Wagons from Minnesota State Prison Industries Restored

Vintage wagons tell story of Minnesota State Prison Industries


| August 2013



Minnesota Prison Wagon

A close-up showing Kirk’s detail work; note the Minnesota silhouette. Precise information on the wagons’ original color schemes has been bought them, most were probably orange when they left the factory.

Photo Courtesy Bill Vossler

Collectible farm equipment produced in prison industries is a pretty narrow niche, but it’s a perfect fit for a man with a strong nostalgic streak for the equipment of his childhood and a passion for his home state’s history.

In a sense, Kirk Affeldt grew up among antique machinery on his family’s Wykoff, Minn., farm. But it was no museum: The antique machinery there was still very much in use. “With 120 acres,” says Kirk, an elementary school teacher, “we never had large equipment or new equipment. There was really no need of newer and bigger and better machinery, considering the size of the farm we had, so I grew up with stuff that we knew how to operate and work on. We had a fairly complete line of machinery to keep overhead costs low and weren’t buying new equipment all the time.”

In fact, until Kirk’s father retired from milking cows, the family continued to use a mounted corn picker. “We had to be one of the last two or three corn-picking families in southern Minnesota,” he says. “But that was our main harvesting machine. The neighbors had combines and stuff, but on our operation we had a mounted New Idea 319 corn picker.”

Minnesota Prison implements

In more recent years, it wasn’t much of a stretch for Kirk to keep antique machinery in mind as he worked on his tree farm. When he spotted a Minnesota State Prison Industries 130 flare wagon at a local auction, he bought it. The 130 designation refers to the wagon’s capacity (in bushels). “The gear hoist and box were in good shape, and it looked like a good wagon,” he says. “I used it primarily as a way to haul and distribute wood chips for my tree farm.”

Kirk used the flare box wagon on his farm for five years. Then, at another farm auction, he came across a Minnesota State Prison Industries 1472 barge wagon. “I had never seen one before,” he says. “I didn’t know they made Minnesota barge boxes, and I didn’t know they made wagons that big. I bought it off the farm estate of a retired farmer who died. His son said his dad bought the wagon brand new back in the early to mid-1960s, so it had always been on the farm; it was their primary farm wagon used for hauling corn and oats. He told me it had never been outside in the rain. He said, ‘During harvest in August, at the end of the day (Dad) reminded one of us to put the wagon in the shed.’ I thought this wagon would be kind of handy to help with the corn picking practice, or play time as I call it, that some friends and I do every fall.”

Kirk says “1472” describes the size of the box — 14 by 7 feet — but he doesn’t know what the final digit refers to. Kept mostly in a shed, the wagon had been used to haul sawdust. “Whoever had it kept it in great shape,” he says, “because it still has the original hoist and running gear, and it’s one of the few barges I’ve seen that still has the original new implement tires on it.”