The Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club was founded in 1972 to promote interest in restoring, preserving and exhibiting antique internal combustion engines, steam engines, antique tractors/autos and other labor-saving devices from the by-gone years. As their popularity grew they decided to purchase property centrally located in Polk County, FL to have a permanent house for their big boy toys. The membership is currently around 1,500 and from the looks of it they emptied at least 1,500 sheds of old tools, tractors and other collectables now being stored on site.
The site is over 200 acres and three times a year they open the property to the public hosting a very large flea market, tractor pull arena, a village of barns filled with collectibles/crafts and camping. We joined about 15 other Bluebirders for a mini rally and to enjoy the flywheeler show.
One of their prize engines is a 1914 Snow Engine from Buffalo, NY. It was used to pump natural gas it’s flywheel is 12 ft in diameter and weighs approximately 12 tons. The engine is so large (about the size of a locomotive engine??) they have built its own building. The engine had been unoperational and was in disrepair before the club took it. It was donated with the condition that they made it operational again. During the show they start the engine twice daily and I can attest that it is very loud and operational.
Another prize steam engine of the clubs is this 1910 Case Engine that runs off of coal and wood. Under full load this engine would burn about 375 lbs. of coal per hour. The Flywheelers use this engine to run a fully operational saw mill during the show. It was really fascinating to watch the mill operation.
They of course have numerous old tractors and every other type of farm equipment.
The village is full of barns full of old tools and collectibles. Two of our favorite were full of other than tools. First the Batcher Barn is full of hand made wooden toys. The display was amazing. Some of the more intricate toys – Ferris wheel, roller coaster and others were working when we visited. Others mostly marble powered we could play with and some were just on display.
Our other favorite barn housed “player” musical instruments. You have probably heard of a “player” piano, but how about a “player” accordion, guitar, banjo, steel drums or tambourines?? And the magic was that they all played together and did a really good job. AMAZING!!!
Another first on our adventure was the tractor pull. I had imagined two tractors pulling against each other, but that is not how it worked. The tractor pulls a sled with a weight that moves slowly up the sled to create more weight for the tractor to pull. The pulling tractors ranged from souped hot rod type tractors to small lawn mower size tractors to old working tractors from the early 1900s. The drivers also ranged from very young 6 or so to elderly, male and female. It was pretty interesting.
The final attraction was their claim that they could put together a Model T in less than 10 minutes and drive it. We had to see this. Unfortunately, it was not as exciting as expected, reminded me of the Ostrich races at the Riverside County Fair, more of a comical side show than a truly amazing performance as expected. The engine was intact before, there were only about 15 pieces to put together, but to their credit they did it in less than 4 minutes and it did run.
Since we are limited on space we did not shop the flea market very much, but it was indeed the largest flea market I have ever seen with the more small engines and rust than I have ever seen!!! All in all the fly wheelers show was quite an experience and we certainly enjoyed visiting with other Bluebirders!!!
Peace and love.