RESTORATION OF A JOHN DEERE GRAIN WAGON

Larry Lahiff
June/July 1989
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5391 River Styx Rd., Medina, Ohio 44256

Some would say two cylinder  tractors are a religion-I don't think that's meant in the normal definition. However, I do think it indicates a commitment to an ideal-that of hard work, times past, fresh harvest air, families and common bonds among men-but I'm getting ahead of my story.

It began some three years ago on a cold, windy and snow-covered day in mid-February. We struck out east on Route 90, leaving behind our hometown of Medina, Ohio, heading towards a turn of the century farm outside of Erie, Pa. It was there that we picked up our latest treasure, an element worn, above average 1938 John Deere, Model BW.

The story continued about a year later on a balmy, fresh and flower beautiful spring day when we journeyed west to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. It was there that we loaded up a historical jewel-a battered, torn and faded 1915 John Deere grain wagon-and headed back home to northern Ohio.

The restorations began: With friends like David Evans, Tom Lethko, George Kimball and Tom Miller pushing, pulling and helping, we transformed the BW from a field worn warrior into a proud, shining general. Repairs, new parts, Van Zante's hood, new tires and paint, additional silk screening and hours and hours and hours of hard labor and the clock was rolled back 50 years. A new tractor was born.

Now this particular wagon model was produced up until 1945, so to see this tractor and wagon, as a team, into the 40's, was not unusual. The restoration of this old hardwood box and running gear was, in some respects, more complex than the tractor was Wood spoke wheels were totally redone by the Amish craftsmen from Charm, Ohio. A local cabinetmaker, Don Scott, made up new grain and end boards. Some new hardware was fabricated and thanks to the John Deere archives we obtained a color copy of an old wagon advertisement that gave us the colors as well as the design schemes. We reproduced these facets of the wagon as faithfully and as lovingly as possible. The final touches on the wagon were left to an expert sign painter and pin-striper from Dalton, Ohio. The majority of his time is spent on 'wagon art' working with the local Amish wagon builders.

The results: both pieces mirrored the sweat and pride of our and our group's efforts.

We were ready for the big day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1988, when that old equipment paraded before thousands, both in person and on area television, in the annual Christmas parade in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The tractor and wagon were one of the 156 units to roll down Euclid Avenue, the main street of Cleveland. It gave some of our inner city kids their first and only glimpse of a bygone era. It goes without saying that 'we were proud'. It was also obvious that this old machine and this old wagon, returned to their original splendor, coming direct from a heritage of hard work in the heartland of America, proudly made its way down the canyons of glass and steel, echoing that old familiar refrain of an American past, with pride and dignity and remembrance and, most of all, with honor.








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