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John Lamb, Published August 31 2012

International Harvester featured at Steam Threshers Reunion

Rollag, Minn. - Visitors to Rollag this weekend will have steam coming out of their ears and will be seeing red.

And they’ll love it.

The annual Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion features an International Harvester expo, the first since 1998 for the big red machines.

“It’ll be really great,” said Bret Lien of Hawley, who is in charge of this year’s expo, which should feature up to 400 vehicles.

In particular, he’s looking forward to a 30-60 Titan coming in from Ohio. It was one of only 1,100 made and dates back to around 1917.

International Harvester made tractors, pickups, jeeps and transport trucks. In the mid-1980s, the company split the agricultural division from the vehicle lines. J.I. Case merged with the ag line to form Case IH; the transport trucking division was renamed Navistar International.

“Around Rollag, International Harvester is really big,” Lien said. “Just the Aakre family alone will be bringing over 40 tractors.”

“There’s some argument over whether it is red paint or green paint that brings people in,” said Mark B. Kerkvliet of Harwood, N.D., president of the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, referring to the brand loyalty to International Harvester or rival John Deere.

The answer may be in annual event’s own history. Kerkvliet said the last International Harvester expo in 1998 was one of the biggest shows, though he said the organization doesn’t keep track of attendance.

While International Harvester will be a draw, an even bigger permanent attraction is getting the final touches.

Kerkvliet said when the Marion Osgood steam shovel is fired up, it will be the largest operating steam shovel in the country.

The giant scoop was like the ones used to dig the Panama Canal, though this one came to Rollag via Kentucky where it was used in a cement company.

It took seven semi-loads to ship all the parts up north, where everything from the boiler to the book-and-dipper stick have been refurbished.

Harvey Pelly from Kentucky was instrumental in working on the machinery, which was built between 1910 and 1914.

He estimates the refurbished piece weighs 150,000 pounds. It will reside on a massive concrete slab on the WMSTR grounds. He said the roughly 5-by-5-by-4-foot deep scoop holds 3½ cubic yards or between 6 and 7 tons.

He said about 4,000 hours of labor will have been invested in getting the machine running tip-top again.

“Western Minnesota Steam Threshers has a significant piece of construction equipment here,” Pelly said. “There’s no way to put a value on it. It’s a dinosaur and how do you put a value on the last living dinosaur?”

If You Go

WHAT: Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion

WHEN: 6 a.m. to dark, today through Monday

where: Rollag, Minn.

tickets: $12, free for kids 14 and younger

Readers can reach Forum reporter

John Lamb at (701) 241-5533