QVEA hosts 17th annual Summer Show at Zagray Farm Museum

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Tue., Jul. 19, 2011
The hard-working pumping crew of the Governor Bradstreet at the 17th Annual Quinebaug Valley Engineers Association Summer Show. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
The hard-working pumping crew of the Governor Bradstreet at the 17th Annual Quinebaug Valley Engineers Association Summer Show. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

“It’s had a lot of different lives,” said Doug Angilly as he moved the bare wooden seat on his 1926 Ford Coupe “remnant,” which he found exposed in an Enfield barn after some stormy weather. Among other jobs, the Ford had once spent time moving people and materials through area tobacco fields. Angilly took the vehicle home, replaced the spark plug wires, and started it up.

“It still has the original oil in it,” said Angilly, who has been restoring old vehicles as a hobby for about nine years. He was displaying the coupe at the 17th Annual Quinebaug Valley Engineers Association (QVEA) Summer Show, held July 16 and 17 at Zagray Farm Museum in Colchester.     

A nonprofit organization founded in 1993, the QVEA includes about 350 members dedicated, like Angilly, to the collection and restoration of 19th- and 20th-century machinery, ranging from the smallest tools and vehicles, to enormous earth-movers. Ten years ago, the QVEA took on the task of developing an educational farm museum on the approximately 200-acre Zagray estate on Amston Road.

“You can’t see it all from the road,” said QVEA President Ned Tewksbury about the expansive property that the group is converting to a living museum of early American farming and construction technology. Currently, the museum includes a number of buildings original to the site, including a dairy barn, foundry, machine shop and sawmill, all of which have been restored to near completion. Walking the grounds, visitors can examine a wide array of machinery in various states of restoration, from a virtual graveyard of rusted farming equipment, to a collection of working excavators, several of which were demonstrated at the show. Much of the equipment was restored by club members and donated to the club for display.

The eventual goal, said Tewksbury, is to erect a building on the site within the next year and a half to provide work areas for club members to restore machinery, and display areas for the finished projects.

“Our goal is to build a museum,” said Tewksbury.

The family-oriented shows on the grounds – there are three per year, said Tewksbury– provide the club with funds for its various projects. And while advertising for the shows is mostly by word-of-mouth, they have steadily grown to the point where each draws about 3,000 to 4,000 people.

Attractions like the recently-restored 1870s sawmill draw large crowds at the shows, as groups of workers mill large logs down to usable pieces of lumber.  But Tewksbury said that the group also likes to feature something new at each of the shows. This summer, about 10 manually-pumped fire trucks from throughout New England took part in a distance competition at the show, shooting a stream of water 200 feet or more, all powered by the hard work of pumping crews that could number 20 or more people.

A large area of the grounds is also devoted to the swap meet, where restoration enthusiasts - as well as those looking for something unique and unusual - can generally find whatever they need.

“This is where you come when you need a special part or tool that you just can’t find anyplace else,” said Ryan Whitson, who came from Rhode Island looking for parts to restore an old tractor.


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