From the first model to the latest
WATERLOO – From across the state on June 13, thousands of Iowans found their way into Waterloo to visit the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum in Waterloo.
There they could view not just the company’s first tractor – a 1918 Dain all-wheel drive model – but its latest -the 2015 7920R, designed for European farmers’ needs.
The interpretive museum leads visitors through the farming days before machinery, the mechanization of the farm and John Deere’s inter-relationship with Waterloo.
Displays also lead visitors through the assembly process, including a chance to design a tractor in an engineering department.
The building itself is the original Waterloo Tractor Works building, a museum curio on its own.
By the end of the day, said Rosa Grant, assistant museum manager, about 1,200 paid admissions were collected, which did not include the children under 12 that went through free.
“And that doesn’t include the one’s who went through the outdoor exhibits,” she said.
The lines were so long and so many people inside, she said, “they decided to come back another day.”
But outside was a vast array of antique and vintage restored John Deere tractor models, brought to Waterloo by collectors from across the country.
The outdoor displays, Grant said, mirrored the themes inside the museum.
“We want to educate and engage people about the impact John Deere has had on the community,” Grant said, “and to celebrate the people who were part of it.”
The museum, she said, tells the story of the company in Iowa’s Cedar Valley, “and the history of tractor and engine production that happened here.”
Outside was David Wenthold, of Wacoma, and a host of enthusiasts from the Northeast Iowa Antique Engine Power Club.
Wenthold started a 1946 John Deere B, with its belt powering a John Deere Motor Press No. 1, a stationary device that pressed hay and straw into bales.
Meanwhile, across the exhibit lot, Travis Wibben, of New Hartford, was leading his family through a guided tour of the unique JD tractors he helped coordinate with collectors to be part of the grand opening.
He pointed out how a 1952 John Deere GW, brought in from White Bluff, Tennessee, had an extended axle on one side to accommodate a beet harvester.
Inside, the museum starts with a display of how farming was done through man and horsepower.
It displays how farming became more efficient with machines and motors such as a two-row corn planter with check wire, a corn binder, and motors that kept windmills pumping water when the wind didn’t blow.
From there the visitor is fast-forwarded through the start of Deere, its coming to Waterloo – how one supported the other through world war conflicts and recessions – and the many tractors and implements that were forged and assembled here.
Eldon Dieken, of Grundy Center, was looking over a model of Deere’s first tractor, the 1918 all-wheel drive with wheel designs that based on the former gigantic steam power tractors that preceded it.
The museum, he said, “brings back many memories. My father had the first or second (John Deere) Row Crop in Grundy County
“That was in 1935 or 1936.”
The museum opened its doors in December 2014.
“Tractors and engines have been and continue to be important to John Deere’s success,” said Dawn Hendershot, project manager. “We are pleased to share the history of these products as part of our overall story as a technology leader and quality manufacturer.
“For 177 years, Deere has endured various economic cycles and this museum is a tribute to the resilience of John Deere employees and customers to weather both the good times and the bad.”
Nearly four years in the making, the museum joins various other company attractions in the Midwest, including the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour, Illinois and the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois.
The museum is open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is $8 for adults ages 13-61 and $4 for seniors, active duty military, John Deere employees and retirees.
Children ages 12 and under accompanied by an adult can enjoy the museum for free.
For more information about tours and the museum call (319) 292-6126.
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