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Published: Thursday, 9/4/2003

Bowling Green to host expo

Don Frantz from the Historical Construction Equipment Association checks over a 1917 Russell elevating grader. Don Frantz from the Historical Construction Equipment Association checks over a 1917 Russell elevating grader.

BOWLING GREEN - Classic car shows, with rows of antique Chevys and Fords, are a staple of summertime fairs and festivals.

An event this weekend near Bowling Green will show off vintage vehicles of another kind, with names such as Caterpillar and International Harvester.

The Historical Construction Equipment Association's 18th annual National Convention and Old Equipment Exposition will feature dozens of backhoes, bulldozers, and other pieces from the early 1900s to the 1960s.

The convention, which rotates among locations in the United States and Canada, is being held in Bowling Green for the first time since 1995. This year's event is sponsored by Caterpillar of Perrysburg and Miller Bros. Construction.

Don Frantz, a national director of the association, said the displays will range from steam traction engines and horse-drawn graders to gasoline-fueled dump trucks and wheel loaders.

Such equipment illustrates the rapid change in mining and construction work in this country during the 20th century, Mr. Frantz said.

“It's how the company was built, basically,” he said. “And when you come to these shows, you can trace the evolution by the equipment.”

The convention is scheduled from noon until 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the National Construction Equipment Museum on Liberty Hi Road near Bowling Green.

Vendors will be selling toy replicas, watch fobs, and other memorabilia. “It's just like a fair - lots of food and everything,” Mr. Frantz said.

The museum has about 60 pieces to display from its own collection and expects more than 100 private collectors to bring equipment to the show.

But the old dirt-movers, some restored with shining paint jobs, won't just sit there. Unlike most museum pieces, many of these massive machines will be put to work during the convention.

In a large field next to the museum, ancient steam engines will huff and puff as they pull graders behind them. Bulldozers and backhoes will snort and roar as they move giant piles of sand.

“Last year in Minnesota, we helped build a road on the show grounds,” said Tom Berry, an archivist for the organization. “And in Nebraska three years ago, we helped build a dam.”

Convention organizers plan to have two teams of horses and a team of mules, hitched to manual plows and graders dating to the World War I era.

Also scheduled is a demonstration by owners of 10 World War II-era “airborne scrapers.” U.S. forces used the devices, which could be landed by parachute or glider in remote locations, to restore airfields in combat zones.

“People have been fascinated by watching construction equipment for years,” Mr. Berry said. “There's stuff here they aren't going to see anywhere else.”

The displays hearken back to a time when construction work was done without computer-assisted design, lasers, and global-positioning satellites.

“It's amazing to think of all the work accomplished with this old equipment,” Mr. Berry said, looking over a row of dump trucks and motor scrapers built from the 1930s to the 1950s. He cited two ground-breaking projects in the '30s.

“Look at Hoover Dam: 700-foot-high walls built with equipment that's ridiculously primitive by today's standards,” he said. “The Pennsylvania Turnpike, the world's first superhighway, was built basically with the equipment you see here.”

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