Honoring Agricultural Heritage

Pair of Northwest hobbyists stand tall in old iron hobby

| April 2012

  • Lost Duchman Museum
    The Lost Dutchman Museum is not a vast building, but every spare inch is pressed into service. The U.S. flag at top is a collectible: It has 46 stars.
  • Andy Gortsema
    Andy Gortsema continues to coax relics of the past back to life. “Last year I said no more restorations. But I’ve got two in the shop right now,” he slyly admits.
  • Ted Billups
    Ted Billups still works full-time at a local tractor dealership.
  • Buckeye Trundaar
    Ted’s 20 Buckeye Trundaar. The seat is original; he added John Deere fenders, a fuel tank and dash.
  • 1928 Rumely
    This 1928 Rumely Model X 25-40 is a Billups family tractor. “I can remember that Rumely pulling a threshing machine,” Ted says. “They used it on a stationary thresher at Nezperce. The external gears were completely worn.” The model was produced from 1928 to 1930; just 2,041 were built.
  • Sieverkropp
    This 1 hp 1915 Sieverkropp was stuck when Andy got it. “I had an awful time getting it loose,” he says. “Then I had to make a new piston and wrist pin.” He also has the engine’s original bill of sale.
  • Maid Of All Work
    This 1910 Maid of All Work was built by Kneeland Mfg. Co., Battle Creek, Mich. It has a 3-by-3-inch bore and stroke and an open water jacket with 1-gallon capacity.
  • Lessman
    Restoration of the Lessman was a particularly dirty job, Ted recalls. He’s seen more than his share, including those complicated by others’ inexperience. “If I was in Congress,” he says in a mock growl, “you’d have to take a test to use a welder.”
  • 6 HP Ellis
    When Andy bought this 6 hp Ellis at a Spokane, Wash., auction, the piece was a true basket case. The 2-cycle engine (4-1/2-by-4-1/2-inch bore and stroke) has its original fuel tank and flywheel (note the flywheel’s unique finger grips). The engine runs in either direction; it was built by Ellis Engine Co., Detroit, between 1910 and 1915.
  • 1918 Yuba
    This rare 1918 Yuba 10-20, built by Yuba Mfg. Co., Marysville, Calif., is unique to the West Coast. Its tracks run on steel balls (see insert) rather than rollers. It has a clutch and 3-speed transmission and is steered with a steering wheel and differential brakes. Owned by Norman Willson, Colfax, Wash., the Yuba is one of a pair restored by Ted and displayed in his museum.
  • 5-Ton Holt
    Designed to pull a 77 mm cannon during World War I, this 1918 5-ton Holt may never have seen battlefield duty. “It has a 30 gas radiator, not a 5-ton radiator,” Ted notes. “Evidently somebody took the radiator and manifold.” The Holt’s tracks are studded with extra cleats. “That’s how they made grousers on the original tractors,” Ted says.
  • Yuba Track Balls
    The balls between the tracks on a Yuba 20-35. The balls are a light rust color and arc from the top left to the bottom right.
  • Hayfork
    A hayfork in the foreground; at back, part of a blacksmith’s bellows. Andy’s father suffered a serious injury in a hayfork accident: The fork pierced his neck and when he yelled for help, the helper – out of the line of vision – misinterpreted the call as a command to lift the fork. “They called the doctor but Dad never went to the hospital,” Andy says. “For years after that, you could count his heartbeats by looking at his neck.”
  • Grouser
    An early grouser on Ted’s 5-ton Holt, made from a cleat.
  • 1954 International Pickup
    Andy’s son, Gary, bought this 1954 International pickup and selected the color scheme; Andy and his son, Marvin, restored the piece (including paint) from the frame up.
  • Cat Thirty
    In the era before diesels, the Cat Thirty was a popular tractor in the Northwest, Ted says. “It was nice to drive but it used a lot of gas; it probably had a 50-gallon fuel tank.”

  • Lost Duchman Museum
  • Andy Gortsema
  • Ted Billups
  • Buckeye Trundaar
  • 1928 Rumely
  • Sieverkropp
  • Maid Of All Work
  • Lessman
  • 6 HP Ellis
  • 1918 Yuba
  • 5-Ton Holt
  • Yuba Track Balls
  • Hayfork
  • Grouser
  • 1954 International Pickup
  • Cat Thirty

If there were a college degree in collecting old iron, Andy Gortsema and Ted Billups could serve as a two-man faculty. Each has spent a lifetime collecting, restoring and preserving relics from America’s agricultural heritage. Well into their ninth decades, each man remains actively involved in his hobby. They are both keenly interested in new finds, careful managers of extensive collections, and skilled artisans in coaxing antiques back to life.

Stationary gas engines are Andy’s primary interest. At one time, his collection numbered 100 or more engines. Now 85, Andy has amassed a broad collection, reflecting keen curiosity in the world around him. His museum at his home in Fairfield, Wash., includes a remarkable variety of farm-related items, local memorabilia, gadgets of the past and wonders from the natural world.

About 170 miles southeast, in Grangeville, Idaho, Ted has built a life around tractors. Now 88, he’s worked as a mechanic for the same company for 67 years. He tried retirement once; it didn’t take. Today he works full-time as a mechanic at the local John Deere dealership, tackles his own projects in his free time and manages an impressive tractor collection.

The two men are members of the Lewis-Clark Antique Power Club, EDGE&TA Branch 54, Lewiston, Idaho, and both have been inducted in the national EDGE&TA Hall of Fame.



Intrigued by engines

Some kids start with baseball cards; others with stamps. Not Andy Gortsema. His first collection as a boy was old engines, and he never looked back. “They were always around,” he recalls. “And they were all different. Dad had engines to pump water and grind feed. We used the old engines until we got electricity on the home place in about 1940. Then they got shoved aside pretty fast.”

He started with Maytags (his collection includes a Maytag from the line’s first model, possibly dating to 1910). After he began working as a mechanic (first for a car dealer in Grangeville, then for an International Harvester dealer in Fairfield), he found additions to his collection almost easy to come by. “I’d make service calls to farms and a lot of times I’d see old engines,” he says. “The farmers would say ‘take it if you want it.’”



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