Enjoy the Work, Love the Antique Tractor Hobby

A Minnesota couple connects their work with their antique tractor hobby.

Ed Williamson’s New Holland No. 46 sickle bar mower.

Ed Williamson’s New Holland No. 46 sickle bar mower.

Photo courtesy Tony Thompson

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Ed Williamson owns and operates Williamson’s Body Shop in Glenville, Minnesota. Located in southeast Minnesota near the Iowa border, the area contains vast sections of good quality farmland and is rich with agricultural history.

Antique tractors and related farm equipment have long been celebrated here because our resplendent farming heritage was forged with these old workhorses, forming a bond of appreciation between man and machine.

Ed was always a natural with cars in his chosen profession. However, he has an eye for all things old and would often take on jobs restoring or painting varied forms of historic art.

As rural life progresses, sometimes we can turn relations with work into helpers for our hobbies.

Ed and his wife, Linda, enjoy miniature ponies at their picturesque acreage near the edge of town. Ed figured the 1944 Farmall Model H that he purchased years ago to move snow and shuffle trailers could be used to cut and rake hay for the diminutive hobby horses. “All we’d need is a sickle bar mower,” he says, “and a pull-behind hay rake, right?” Well, it’s just never that simple, is it?

Ed dragged home an old No. 46 New Holland sickle bar mower, a Model 207 Oliver hay rake, and, while he was bent over, restoring them to operating condition, the old iron bug sneaked up from behind and bit him squarely on the hind end. Many readers will know how this works. Now we will need a baler, he says. “But the cute little 1946 Allis-Chalmers Model B that ended up here because it needed a home is not big enough to pull a baler,” he admits, “so now we may also need another larger tractor.”

By the time the photographs accompanying this article were taken, Ed had purchased a 1958 Oliver 770 and an Oliver 62T Roto-Flo baler and had reconditioned a couple of used bale wagons. He was not concerned with having pretty cosmetic restorations done on these machines. The plan was to use them, so he enjoyed the time spent bringing these pieces up to good operating condition, but planned on leaving them in their working clothes.

Ed is good at what he does and has the antique machinery working as it did when new. It is certainly a pleasure for those interested in agricultural history to see hay being cut and raked, and to witness tidy bales emerging from the vintage Roto-Flo as it is pulled down the rows of raked hay by the Oliver 770’s smooth-running 6-cylinder engine.

Often the fertile soil and cooperative climate will yield three cuttings per season. A third cutting may not always be real tall with high yields, but the quality is impressive and Linda can treat the couple’s pint-sized ponies to high-grade hay. There is always plenty to go around and extra bales can easily be sold to folks who enjoy obtaining locally grown produce put up just the way it was years ago when grandpa and dad did it.

These days Ed and I visit a good bit. I have been a collector and historian for nearly 30 years now. It still thrills me to see how many wonderful people make satisfying connections and lifelong friends among the rural farming communities that spawn sturdy individuals with good moral values.

Life is pretty good when you enjoy the work you do and you have a hobby you love! FC

Tony Thompson has devoted more than 25 years studying antique tractor development. He collects and restores tractors, cars, trucks and antique agricultural equipment. His favorite antique tractor line is Twin City. View his work at twincitytractors.tripod.com.