Collections reflect U.S., British connections

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Massey sawyer tractor

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Neil Ford parks five Rumely Oil-Pulls and a Ford Windstar van in the driveway of his Milton, Ontario, bungalow. His entire garage has been temporarily transformed into a paint booth for Rumely number six.

Wayne Fischer of Puslinch, Ontario, houses four steam traction engines in a newly built engine barn that measures some 75 feet by 30 feet, by 20-feet tall; poured concrete walkways run around the engines, each of which rests on its own gravel bed.

Walter Dedman of Cambridge, Ontario, hauls his two antique Ruston-Hornsby engines - a giant 500 hp and its little brother, a 132 hp - on specially constructed tractor trailers. The big one has two rows of eight tires each and is capable of carrying 65 tons; the smaller one hauls the 132-hp engine and accommodates a tiny apartment for Walter in its bow.

These guys aren't kidding when it comes to collecting old iron, and they're just a few of hundreds of collectors in eastern Ontario today. They live north of Lake Ontario and south of the Georgian Bay in an area dominated by farming operations for more than 100 years, but that now is being transformed by urban sprawl. Once plentiful, old iron is less in evidence there today as modern housing developments and commercial malls transform the land. Local collectors say they've begun to feel the need to preserve their treasures for posterity as well as just for the fun.

To help give Farm Collector readers a glimpse into this corner of the collecting world, Sherwood Hume, a Milton-area collector whose story about his restoration of a Hume tractor appeared earlier this year in the magazine, planned a series of private interviews and visits to area tractor shows in August for Farm Collector.

Sherwood focused on half a dozen collectors who live in and around Milton, or just to the west, and two shows, the 35th annual Golden Horseshoe Show at Caledonia and the 37th annual Georgian bay Steam Show in Cookstown, both of which just happened to occur during the visit. In addition, he squeezed in a stop at the Country Heritage Park just west of Milton, which has an extensive tractor collection, and a ride (in the engine, no less) on the South Simcoe Railway steam train at Tottenham. This is reported to be the only steam train still running regularly in Ontario.

Sherwood and his wife, Gladys, focus on vintage tractors and printed literature in their own collection, but they've amassed many other treasures as well. A number of their pieces have local histories and even family ties. Included are a 1913 Sawyer-Massey steam traction engine made in Hamilton, Ontario; a number of early prairie tractors, including the namesake Hum; various implements, including a cedar water wagon for the Sawyer-Massey, and several giant vintage threshing machines, and a vintage sawmill. One room in their home is devoted entirely to farm toys and such ephemera as vintage catalogs and parts lists, books and posters associated with farm machinery firms, many of them Canadian.

In addition to Neil, Wayne and Walter, three other collectors opened their barns and garages. Mark Kinzie lives on the outskirts of Ayr, Ontario, and collects U.S. and British engines. His taste runs to the big ones too. He's even bolted one 37 1/2-hp Fairbanks Morse to the floor to try to keep himself from lugging it to any more shows. 'It can be bad,' he admits. 'It can almost take the fun out of it!'

Mark shares his interest in engines with his wife, Carol, who does much of the restoration work; his brother, Ian, who collects Canadian-made machines, and a friend, Rich Mosher, who keeps some of his collection at Mark's place. Rich's interests range from Fairbanks Morse to Canadian-made Acadians to steam traction engines; he drove his 1919 Waterloo at the Caledonia show.

The most recently purchased steam engines in Wayne's collection - a 1915 Sawyer-Massey bought for Wayne's wife, Judi - had for years belonged to the Dalton Curran family of Creemore, Ontario, who are regulars at the Cookstown show.

Dalton said the engine was bought in 1925 by his father, Percy, and had been at the Cookstown show every year since that show began, until now. It joins three western plowing engines in Wayne and Judi's barn.

At Carlisle, Ontario, at Bill 'Bim' Watson's place, his George White & Sons steam engine, another old-favorite at area shows and parades, sat under a big willow tree, like a pet dog enjoying the shade.

Country Heritage Park offered a different perspective from the private collectors. This facility was begun by the Ontario government in the 1970s and now has been turned into a private enterprise. The idea is to tell the story of the area's agricultural heritage to the public - and make it a paying proposition. Reg Cressman, general manager, explained the operation and the challenges he faces, and opened the collection of machinery that has been amassed.

The Golden Horseshoe show at Caledonia is staged at a fairgrounds surrounded on three sides by town and on the fourth by the peacefully flowing and aptly named Grand River; the Georgian Bay show near Cookstown blankets a 39-acre hillside farm field, bought by the club as a permanent home for their event.

In Caledonia, among the Cockshutts, Olivers and Hart-Parrs featured this year was an Oliver combine with special sentimental appeal. David Phibbs of Hagersville, Ontario, who drove the combine in the parade, said his grandfather, father and uncle bought it new the year he was born, 1952; it was one of the first self-propelled combines sold into Ontario. David's father, Ralph Phibbs, dreamed of using it for 50 seasons, but he died last year, one year short of his goal.

David and his cousin, Jim Phibbs, kept the combine going through its 50th harvest to honor Ralph's dream, and they have no plans to retire it yet. 'I sure wish he could have been here for the picture, though,' David said of his dad.

Also present to admire the well-kept, old combine were Jim Haeslip, son of the dealer who sold the combine to the Phibbs family, and Bruce Miller, the traveling representative for Hart-Parr in Ontario back then and the man who sold the combine to the dealership. 'It was considered a monster in those days,' Bruce recalls.

Caledonia parade master Allen McBey is a mechanic hard-wired to collect. At his place, every barn is packed with vintage tractors and an occasional vintage truck; they number in the hundreds, one after another, packed together like sardines in a can. Nothing is restored in terms of appearance, but an amazing number actually run. The McCormick-Deering brand is an obvious favorite, but many others are represented too.

At Cookstown for this 37th annual show, Allis-Chalmers and Rumely were featured, and perennial crowd favorites included the club's saw rig, the Curran family's threshing demonstrations and a selection of working models, including a 1/6-scale saw mill and 1/3-scale John Goodison steam engine, which tootled around on the ground. Look for more in-depth reports on these Canadian collectors, their machines and their shows in upcoming issues of the magazine. FC