National Summer Tractor Show: A Gaggle of Garden Tractors

Central Hawkeye Gas Engine & Tractor Show marked by rare and unusual exhibits.

| January 2006

  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
    Below: This 1924 Shaw Du-All T-25 was a first-year model. “I’m only aware of six or eight others,” says owner Joe Franklin. “They’re not real common.” To change speeds on the 2-speed tractor, you’d change the length of the chain.
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
    Left: Mike Harper, Macomb, Ill., showed a pair of Red E power cultivators produced by Pioneer Manufacturing Co., Milwaukee. The Red E (far left) was a gear-driven garden tractor with no belts or chains. This original unit dates to the 1930s; the unit at left, to 1927. The Red E used Model T Ford parts: pistons, valves, springs and carburetor, with a flywheel on the front. The line was produced in the 1920s and ‘30s for use on truck farms. The appeal for Mike? “I like garden tractors because they’re still cheaper to buy, they’re easier to handle and work on,” he says.
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
    Left: A 1951 3 hp Choremaster Model C. Part of Joe Franklin’s collection, the piece includes a sickle bar mower that moves in two directions. Right: Joe’s 1950s-vintage Chain Tred Model C, built in Portland, Ore. “Actually, to me it looks worthless. But it runs great. And I have a blade for it. You could push snow with it,” Joe said wistfully, on a day last July when temperatures neared the century mark.
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
    Above: Don Miller and his son, Byron, with their Agro-Util. The tractor has a 2-speed belt; top speed is 3 mph.
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
    Right: Gene Niesen’s Amigo Model 99. Produced by Demco, Dowagiac, Mich., the 1960s-vintage unit has a 6 hp Lauson engine and hydrostatic transmission. “It’s a real smooth-running tractor,” Gene says.
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
    Left: The David Bradley Fred Lewis’ father bought in 1949 generated a revenue stream for Fred. “I plowed gardens all through high school,” he recalls. “I got $2 or $3 a garden.”
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
    Left: A rare pair owned by C.K. Curtiss. What’s believed to be a 1970s-era Buffalo prototype on left. Just 28 were shipped to Central America, C.K. says. The Schield Two-Way tractor, circa 1980, that never went into production.

  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors
  • A Gaggle of Garden Tractors

If it's the odd and unique you crave, take in a show put on by the Vintage Garden Tractor Club of America. When the group held its annual gathering last July at the Central Hawkeye Gas Engine & Tractor Show at Waukee, Iowa, rare units came from all over the Midwest. Even those in the hobby remain amazed by what they find at shows.

"I don't know if I ever go to a show that I don't see something new, something I've never seen before," says Joe Franklin, Dixon, Ill.

Joe displayed a 1924 Shaw Du-All T-25, a family piece he brought back from the grave. "Dad got it in the 1940s, probably at a junkyard," Joe recalls. "Later, it was dumped in a hole in the woods behind our place." As time passed, loads of dirt buried the Shaw. Years later, Joe happened to remember the old Shaw.

After exhuming the Shaw, Joe discovered the engine was missing. Three years passed before he could put his hands on a 1924 Briggs & Stratton Model PB engine. Then restoration began in earnest. All the cast iron was intact, but most of the steel had to be replaced. The unit's wooden handles are a particularly nice touch: Joe got them from a relative of the Shaw family.



In addition to garden tractors, Joe also collects planters, outboard mowers, chainsaws and blacksmith tools. "Show me something that weighs a lot," he says with a smile, "and I'll collect it."

C.K. Curtiss, Dallas, showed an unusual pair: a 10 hp Buffalo said to be a prototype, and a Schield Two-Way tractor that never went into production.