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History motors on at engine exhibition

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MADRID — Horse-drawn carriages rumbled past Model-T cars and antique tractors as hundreds of people celebrated lifestyles of the past at the 30th annual Antique Gas and Steam Engine Exhibition in Madrid over the weekend.

Working sawmills, tractors, engines and other equipment were all on display to give visitors a slice of life from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The exhibition was organized by the St. Lawrence Power and Equipment Museum.

It is meant to show how “inventions and machines made life in the north country easier and more productive,” said Roger S. Austin, secretary of the museum.

The exhibition began 30 years ago as a small group of antique-equipment enthusiasts looking to share their passion.

“They decided just to have a little get-together where they could show their engines,” Mr. Austin said.

The show grew wildly in the decades that followed. Mr. Austin estimated that 2,000 people attended this year’s event.

The two-day exhibition was packed with activities and demonstrations. Antique-tractor owners competed to see whose machine could pull the most weight, and kids could try to do the same on miniature pedal tractors. Demonstrators sliced logs on a fully functioning sawmill from 1886.

“I’ve been a member of this for 30 years,” said James S. Morrison, of Canton. “We come every year. I like the antique stuff, every year something new.”

The exhibition was held on farmland purchased by the museum in 2006. Visitors could tour several historic buildings that have been reconstructed on the site, including a one-room schoolhouse where children scribbled on an antique chalkboard. Museum members eventually plan to turn the land into a full historical village, with separate areas based on different eras of history.

“People can get a sense of the way things used to be done,” said museum Treasurer Charles F. Goolden, of Colton. “It’s a preservation of heritage.”

Some attendees camped at the site to make the most of the event.

“I just like the smell of the old gas and the engine oil,” said Massena resident Francis McDonald, who has attended the exhibition for 12 years. “It reminds me of the old days. It just gives us a chance to go back and experience what life was like.”

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