area (Talk about a streak of luck)."
Meanwhile, back to our story.
On one of these Saturday jaunts we found ourselves a few miles north of a little town called Hartford, Michigan. As we were driving down one of the country roads in our typical zig zag fashion (a method of using one north & south road as the base and cutting across it in a westerly direction for a few miles, turning south to the next crossroad, then back east across the base road to a few miles to the east then south to the next cross road and so on) we spotted a huge flywheel on a very large stationary engine setting beside a few old buildings.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was an old rusty tractor behind some trees back of the largest of these buildings. We couldn't let this get the best of us so we made a big U-turn and headed back to the lane that led up to the place. Driving back this lane (which led to a house further back from the old buildings) you could see that there were more than one old tractor "peeking" out of the woods and fence rows.
Choosing not to go all the way back to the house at the end of the lane, we backed Gary's four wheeler up until we could turn it around and when we did, we saw that there was a walk-in door to one of the buildings and a sign that said "OPEN".
We got out of the truck and started walking up to the building that had the sign in the doorway and couldn't help noticing the remains of an old John Deere L tractor at the side of the path. We continued up to the door and saw that it was open indeed.
Upon entry we could hear a machine running and immediately saw that there was an older man standing in front of an old metal lathe turning a piece of metal. After saying hello to him I immediately asked him if any of those old tractors out back were for sale.
He responded with a quick "No Sir", "those are my toys". I told him that we were antique tractor enthusiasts and that we were always looking for old tractors that could be salvaged and restored.
Gary always carries a large plastic bag of photos of the tractors he has restored or helped work on when he goes tractor hunting... just for situations like these. Sometimes people aren't so sure that you are a for real antique tractor enthusiast unless they see something to make them think otherwise and they may not talk to you or share anything with you if they think you may be an opportunist.
Anyway, Gary went back to the 4-wheeler to get his bag of pictures. After our new found friend saw them he had no problem seeing that we were not there to take advantage of him and he began talking a little more freely.
By looking around the large room that we found ourselves in, it became rather obvious that there were many older pieces of metal working equipment present and that they were all being used. As it turned out, we were talking with a 73 year old man that had been in the machining business as a broker/dealer of machine shop equipment for several years and had traveled extensively across the county dealing with new and used equipment.
"You boys ain't seen nothin' yet" he said as he strolled over to a huge sliding steel door that led to another part of the building we were in. Sliding open the door he said "take a look at this". What we were looking at was an old Rumely 6 tractor (late 20's) and one of only 802 that were made as we found out later.
Looking around that big room, you would not believe what was there. We saw all kinds of hit and miss engines sitting everywhere....on benches, on the floor, sitting on top of barrels, etc. There were all kinds of machine tooling mixed in there with them as well as several pieces of tool & die equipment (older stuff of course).
Looking around this room further I noticed what appeared to be two small tractors of some kind buried under some sheets and pipe. What we discovered by talking to this fella was that one of the tractors was called a "Patton". These tractors were made in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The other tractor nearby looked something like an old Theilman tractor in that it had vertical "fanned out" bars for a grill.
I vowed to myself to check the histories of these tractors when I get some extra time to see if I can run down some more information on them. I only live about 45 minutes from Benton Harbor so I should be able to find some information in their library about the Patton tractor for sure, and hopefully the other one, too. Even though the old machinist told us, I'm almost ashamed to admit that I forgot what brand of tractor the one was that had the odd shaped grill. He did eventually invite us back when we had more time, maybe when spring broke, to hear some of them run and take a spin on a couple of them.
"What's in there" I asked the old man as I looked at another large steel door that was at the rear of this room. Without saying a word, he slid open the door and parked right square in the middle of the opening of that door when it was opened was an 18-36 Hart-Parr. We learned later that he was getting one of the pistons recast and which he would eventually turn down and also make rings for. He had done this with several parts that he could not find on some of his other tractors and since he was a machinist, this wasn't a problem for him.
Looking beyond the Hart-Parr we saw what was later identified as a "Friday" tractor, made right there in Hartford, Michigan. Also sitting beside the Friday was a 1922 Fordson. And, of course, all around everything else.....on the floor and on anything that would hold one.....more hit & miss engines.
I'm tellin' ya...this old boy had some good stuff. He told us about two 15-30 IH machines that he had bought up in Minnesota last year which he still had to go get. And, we found out that the engine out in the front that first caught our eye was originally used in the oil fields of eastern Pennsylvania to drive several oil rigs (at the same time).
The glimpse we caught of the old iron (that which we saw in back of the buildings when we backed up the lane earlier and that were sticking out from the trees and fence row), we found out were two early thirties JD short frame B's. I don't know if I have ever seen such a variety of different "odd" things in one place at one time but I know for sure that this guy had some pretty good pieces.
The thing that amazed me the most is that if we had not seen that big 'ol flywheel on the engine out front, there would have been no way to tell what was inside the buildings and we would have missed out on a real enjoyable afternoon. The buildings were really kind of ran down and you just normally would not expect to find that kind of a collection in a place like that.
I really enjoyed the experience that day and I can tell you for sure that when I get some extra time, I'm going back up there to talk to him some more. If he will let me, I'll take some photographs and get them placed here on Fastrac and let you all see some of this collection.
As I said, it was a fun day squeezing between those machines, tractors, and engines in those buildings, and I intend to go back. I am not going to give you his name at this point, but if he will allow me to in the future, I'll certainly do it because he is bound to have many common interests with many of you and probably a few stories of his own to tell.
The only other thing that I know for sure is that this won't be the last tractor hunting experience that Gary and I will have and it certainly won't be the last story you will read about in these pages.