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Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum


In 1976, a group of collectors and enthusiasts formed the California Early Days Gas Engine and Tractor Association to celebrate their love of the history behind the early days of farm equipment and life. This pioneering group founded the museum and negotiated the original lease with the County of San Diego to secure the 55 acres of rolling farm ground in North County. Starting with a few old-time engines and equipment pieces, the museum now boasts more than 20,000 items, ranging from a Corliss Steam Engine with a 19,000-pound flywheel to a room decided to the preservation of rare manuals and photographs.

From the earliest days, one of the most unique aspects of the museum is its dedication to the continued operation and preservation of early technology. Unique from traditional museums with static displays, the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum's equipment is maintained in operating condition. In addition to the working equipment, the museum is also a living history example of early agriculture. Much of the property to this day is still set aside for farming. Dry-land crops that were typical to the area around the turn of the century such as wheat and oats are still grown today. Intermittently corn, sorghum or other irrigated crops are cultivated.

pic of engine

During the bi-annual Harvest Fairs in June and October, the grounds come alive with activity. Visitors have the rare opportunity to observe a threshing machine in operation, blacksmiths working at their trade, women baking bread in a woodstove from wheat grown, harvested and ground into flour, right on the property. Visitors can also watch steam and gas engines providing power for pumping water, grinding grain and other chores typical on early American farms. Volunteer members supply support and manpower for all programs and operations, ensuring history stays alive.

The museum's elementary program, School of Times Past, continues to expand to meet demand. The museum enables students to observe early historical equipment and participate in fun projects with the Museum's school educator, Ms. Whimplewort. Internship studies in museology, collections management and small business administration are also offered.

Numerous documentaries focused on the museums collections have been filmed for the video market and television programming. Classic museum equipment has been used in countless movies and television productions including Stargate, Mulholland Falls, LA Confidential, Modern Marvels, Pearl Harbor and Seabiscuit, among others.

Rancho Guajome Adobe

In an era when sheep and cattle far outnumbered human inhabitants in Alta California, Mexican Governor Pio Pico granted two Luiseno Indian brothers 2,219.4 acres of land known as Rancho Guajome. In turn, the brothers sold the land to a businessman from Los Angeles, Abel Stearns, for a mere $550. Stearns held onto the land for a few years before giving it to his sister-in-law, Ysidora Bandini, as a wedding gift. Ysidora had just wed Lieutenant Cave Johnson Couts of Tennessee, who was a dragoon with the U.S. Army and had been sent to California to aid in the establishment of the U.S. and Mexican border.

The newlyweds lived happily in Old Town San Diego near Ysidora's family while their home, "La Casa del Rancho Guajome," was being built. With two children and another on the way, the young couple moved to Rancho Guajome in 1853, where they would raise 10 children. By the time the Couts family settled into Rancho Guajome Adobe, Cave was already making a small fortune in the cattle industry supplying a ready supply of beef and leather to the Bay Area during the gold rush era. However, being an entrepreneur, he was quick to delve into other markets from sheep to citrus crops to wheat to having his own general store on the property. He had also worked in a number of different arenas from serving as an officer in the U.S. Army to an Indian sub-agent to a surveyor, establishing the layout of San Diego's first streets.

After Cave's death in 1874, the Rancho was managed by his son, Cave Couts Jr., along with the sage advice of Ysidora, of course. Cave Couts Jr. made many modifications and renovations over the years from adding the sewing room to enclosing the covered porch to adding the mission-revival style arches by which Rancho Guajome Adobe is known and recognized.

Fortunately, the adobe remained in the Couts family through the Rancho era and the years that followed. In 1936, the Ranch house was listed as California State Historic Landmark No. 940, and in 1970, was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.

In 1973, the County of San Diego, Department of Parks & Recreation acquired the historic adobe along with 566 acres of the original land grant with intentions of preserving this important piece of California and U.S. History. In 1994, after much research and preparation, the restoration process was started with the last phase being completed in 1996. Since the completion of the restoration process, many of the 22 rooms have been beautifully appointed with period furnishings.