Giant Machines Take Over

Each year, Michigan village hosts the Buckley Old Engine Show, one of the largest gatherings of huge antique machines in the world.

| July 31, 2009

Traverse City, Michigan – The village of Buckley lies just a few miles south of the trendy shops and beaches of Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. For most of the year, it’s a sleepy little crossroads surrounded by cornfields and cow pastures, with a population that hovers around 650.

But every year on the third weekend in August, the little town explodes into roaring, clanking, chugging, shuddering life as more than 50,000 visitors descend on Buckley and its environs. Their goal: the Buckley Old Engine Show, one of the largest gatherings of huge antique machines in the world.

Hundreds of these iron behemoths – steam traction engines, rock crushers, balers, sawmills, more than 600 gas and oil-fueled engines and almost 1,000 antique tractors – are on display during the four-day event. There’s even a working 1923 steam locomotive that circles the place on its own mile-long track, giving free rides in its two passenger cars.

It’s a mechanical wonderland of old-fashioned noise, steam and power – guaranteed to dispel any illusions you may have had about the “quiet past” of the 19th century. Confected of gleaming brass, polished steel, engine oil and woodsmoke, the Old Engine Show is a four-pronged assault on the senses. And people love it.

“For a bunch of guys who celebrate the past, we’re pretty progressive about this show,” says Jim Luper of the Northwest Michigan Engine & Thresher Club, which started the annual show back in 1967. “We try to add something new each year.”

They’ve added so much, in fact, that the Old Engine Show now occupies its own 200-acre preserve just west of the village. Within its boundaries, the club has created a small settlement of its own – a recreated turn-of-the-century Main Street from a typical Michigan lumber town (which is what Buckley once was) with its own train depot, switch house, blacksmith shop, leather shop, cobbler, barber, print shop and town hall.

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