Old Farm Machinery Fills Open Air Museum

Colorado man recreates farm of his youth in an open air museum filled with old farm machinery

| June 1999

  • Otis Mellenbruch
    Otis Mellenbruch
    Photo by Jonathan Waugh
  • Horse-drawn cultivators, neatly lined up as if ready for use in the morning.
    Horse-drawn cultivators, neatly lined up as if ready for use in the morning.
    Photo by Jonathan Waugh
  • A John Deere GP, followed by an early truck chassis, trailed by a hay loader.
    In the pines: A John Deere GP, followed by an early truck chassis, trailed by a hay loader.
    Photo by Jonathan Waugh
  • Detail from a grain drill.
    Detail from a grain drill.
    Photo by Jonathan Waugh
  • An early live trap.
    An early live trap.
    Photo by Jonathan Waugh
  • OSHA would have cast a stern eye on this early rotary hoe
    OSHA would have cast a stern eye on this early rotary hoe (and much vintage farm equipment), shown here in close-up.
    Photo by Jonathan Waugh
  • These antique single trees were once used to hitch up horse-drawn equipment.
    Suspended like stalagtites from a shed ceiling, these antique single trees were once used to hitch up horse-drawn equipment.
    Photo by Jonathan Waugh

  • Otis Mellenbruch
  • Horse-drawn cultivators, neatly lined up as if ready for use in the morning.
  • A John Deere GP, followed by an early truck chassis, trailed by a hay loader.
  • Detail from a grain drill.
  • An early live trap.
  • OSHA would have cast a stern eye on this early rotary hoe
  • These antique single trees were once used to hitch up horse-drawn equipment.

It all started with a vision. Otis Mellenbruch bought eight acres in the pines above Rye, Colo., in 1963. Scraps of old farm machinery on the property gave him an idea. The idea became a vision. The vision became an obsession. 

Today, Otis' eight acres are an open-air museum containing thousands of machines, implements, tools and gadgets, tastefully arranged under the trees and in four sheds built for the purpose.

"I wanted to have a complete set of equipment that a well-equipped farmer in the corn belt of northeast Kansas would have had in the 1920s," he says. "I've pretty well got it."

Otis has a gift for understatement. He could equip 20 farmers to the hilt.



There are tractors, harrows, plows, planters, headers, shockers and threshers. Burr-grinders, oat crimpers, gas engines, grindstones, saws and wagons round out the collection. A 3-foot cast iron kettle sits on its original stand. A horse-drawn hay tedder, used to fluff wet hay lying on the ground, sports a plaque reading "Property of State Prison." He started with a single sheet of 4x8-foot pegboard to display his collection. Now, you can stroll his eight acres and never be more than 20 feet from an antique.

Born in Fairview, Kan., in 1914, Otis grew up through the transitions from horse power to steam power to gasoline tractors. All three technologies are represented in his collection. He started out helping on his Dad's custom-threshing crew when he was 8 years old. His job was to operate the hand-clutch, putting the steam tractor in and out of gear. He had to lift himself completely off the floor of the tractor, pulling with all his weight to move the clutch.