RANTOUL, Ill. — Prairie tractors in a variety of colors will plow through the fields during the Half Century of Progress show.
Set for Aug. 22-25, the show will include several different brands of these huge machines, including Rumely, Hart-Parr and Aultman & Taylor.
“We expect to have 12 or more Prairie tractors at the show this year,” said Kent Jansen, organizer of the Prairie tractors for the event. “We will be plowing at 10 a.m. and after the parade, usually about 2 p.m. each day of the show.”
Once the plowing is completed, Jansen said, the owners of the Prairie tractors will participate in the tractor pull for “bragging rights.”
During the show, visitors will see Prairie tractors working with many sizes of plows ranging from 12 bottoms down to two-bottom plows.
“I really think it’s awesome when there is one big, old tractor after another going out to the plowing field,” Jansen said. “It’s pretty impressive to see them all running.”
Prairie tractors were designed to break the sod of the Midwest prairie. The gas-powered tractors replaced the steam-engine machines.
“The earliest Prairie tractor would be the Hart-Parr, which came out in 1903,” Jansen said. “By the mid-1920s, the Prairie tractors were getting phased out by the smaller tractors.”
Jansen has been involved with shows and antique tractors for quite a while.
“Over 50 years ago, my dad started going to the threshing show in Pinckneyville, and I’ve been there every year since,” he said. “The natural move was to go to Penfield, and then the Half Century of Progress show started.”
On The Road
The collector attends from three to four shows a year and plans to bring three tractors to Rantoul for the biennial show.
“We will bring a 35-70 Minneapolis, a 30-60 Rumely, Model S and a 27-44 Twin City, which is a pretty big tractor for 1929, so it’s probably a Prairie tractor, but some say it isn’t,” Jansen said.
Hauling these huge tractors to shows is quite an endeavor.
“It takes a semi and sometimes a detached trailer to get them to a show,” Jansen said. “Occasionally, you can get two tractors hauled on one trailer, but not always and then you have to get the plow there, too.”
Plows sometimes need to be taken apart to fit onto a trailer.
“Some of the plows are too long to haul,” Jansen said. “I’ve got three modern plows that I’ve made to work with old tractors, so they are easier to haul.”
Jansen’s dad started the family’s tractor collection in 1965.
“We have a repair shop, and dad started repairing tractors for other people” Jansen said. “It’s taken up a bigger part of our business than we expected, and now two of my brothers who retired are working for us.”
About 10 tractors are restored by the Jansens each year.
“The tractors can take a better part of a winter to restore, since we have to make some of the parts,” he said.
Some of the tractors are 100 years old or close to 100 years old.
“The tractor business really picked up around 1920, so there are a lot of brands of tractors that are now 100 years old,” Jansen said.
“My brother and I have about 100 antique tractors of lots of different brands and most are hand cranked,” he said.
“We’ve got quite a few Samson tractors that were built by a division of General Motors in Wisconsin,” Jansen said. “They were built from 1917 to 1921 to compete with the Fordson, and the company also made a truck.”
The Jansen collection includes Graham-Bradley tractors that were sold by Sears Roebuck and Co. in the 1930s.
“These tractors were years ahead of the some of the other tractor companies,” Jansen said. “They are a very technologically advanced tractor for 1937.”