Two-Ton Tractor Lighter Than Air

Transporting the John Deere Dain tractor into the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

| November 2009

Editor’s note: This description of moving the John Deere Dain tractor into the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is in addition to “Lincoln’s Farm Legacy,” Dale Jensen’s article about one of the museum’s exhibits.

The all-wheel drive, 3-wheeled tractor designed by Joseph Dain makes an impression.

It’s the largest and most eye-catching artifact in How Vast and How Varied a Field: The Agricultural Vision of Abraham Lincoln. On loan from Deere & Co., this 1918 tractor occupies a central spot in the gallery, as well it might after what it took to get it there.

The steel-wheeled, 2-ton tractor presented a unique challenge to exhibit designers and museum technicians. Between the street-side offload point and the gallery were two large carpeted areas and a polished limestone floor, none of which could be touched by the tractor.

Using equipment provided by Airfloat Co., Decatur, Ill., workers moved the tractor from the sidewalk to the exhibit room without touching carpet or stone. The tractor floated a mere millimeters above the floor’s surface on a cushion of air. Sufficient flotation required a smooth, hard surface, so sheets of 4-by-8-foot fiberboard served as a temporary laminate over carpet. The rubber diaphragms of the air bearings hovered easily over the polished stone floor, minutely flexing while crossing joint lines. The tractor was guided and steadied as it reacted to a high-volume inflow (75 psi) of compressed air. After the panels, air hose and air bearings were removed, no trace of the heavyweight move was visible. FC

For more information: The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, 212 N. 6th St., Springfield, IL 62701; (217) 558-8844; online at
Dale Jensen grew up on a small grain and livestock farm in central Iowa in the 1950s and ’60s. Retired from the U.S. Air Force, he now lives and works in Springfield, Ill. Contact him at


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