Mr. Pedal Tractor

Wisconsin man builds impressive pedal tractor and toy collection


| March 2003



Elmer Duellman

Elmer Duellman

Sometimes the sidewalk in front of Elmer Duellman's house looks like a pedal tractor racetrack, with children racing back and forth as fast as their little legs will pump.

"I have eight grandkids," the 62-year-old collector from Fountain City, Wis., says. "They want to go for a ride, so I get the pedal tractors out so they can take them for a little spin. It's like Christmas at my place every day. I just like it. It's fun."

Choosing which tractors to bring out may be difficult, because Elmer has more than 200 pedal tractors - about 130 different models. He stores them anywhere he can, in the garage, an old school bus, a little lean-to and a Quonset hut. It's all part of Elmer's Auto and Toy Museum, which sits at the end of Elmer's Road atop the highest bluff around, overlooking the Mississippi River and Fountain City below.

"If somebody wants to get serious about riding a pedal tractor," Elmer says, "all they have to do is ask me, and I'll go get them one." He's got Allis-Chalmers, Case, Ford, International Harvester, John Deere, Massey-Harris, Oliver and many more miniature versions of the big farm machines. Elmer also has three John Deere Lawn & Garden pedal tractors, but has more International Harvester pedal tractors than any other brand. "Not for any particular reason," he says. "It just happened."

While most pedal tractor owners are children, Elmer was nearly 35 years old when he bought his first collectible piece. Until then, he'd never even seen one. When he found an International M pedal tractor one day, he couldn't pass it up and promptly purchased the foot-powered toy. "After that," Elmer says, "I put up a sign in my salvage business that I was interested in pedal tractors."

One day, a young man spotted the sign and said he knew of a pedal tractor not too far from Elmer's house. "I went to this place - there was supposed to be a farm there, but you couldn't tell because the weeds must have been 10 feet high - and when I got hold of a guy, I said, 'heard you've got a John Deere A pedal tractor?' And he did," Elmer says. "He was the original owner, and he had bought it in 1951. It was all in pieces, so I had to bring it in and put it together."