

I think some who ask "how can we keep the hobby alive?", really might mean "how can we keep OUR VISION of the hobby alive?"

Things change, trends come and go. A little flexibility might not hurt, especially if the choice becomes one of losing the show/hobby, or having it continue with a different spin on things.

Not trying to single anyone out, or criticize anyone's ideas. Just wondering out loud.


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.... an example, a frequently occurring discussion here on the stak has to do with whether or not an engine should be left in its work clothes, or painted.

My observations lead me to believe that original equipment tends to attract original spectators....meaning folks who recognize it for what it is, possibly because they used the same or very similar equipment in the past.

Younger spectators for the most part, seem to gravitate to shiny, although there will always be exceptions....and if younger membership is the goal, than having displays that appeal to that demographic might be a good way to get your foot in the door, so to speak.

I think some who ask "how can we keep the hobby alive?", really might mean "how can we keep OUR VISION of the hobby alive?"
I guess I must be one of those 'exceptions' as I have always preferred the unrestored over the (usually) poorly executed amateur restoration back in the day, (40-45+ years ago), and have grown to really appreciate the unrestored originals over everything but the BEST Restoration to showroom new or better.... But that also depends on what the original unrestored looks like to begin with and how common it is. Sadly there were a LOT of very nice original engines and tractors and equipment that got spray-bombed in some pretty gaudy circus colors back in the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, along with some nicer looking paint jobs that were still done on engines that really should have been left alone. But hind sight is 20-20 as they say.

I am glad to see the Very High Quality of some of the restorations being done these days in comparison, many of which make it harder and harder to choose original/restored in some cases. I will be equally drawn to both, but I will still study every inch on an original more-so than a restored version. But That's Just ME.

I agree though that a wider variety will draw in a bigger crowd, whether it's a wide variety of restored and original or a wide variety of makes and models, or a wide variety over all of having Steam, Prairie Tractors, smaller tractors, Gas Engines, Horses and Horse Power Equipment, Sawmills, Black Smith Shops, Antique Cars & Trucks, Model Engines & equipment, Threshing & Baling and Prony Brakes and Dyno's and other Live Demonstrations for people to watch. The Wider the variety the better with variety and diversity within each display group.


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People collect what they grew up with and have fond memories of. The comment about Briggs engines and garden tractors kind of hits home. When I was a kid, I collected Briggs and Wisconsin engines. I would have loved to have had a Hit and Miss or even a Maytag but I couldn't afford them. I also lusted after all the new garden tractors that were made in the 70s and really wished I had one to mow with instead of the pushmower that I had to use (on 2+ acres). Now that I am 45, I still have the Briggs and Wisconsins that I restored for 4H, I have 14 of the garden tractors I wanted as a kid, and I really enjoy looking at those displays at the shows. Most kids (and adults) have no emotional attachment to steam, a John Deere A or even a 4020. Don't dismiss those types of displays because they may be key to keeping your show in existance.


People collect what they grew up with and have fond memories of.
This is key.

For me the emotional connection is not about what I used, but what I admired was impressed with. What was cool but didn't really know much about.

I'm currently restoring a Frick Sawmill cause I always remember seeing them at shows and could watch them for hours. Now I have my own in my front yard!

Craig A

Staff member
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If I collected what I grew up with all I'd have is a pile of fire wood....... :rolleyes:
I DID, sorta, grow up with my Dad's 1943 John Deere L which he used in the woods.
I rode to the woods in a trailer behind that tractor for many years until my Dad sold it after he bought a Leader Model D tractor.
My taste always ran to OLD stuff......OLD OLD stuff and I am fortunate to have owned a number of pretty nice OLD tractors.
I kept track of Dad's L after he sold it when I was still a kid......14-15 years old probably.......and miracle of miracles I got it bought back!....... :brows:
It's the tractor I use most as I use it dragging a 60" trailer mower around to mow nearly 2 acres at home....... :D

Jason W

I dunno, I've been looking through pictures of our local threshing bee a couple weeks ago and I'd say a good majority is under 50. And a heck of a lot under 30. It's not gonna die but interests change and some things become cost prohibitive. One of my friends has one of the first Steiger tractors at our show. He likes it and is happy with it. Another young guy brings a huge old army scraper. My brother, his wife, and I (all under 30) like the old stuff because that's what we spent time with.

It isn't dying. It's just changing.


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I think in the future the steam shows are going to have to diversify more to keep going, by that I mean get more into the different areas they at one time did not want to go into, such as our local show has looked into " turf rocket races ", the biggest draw back is again as many have mentioned before, the insurance companies, they want $750.00 for a 2 hour showing of the lawn mower racers, then the club themselves want a fee to put on a show....the numbers just don't add up. Our grounds only does the one show a year and its just not bringing in what it used too, and the grass doesn't mow itself nor do the buildings and projects get done for free, so I do believe in the near future we will have to look into more types of shows to keep things in the black, such as car shows, model toy shows, we have even tossed around a gun show......flea markets seem to be a draw no matter the items for sale, I also think the gate fees need to remain reasonable or you just scare people away.:rant:

Just my 2 cents,



Re: How do you keep hobby alive

A lot of times I have heard "the younger generation just doesn't care about this stuff" I'm 31 now and have been hearing that ever since I started in the hobby when I was about 10. Majority of the time guys would tell me I was the only kid they knew that had an interest in this stuff.

It is true, there are a select few group of people, and this involves all ages, that have interest in old engines and tractors. However, there are still plenty of people, including people in their teens and 20's that would like to get involved. But in the past 15 years ever since the internet came about, prices of everything have skyrocketed from what they were. It's really hard for younger ones especially to get started. Most people cant afford to go out and spend thousands of dollars on hobby related stuff when they are making college payments, house payments, raising kids and just trying to live. When a hobby becomes more about money than the love of the hobby, that is what kills it for a lot of people, and that is what I have seen happen with this hobby.
I'll say this...Back when I was in my last year of high school in 08, I'm 25 now, I went through a trade school -Votech- for small engines. Now, for the last part of our graduation project each student had to bring in a project and then write down a report on what they did to the item.

There was 24 students in my class and out of all of them only (4!) brought in a tractor while the rest of them brought in a ATV, or motorcycle. But that's not the end of it...

I was the only one to bring in any old iron (1966 simplicity landlord) and you know what the other kids called it?

Junk! A hunk of scrap that was too slow...:mad:

Heh, they didn't think that after their new styed tractor died halfway down the parking lot while my Slow tractor kept walking right on past them.

Sorry for the rant but this is a bit of a touchy subject with me. But its a darn shame plain and simple with the new generations. Maybe at the least prices will go down on different things so new people can buy them only to drive the price back up again!

Life is a giant washing machine...:bonk:

B Pauwels

We just finished up our local show this weekend, and after partnering with the local historical society, have seen a doubling in attendance and nearly a third new members in three years. Part of our success is we don't have the stress of owning property (its at their historical village) but we get to "farm" their 26 acres they don't use to grow crops for demos, etc.. as well as harvesting hay on the field they /we use for parking. We now have bindering, plowing and other displays we couldn't do on our own at a rented facility that limited us to a one day set up and tear down. The best thing is, I think, that we are making money for our group by harvesting crops through out the season through rotation so we are somewhat insulated if show weekend gets rained out. As a bonus, there are several times a year guys can come out and use equipment as it was meant to be used without having to work at the show. Granted, this year we had short notice to get crops off with our persistent rainfall, but we always seemed to get it off. Plus, with the Historical Society (this one is a non-profit, non government group) is moving in a new building so some of our members took it upon themselves to resurrect some old scrapers and pull off topsoil. I'm finding I can get more people interested in the hobby by giving them more opportunities to use their tractors. I am fortunate that I have members who are willing to leave implements on site that these volunteers can just hook up and do the job for fun. Sure, all the rows aren't always straight, it could have been cut a little shorter, but we never treat our members as professionals, just hobbyists so the chance to enjoy yourself is highest on the list. And, so far, we are making more money for our group than we did at last site with much less stress and the cooperation between the two groups is certainly being recognized as a good thing. Plus, as a bonus, when show is over, we don't have any buildings to take care of; that work is their members hobby. We just complement each other very well.


After having our show a couple weekends ago, and thinking about this again, here are some thoughts.

The show is the same families that started it back in 1983. There have been a few new people in and out, but the core of the show remain the same. There haven't been many new members in the last few years, and the older population is decreasing every year.

Our show has not modernized. Same old advertising, couple signs at the road and maybe an add in the farm and dairy paper. If you don't take advantage of social media and modern electronic advertising (most of it is free too) you might as well not even advertise at all. It's a different generation.

Our show failed in leadership. We had a schedule, that nobody followed. The "people in charge" rarely had an answer for any question. I offered help all weekend, but the leaders didn't know what needed done or refused to accept the help.

I would rather just be a volunteer but after this year something needs done or the show is going to fail. The older folks are fine with "that's the way it's always been done" but that isn't going to fly anymore. There needs to be some serious changes made or there will not be a show in the future. I don't think the older folks in charge see that.


The old timers at my local show are very happy to see a few of us younger folks contribute to the show, and are very helpful and accommodating. However, I was extremely angered when this one old jerk called my 1923 IHC type M 1 1/2hp bosch mag engine a "boat anchor". Unfortunately every show has one of these characters, and I've since nick named him "boat anchor". We also feature lawn tractor pulls which are very popular with the guys my age. I'm currently working on building one to pull with for this coming year.


I just turned 31 today, spent a few hours with a girlfriend between her two jobs and me working on the house all morning, such is life now a days, nice to sit next to her and talk, as I did today, I did plan on meeting for lunch at a cafe but instead we stayed here and talked a bit about my Planet Jr seeder drills on my wall, life, look over pictures of my youth and think about the upcoming winter.
She will be leaving soon for a few months, money means having to travel sometimes, we are always on the go.

To the new ones welcome to the hobby, bit different from the ones I walked into as a child but the people are great and collecting/restoring remains for the most part the same.

As for me, my last restro was a 1959 David Bradley Roto Spader, I have never taken it to a show much less spent a whole day at one in a long time, the times is such one has to spend 80 % of his/her life working, even during week ends and holidays.

After losing several close family members in just a few years time has left me hollow, angy and looking towards absolutely nothing for a future while politics bury us in nothing but problems with a moron at the helm leading the stupid while our young one walk around blind to common sense and reason.

My last project was to repower a Allis Chalmers B-10 with a Lister LT1, it was for the future in a effort to save fuel cost and longevity due to the new junk being sold as heavy duty. Regrettably that has ended in failure just as it begain, after sitting there this afternoon looking at Carolina I realized just,.... how tired I am now,....but I have to keep working, keep fighting, keep moving and look for the next time I can sit next to her for a few hours and live.....not suffer.



Dean Haller

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I have two sales a year at my home. I've sold a lot of cool old items to young people. Forges to 14 and 16 year olds. Maytag's to 20 year . Manual tire changers, hammers hand saws, shovels, ax. If I see a young person looking over a old wrench I give it to them. Many of them are welders and work on the own projects. They see I built every thing I own, there interested. So if you see a spark in someone's eye, feed the fire.


I'm 46, and I lived next door to an eclectic Hungarian brick mason who had all manner of stuff on his property. Mostly old mowers. This was in the early 70's. My friends and I would clean old bricks for him in exchange for free pickings. We cobbled together all sorts of mechanical stuff, from gokarts to airboats.
Fast forward to adulthood and I am passing on my fascination and love of all things mechanical to my son. We are fortunate enough to be friends with Mike Gardner, who happens to own an Allison V1710 in running condition. We took the Allison along with several of Mike's toys- a restored '58 Copar Panzer, a 350Chev powered Panzer and a hit and miss to Florida Flywheelers this past weekend.
It warms my heart that my 10 year old son is in awe of the Allison. My next project- which will be a father-son build- is going to be a classic Pete rat rod with 12V71T power.
It's hard for the younger, electronic generation to grasp the fact that not too long ago, everything was mechanical, analog, heavy and built to a specific task efficiently and economically. My son can examine a Briggs, figure out what's wrong, fix it, and is proud of himself for it.
The love of this rusty old iron is a learned behavior- we must open the door to the younguns to ignite their interest. Someday my son may be at a show with an antique Honda OHV powered genny.