The History of the Cranberry Flywheelers
The exact starting date of antique engine displays hard to pin down. One day at one of our shows at Plymouth Airport I had a chance to speak to Don Hanson. He was an antique car enthusiast that was friends with George Bartholomew. Edaville always had a number of antique engines on display around the grounds but had none that were running. One day in the early 1970’s, George asked Don to see if he could get one running for a display. He did and one lead to two and other collectors came forward and soon they would get together at Edaville for a meet.
Web Reynolds, one of the conductors of Edaville Railroad spoke with his friends Scott Lamontange and Paul Lavassuer about organizing an antique engine display on the grounds at Edaville. The first displays we held around the gazebo in front of the screen house. In the late 1970’s Geprge decided to relocate the engine display and include a small tractor pull out at the “ball field” on Meadow Street , across the street from the original location of the Edaville station. The idea was to encourage tickets sales on the train to the remote location to see the display.
In the late 1970’s I happened to come across one of those meets at the “ball field” on Meadow Street. Being a small tractor bug I stopped at the field to watch the mini tractor pull and the engine displays. I had seen one these engines when I was in college and I had found them very interesting. I noticed that there were a few tents and campers on site for some of the engine collectors. The Edaville train would stop by the field and pick up any of the engine exhibitors and bring them over to main park for free. There were also a lot of people getting off the train to see the engines and tractors. I asked a few questions and decided to come back next with my engine and tent trailer. It was pretty crazy in a way because I lived less than 2 miles from the sight.
Eventually the exhibit moved over to the front end of the main park. My guess was that this happened in the early 1980’s. At this time the engine show was being organized by Paul Levasseur and Scott Lamontangue. Around this time, they started handing out show plaques and developing a mailing list for Edaville. Scott says that it was two shows a year, almost from the beginning. Paul and Scott really took on job and got the “sport” of the ground in South Eastern Mass. The staff at Edaville, Brenda and Jack Ryden helped when they could, but funds were not always there and they had to pay for flyers themselves, to keep things going. The show grew in size with exhibitors and their families who were given free train passes and admission into the park. The exhibit area had been moved to the front of the park, just behind the main entrance, as the number engine folks grew. The new location was technically outside of the park so engine enthusiasts could come to see the engines and not go into the park. We always felt that we were a draw for the park and most of the folks coming to see our engines paid admission into the park after walking past our display.
We believe that we had 75 or more exhibitors at the time. The displays ranged from small model air plane engines, model steam engines, boat motors, a midget Matag racer and Matag gas engine washing machines and “one lungers” of all sizes up to George Church’s huge engine. He brought it in on a flatbed trailer towed by an antique truck tractor. The engine had 8’ flywheels and a small Ford “pony motor” to get it running. As I remember it had an 18” bore, was rated at 40 HP and it ran.
In the fall of 1990 Bartholomew announced that he was closing the park and he was going to sell of the exhibits including the steam engines. We were all very concerned about our future but it was Dave Robie that pushed us into organizing our own club, independent of Edaville. Paul and Scott were more than happy to pass the work over to us after running it for almost 25 years. We gathered at the site for our show and organized a meeting to decide what was the future of the group was going to be.
Edaville had a big tent set up near our display and we, so about 20 of us, got together. It just so happened we had a tremendous down pour during the meeting that left puddles 2”-3” deep in the display field. We got a lot done just the same, elected officers, came up with a name for the club and planned a future to carry on the “sport”. We stayed one more year, 1991, but eventually the park closed. In 1992 the Flywheelers met in Bridgewater, in an open field at the corner Whitman and Plymouth Streets. We met there again in 1993 and we called it our 14th annual show. This would date an official club back to about 1980. Scott and Paul had been running it for almost 5 years prior to that date.
We received word the Edaville was going to re-open in 1994 under new management and we could go back in. At first, we could meet under roughly the same arrangement but things began to change. We were put “inside of the park” so that folks wishing to see our engines had to pay admission and under the new management it was not cheap. Then there was an attempt to charge our families for admission but we managed to find a way to sneak past the ticket booths and set up. The last year or two we were there our display area was moved deep inside the park, up on the hill near the museum. There were no more free train rides and many of the members were getting discouraged.
Charlie Hatch, club president at the time, said that he could get us a spot in the field at Plymouth airport. In 2005 we had our first two shows there, one in June and another in September. Over the next 10 years the club experimented with 2 two day shows, our own tent, food sales, raffles, clothing sales, web sites, “slow mo” contests. Members selling items at our “exhibit” shows had been an issue to some of the members. Some objected to it because some folks brought in a trailer load of “stuff’, which gold to some of us and junk to others. It was decided to have a third show un July at Dick and Jim Shurtleff’s place in Carver, as our annual swap meet. We eventually cut all of our shows down to one day
Over time our membership numbers remained about the same but our ages did not. Hauling around those huge iron engines, tents, hot dog grills and other stuff just did not seem like fun anymore to many of us. Attendance began to shrink so we reduced the show dates to one day for each event and we ended club food sales. Jim continued the food at his place on an individual basis.
The future of the club is in the hands of the members. As time goes on there is less and less interest in our hobby. Sure, folks love to look at them but few have found enough interest to actually acquire an engine, get it running and display it.
Paul Levassuer/Scott Lamontange