Stuart vander Kooi adjusts large letters to be attached to the roof of a building at the Atchelitz Threshermen's Association site on Tuesday in preparation for the Chilliwack Fair. Starting the Monday after the fair

Chilliwack Fair offers insight into mechanical past

Diesel engines, tractors and farm machinery will be on display at the 140th annual Chilliwack Fair this weekend.

The livestock are being brought in, home-grown produce dropped off, displays set up, and the judges are lining up the blue ribbons.

It’s all in preparation for the 140th annual Chilliwack Fair which opens tomorrow and runs until Sunday at Chilliwack Heritage Park.

Next door at the Atchelitz Threshermen’s Association (ATA), members are tidying up the site, using tractors to move equipment around, and touching things up with fresh coats of paint.

ATA member Stuart vander Kooi is using a pressure washer to hose down a piece of antique farm machinery — one of many that will be on display at the ATA site during the fair, and also one of many which has an interesting story behind it.

Like Bill McEnery’s 1927 Russell Newbery diesel engine.

About 15 years ago in Squamish, McEnery was chatting with a man in his late 80s named Orville Van Horlick about the engine. Van Horlick said the engine sounded very similar to one he worked on as a teenager at Potlatch Cedar Camp, a logging camp in Howe Sound from 1929 to 1931.

One January night, during his time at the camp, young Van Horlick, about 17 at the time, was rustled out of his bunk and told to go get the engine running after the lights suddenly went out around 9 p.m. while the crew was having a game of poker.

Van Horlick walked through knee-deep snow with a coal lantern to find that the flywheel of the engine, which had come unglued from the crankshaft, had knocked down one of the walls of the generator shack and rolled down to the beach. Luckily it had struck a rock which slowed it down, otherwise it would have made its way into much deeper water. A mark was left on the flywheel from where it hit the rock.

Everything was repaired and the generator went on working for many more years.

Around 1987, McEnery was hunting with a friend in Howe Sound when he stumbled upon a moss-covered flywheel and other engine parts. The two loaded the pieces onto his boat and brought them back to Squamish where he got some help rebuilding and restoring the engine.

McEnery, who’s been a member of the ATA for about 25 years, brought the engine to the Chilliwack site. And that’s where Van Horlick got to see it firsthand. He looked at it, and knew exactly where to find the mark on the flywheel from the rock.

Sure enough, it was there.

The seven-horsepower diesel engine, maintained by Van Horlick 85 years ago, found by McEnery 25 years ago, and identified by Van Horlick 10 years later will be on display at the fair this weekend.

It is just one of the pieces of history you can experience at the 140th annual Chilliwack Fair.