Scratch a Collector, Find a Museum


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We went to visit Ted Worrall at Loma, Montana to see his collection of engine books and catalogs, and learned a lot about his library and about a new farm museum in which he is interested.

It seems you can travel 11 miles on Route 87 north of Loma, and see nothing on mailboxes except the name of Worrall. Ted and his family members own all but one small patch in an 11 mile stretch.

Ted, a chatty veteran of the Pacific in World War II, has nine four drawer filing cabinets chockfull of magazines, catalogs, books and other data on both steam and gas engines. We were pleased to note some Stemgas, IMA and GEM material in the collection, which began in October, 1927. He also had three closets stacked full.

Our visit with Ted and his wife Florence started at lunch in Olma. My wife, Margaret, is a native Montanan and we drove from the home of her brother John in Cascade. Margaret knows farm engines from child hood and serves as an excellent consultant.

In his 'office', Ted pulled out drawer after drawer of valuable material, conducting a rapid-fire monologue to describe his treasures. You could spend a week there and not touch the same book or catalog twice.

Name it and he probably has it. Word is getting around about his library. People write to him or call him long distance. He has correspondents in Germany, Australia, England, and other foreign countries. People draw on him for authoritative information. Ted and his wife travel frequently. One of their most memorable trips took them to New Zealand, where they met Michael J. Hanrahan, editor of Vintage Farming magazine. It was Michael who first told us of  Ted, when we were with him at his home near Ashburton.

Ted is also a good publicist. A great admirer of Oscar Cooke, owner of Oscar's Dreamland at Billings, probably the world's biggest farm engine collector, he took a lot of color photos of Oscar and his machines, and sent us duplicates. We'll be doing a separate article on Oscar.

Ted also proudly displays his collection of toy engines. A cover of the Montana Farmer-Stockman last year showed Ted holding a toy tractor and a threshing machine. He has other memorabilia as well-photos, advertising signs, posters, newspaper clippings, and calendars.

For the long established collector, or the beginner, he can help answer questions and provide essential data. He contributed to the making of several books. These include Farm Tractors 1950-75 by Lester Larson, long the conductor of the Nebraska Tractor Tests; 150 Years of International Harvester, and Kirby Brumfield's This Was Wheat Farming.

The new musuem in which he is interested will be located at Fort Benton, which many years ago was the highest point of navigation on the Missouri River.

Fort Benton is proud of its association with Lewis and Clark, the famed explorers. The official state memorial to the expedition, centering on heroic sculpted figures of Lewis, Clark, and their Indian guide Sacajawea, is located at Fort Benton.

The institution on which Worral is working with others is the Montana Agriculture Center, Museum of the Northern Great Plains. It is due to open in 1989, when Montana celebrates its 100th anniversary of statehood.

The state has earmarked $215,000 for the museum; private backers in Fort Benton put up $35,000. The site is made up partially of buildings formerly occupied by Wren Manufacturing, which made steel cultivators. Sale of surplus equipment brought in an added $90,000.

Leland P. Cade, editor of the Montana Farmer-Stockman, and his wife Janet gave 150 pieces of machinery to start the collection. Cade is formerly county agent at Fort Benton.

Worrall has helped restore some of the equipment on hand. One is a Gilpin plow. The plow was made by Gilpin, who was John Deere's foreman. The Gilpin plow was given by John Sheehy, Bear Paw Mountain rancher.

'The state of Montana has given us a lot of antique machinery from the experimental station,' Worrall notes. 'Some of it is already restored.' It includes two threshing machines, a corn husker and shredder, and other items.

We were very interested to hear of this new farm museum. As readers know, Stemgas publishes a Farm Museum Directory and the current issue tells of 120 different places in the U.S. and elsewhere. When a new edition is published, we'll include this one at Fort Benton and any others we can learn about.


While we were talking with Ted Worral at Loma, Mont., we asked whether he had ever made a direct tape to tell of his collections. He said he had not, although an announcer from a Havre radio station had interviewed him and a nephew had made a copy on tape.

We urge that collectors and organizations consider taping to retain valuable information for posterity. We saw a VCR tape being made at the Winfield Kansas show of the Kansas & Oklahoma Steam & Gas Engine Association, and like that idea.

After the tapes are made, don't let them sit. Play them. Help educate the new generation!