It’s time to strap on your boots and take a hike to Sunrise Iron LLC. Owner Erl McLaughlin is holding his annual tractor viewing show on Saturday, Aug. 3. The show is a long-standing Wallowa County tradition and features exhibits of a number of ancient wheeled vehicles, farm equipment and just about any contraption you name from bygone eras.
Although McLaughlin will host visitors on request, his yearly show can draw hundreds of visitors. Even KGW TV from Portland made a recent visit.
McLaughlin, who farms wheat on 600 acres, said he started out collecting vintage tractors in 1983 during the long winter months of Wallowa County. His barn/warehouse is now full of vintage machinery from one end to the other, some looking like it just came off the showroom floor and some in its well-worn natural state.
Every year he tries to bring in something new to tantalize new visitors, and this year is no exception. This year he thought he’d put a new twist on his antique display.
One new acquisition is a tire shrinker, used in the days when tires were made of iron and wood. As wood got old and shrank, the spokes and felloes would come loose, necessitating the tightening up of the radius of the iron rims.
“This is the Cadillac of tire shrinkers,” McLaughlin said.
Also new on the lot is a seed drill that came courtesy of a Wallowa couple.
Inside the huge barn on the property, McLaughlin presented one of his most recent acquisitions, placards honoring his wife, Mary Ann, who served as his partner in his machinery acquisitions and passed away in her sleep on August 28 of 2016.
“She was my inspiration for what you see here at Sunrise Iron,” McLaughlin said. “She was my encouragement and supporter and I made a deal with my kids that I’d have the placards made with John 3:16 on them, and they’ll be on permanent display at Sunrise Iron. She set the standard on being a good person. I’d like her to be the focal point of the show.”
Next on the list is some 315 mechanics tools (mostly wrenches) from the days of yore, much of it identified as specifically fashioned to work on the machinery McLaughlin owns as well as horse-drawn equipment.
“Over the last year, it isn’t huge stuff, but it’s unique stuff,” he said. “I’m getting picky over what to add at Sunrise Iron because of the space limitations.” Although it won’t be done by show day, McLaughlin recently picked up a 33-inch double fly wheel free standing coffee grinder that mercantiles once used to grind bulk coffee for their shelves.
According to McLaughlin, because of the variety of machinery and other items, women enjoy the barn as much as men. Particularly popular is the 19th century art advertising used to sell the machinery. Much of it is original and laminated.
“I’m trying to broaden my horizons,” he said.
Out in his shop, separate from the barn, is his latest prized possession: The only truck in the collection, a 1912 Republic. He found the piece in Lewiston, Idaho. It spent it’s working days in White Bird, Idaho. It has some original paint, so it will remain in its present state with its wooden spoke wheels and wood steering wheel.
“It looks pretty decent compared to what it looked like when I first got it,” he said.
One of the reasons McLaughlin has the annual show is to enlist aid in finding new equipment for his display. He said that when people see he is a serious collector he can give them cards so they can contact him if they come across an interesting piece.
Will he ever retire?
“Probably not,” he said. “I’m trying to keep this as a hobby. Something fun — not as a job.”
Sunrise Iron is located at 65708 Sunrise Road, just a few miles west of Enterprise. Admission is free although donations are accepted.