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HCEA’s Annual Old Equipment Show Delights Hundreds

Wed August 01, 2007 - National Edition
James A. Merolla

It is probably the only show on earth where the antique tractors and earthmovers are more impressive than the meticulously restored Packards and Bentleys.

The Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA) held its annually popular National Convention and Old Equipment Exposition July 20 to 22 on Route 85 in Colchester, Conn.

The convention brought visitors from across the Atlantic Seaboard, every New England state and Canada. It featured both operating and static exhibits of construction machinery from the early and mid 1900s.

More than 200 machines, powered by gas, diesel, steam and horse, were on hand. Fully restored equipment from the museum’s collection was joined by machines owned by members of the HCEA and the Quinebaug Valley Engineers Association, which hosted the show.

Guests witnessed ongoing operating exhibits that included narrated live demonstrations designed for public education. Antique tractors, scrapers, shovels, backhoes, graders, rollers and more were demonstrated and explained for the enjoyment of visitors.

The featured machine — clearly, the beast of the weekend — was an operating Northwest 80D 2.5 yd. (1.9 cu m) power shovel, all 78 tons (71 t) of her. Shovels of this size were used on thousands of earthmoving projects around the world from the late 1930s through the 1970s.

A giant swapmeet featured exhibitors and vendors of construction toys, scale models, sales literature and other collectibles and memorabilia.

The event was held at Zagray Farm Museum on nearly 200 acres of land. The Quinebaug Valley Engineers bought the land in 2000 and is still uncovering tons and tons of iron collected by the Zagray family over the 20th century, strewn along the forest or even buried underground.

After they conducted a three-month inventory and a first round of cleanup, the Engineers gathered hundreds of pieces of machinery from the vines and brush, including 45 F-20 Farmall tractors, nearly 80 GMC trucks and eight Michigan loaders, just to name a few, and odds and ends of bull dozers, cranes, forklifts, scrapers, graders and more.

Kids were not left out either. They were able to play in a generous sandbox full of construction toys, of course.

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