Tractors’ Pull/Antique Club Welcomes Spring with Fifth Annual Show
by Nathan Oravec
“A 1940 Ford Ferguson,” David Lowry recalls - the first tractor his grandfather purchased new when his farm made the transition from horsepower of the four-legged variety to that of the mechanical age. An album of Lowry’s - a veritable catalog of antique tractors from the early days of the twentieth century - contains photos of a Ferguson model, which he restored in homage; just one of several similar projects the collector, and president of the Washington County Antique Tractor Club, has completed to date.
Lowry became involved with the classic farm machines shortly after he and his father, Leonard, sold their dairy farm in 1986. “After going into public work, I began buying old tractors, fixing them up, and reselling them.” What began initially as a lucrative side job, though, soon became a full-fledged hobby as Lowry obtained some projects he couldn’t part with. “I started getting some pretty nice tractors, and began collecting.” Since that time, Lowry’s completely restored eight tractors of his own; sharing a total of fifteen between his father, 81 years old and “still active,” and his two sons, Wayne, 32, and Scott, 29. For the last year, he has also served as president of the Washington County Antique Tractor Club, an organization he discovered while first starting his collection.
The Washington County Antique Tractor Club was founded in 1991, explains Lowry, organized by a group of men, women and children from throughout the area’s farming and agricultural community who were interested in sharing their love of antique farm equipment and in preserving the county’s rural heritage. Originally, he notes, each spring the group would assemble to plow a rented piece of ground where they would plant corn to be sold at market when the crop came in. An annual tractor show was first launched at the Fairplay Fire Company, and gradually gave way to two separate events - an annual spring show held at the Hagerstown Valley Mall and a subsequent fall show hosted at the Washington County Agricultural Center on the fourth weekend of August.
“This is the fifth year for the mall show,” says Lowry, noting that in its first, the show was held over the course of a weekend - a trial run of sorts. “There was such a good response, they asked us to come back.”
The Fifth Annual Washington County Antique Tractor Club Spring Show will be held March 8-14, 2004 at the Hagerstown Valley Mall, “We’ll move all of our tractors in Sunday night,” says Lowry, “and they’ll stay there until the following Sunday.” Returning the fifth time around will be the Club’s personal collection of tractors, spanning all makes, models and modes - from antique farm tractors to lawn and garden and garden pulling getups; as well as antique farm and home tools and equipment. “In the past, we’ve had in the neighborhood of forty antique farm tractors - and anywhere from fifteen to twenty garden tractors - on display,” he notes. In addition, toy pedal tractors will make an appearance, as will the Tri-State Farm Toy Collectors’ Club with an antique and vintage toy farm scene in miniature - both of which are always a big success with kids of all ages. In addition, a rope-making demonstration will be held Friday evening, March 12, at 6 p.m. followed by a Kids Pedal Pull on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. for tractor enthusiasts ages 5-10. With four years’ experience hosting the show, the Club has once again (tractor)-pulled out all of the stops. “The mall show gives us a chance to show off.”
Since its inception, the Club has orchestrated a number of different fund-raisers, including raffles for pedal tractors and monetary prizes. Proceeds from raffles go toward funding a $500 scholarship annually awarded by the Club to a lucky high school student in the Tri-State area who plans to pursue an education in agriculture. This will be the fifth year for the scholarship, having been launched with the Club’s first Spring Show, and raffle tickets will be available at this year’s event.
Currently, the Washington County Antique Tractor Club boasts a roster of 200 members - and nearly 75 families, comprising the majority of the organization. “The club is very family oriented,” notes Lowry, adding, however, that membership is open to anyone interested in joining. “You don’t have to own a tractor to become a member,” he continues. “Anyone who is interested in preserving our rural heritage is welcome.”
Lowry estimates that the Club’s tractor collection features those dating back to the late teens and early 20s, with the newest, at the very least, 25 to 30 years old. “Some members have tractors that still have steel wheels, before rubber [was added.]”
“Most of the tractors that we’ve restored are worth two to three times what they sold for originally. Some of the tractors sold in the 40s might have gone for seven or eight hundred dollars new. Today you could sell them for two or three thousand. Although when you buy and old tractor and restore it, sometimes you can get a good bit of money tied up in the project.”
Where speed is concerned, the tractors on the market today far outpace their giant steel forefathers. “There’s really no comparison. Most of these antique tractors, at the biggest, were anywhere from twenty to seventy-five horsepower. The tractors out there today have a couple hundred horsepower, as well as all of the modern conveniences like cabs with heat and air conditioning...”
Still, there’s nothing quite like remembering the old days. “A lot of people in this club are from a farm background,” notes Lowry. “These are the tractors they remember working with.”
For more information on the Washington County Antique Tractor Club, visit their web site at www.wcatc.org. For further information on The WCATC’s 5th Annual Spring Show held March 8-14 at the Valley Mall, contact David at 301-491-0446 or 301-491-5054.
Annual Spring Show held March 8-14 at the Valley Mall, contact David at 301-491-0446 or 301-491-5054.