Treasured Tractors:


| March 2001



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Eric HansenErl McLaughlin

Photos by Eric Hansen

Along rural roads, the sight of a pole barn usually indicates harvested hay stored inside. However, on the McLaughlin homestead near Enterprise, Ore., a massive metal building houses mechanical pieces from the past once used for land cultivation. Lined up from one end of the barn to the other, 30 antique tractors take you back in time from 1908 to 1938. Owned by a man passionate about restoring farm relics to their original state, this 'historic hobby' has turned into one of the largest tractor collections in the Pacific Northwest.

Erl McLaughlin, a barley farmer, began his pursuit of bringing back mothballed agricultural machines in 1983. Looking for something to do during the cold winter months, he spotted an old tractor in need of repair outside of Enterprise. Deciding it would be fun to restore, he purchased the piece, thinking it would be a one-time-only project. Said Erl, 'I thought after I'd restored this tractor, I'd get tired of it.'

Almost two decades later, Erl is still taking apart tractors and putting them back together in top running condition. His efforts require months of research per piece, including information from old farmers, and hard physical labor. Touring his tidy workshop, it's easy to see how each tractor is meticulously re-made.

'The hours spent on a tractor depends on the degree of difficulty and what shape it's in when I get it,' he said. 'I take extreme care when handling the original parts. However, a few parts are reproductions, since some tractor companies are no longer in existence. When that happens, I just get on the phone and find out what's available.'

For his 1917 Model 10-20 Titan, manufactured by International Harvester, restoration took approximately 400 hours. One of a few existing today, from an estimated 80,000 built between 1916 and 1921, the Titan's bluish-gray body and cherry-red spoked steel wheels glisten with spit-polish shine. The tractor's brand name and IHC logo are perfectly placed. 'Attention to small details, like a company's decal and brass tag stamped with a serial number, makes each tractor complete,' he said.