Monday, August 4, 2003

Old engine collection to be sold at auction

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Fred Staton's longtime love of old-fashioned steam engines will soon end.

The now-retired tobacco farmer was fascinated with steam engines as a boy living near an L&N railroad line. He first bought an antique boiler to steam his crop.

Over the last five decades, Staton amassed as many as 17 steam engines, hundreds of steam tractor-engine parts, and numerous bells and steam whistles.

But Staton says it's time to move on.

He's already sold all but two steam engines to private collectors or museums. He says he'll auction off the rest of his collection in September.

"You wouldn't believe how smooth they run, or how quiet," Staton, 72, said. "They are much quieter than a diesel tractor."

The engines - a 1920 Huber 45-horsepower engine nicknamed "Sarah" and a 30-horsepower 1910 Case - were connected by long belts to a 1920s threshing machine.

"I'm gonna miss 'em," said Staton, who used to show off his collection at antique farm shows in Indiana, Ohio and Minnesota.

Lonnie Clemmons, 38, of Lexington, was undaunted by the threshing work awaiting him as he drove "Sarah." Clemmons has been helping Staton prepare for September's auction.

"I'll miss fooling with 'em, I imagine," he said.

Staton's son Eric, 34, said he thinks he and his two siblings aren't as passionate about the equipment because there isn't a demand for it. But, he admits "it's gonna be boring" without his father's collection around the farm.

Longtime friend Dennis Kelley, 51, of Versailles, was surprised to hear Staton was selling the steam equipment.

"It's a very large piece of American history that needs to be preserved," Kelley said.

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