ENTERPRISE Collecting and restoring old tractors, along with other farm equipment, has been wheat farmer Erl McLaughlins passion for almost 30 years.
He loves to show off his collection, which he calls 100 Years of Old Iron Heritage and will open the doors to the impressive agriculture exhibit at the annual Sunrise Iron Antique Tractor Show from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4. The collection is housed in a custom-built 40-by-120-foot showroom on the McLaughlin farm at 65708 Sunrise Road, Enterprise, on Alder Slope.
Its getting crowded, and hard to close the doors, McLaughlin said of the building. Im hanging stuff from the ceiling now.
In addition to steel-wheeled tractors, plows, cultivators, steam engines and other antique farm machinery, the collection also encompasses such collectibles as old signs, tractor seats, butter churns, a wooden washing machine, a vintage cash register and much, much more.
There is no charge to view McLaughlins exhibit, though donations are always welcome to support the cause of preserving agricultural history.
He is also always happy to give private tours of his treasure-trove by prior arrangement. Just give him a call at 541-263-0755.
Winters are long in Wallowa County, and Im strictly a grain farmer with no livestock, the collector said about why he got started. In 1983 he spotted a 1930 McCormick Deering 10-20 tractor rusting in a weed patch south of Enterprise. I thought, Theres a project. And then it just spiraled out of control.
His oldest piece, a walking plow, dates from about 1835. One of his favorite tractors is a 1915 Case, which has been mechanically restored but retains its original rust. The largest piece of equipment is a huge 1913 steam engine, used to pull stuff in the field or power a sawmill, the collector said.
Part of the tractor show is a chance for McLaughlin to educate interested folks about old farm machinery. He especially enjoys learning from old-timers who can tell him things about his tractors and old-time agriculture that even he doesnt know.
While McLaughlin doesnt argue with the description of his tractors and equipment as one of the largest privately-owned collections in the Northwest, he points to one even bigger, the Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum, in Pomeroy, Wash. Of course that ag exhibit is owned by Garfield County, while McLaughlin presides over a one-man show, one that gets larger every year.
For more information, check out www.sunriseiron.com.