Tour of Toews

Gas Engine Magazine Tours the Jerry Toews Collection


| August 2005



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Jerry Toews stands with his 1878 1/2 HP slide valve Crossley Otto.

When Gas Engine Magazine Editor-in-Chief Richard Backus suggested I interview collector Jerry Toews, I jumped at the chance. I had heard about Jerry around the office, but had never met him or seen anything from his vast collection of engines and tractors. As soon as I?could, I hopped in my truck for the quick two-hour drive down to Goessel, Kan., to meet up with Jerry.

I haven't been in this business long and I don't come from a farming background, which I guess makes me a "gas engine virgin." I started this position at the end of last show season, so this was my first chance to be around tractors as large as these or surrounded by so many engines.

Beginnings

Each piece of equipment Jerry and his wife, Leann, own has its own unique quality and special feature, much like Jerry himself. Retired school teachers of over 30 and 20 years, respectively, he and Leann are into just about anything old. Although Leann's focus is more on mainstream antiques, she has left Jerry to play with his old iron.

Back in 1966, Jerry took his first teaching check to buy 12 antique clocks for $300, leaving just $50 to pay for his living expenses for the month. A portion of his second paycheck went towards buying a non-running 2 HP Nelson Bros. engine from a scrap yard for $10. That little Nelson Bros. engine is responsible for sparking Jerry's passion for engines, and for the next 25 years Jerry specialized in collecting both rare gas engines and Case steam engines. That is, until his good buddy Dennis Powers (Boone, Iowa) convinced him to buy his first prairie tractor in 1990 - a 1917 Aultman & Taylor 30-60. Since then, he has mostly concentrated his efforts on prairie tractors. Jerry's teaching abilities were evident as he ran me through darn near every piece of machinery there, educating me just a little bit on each one.

The Tractor Tour

I showed up at the Toews residence a few minutes before Jerry arrived home, so I began by peeking into the first of three outbuildings on the property. I was amazed at what I saw - there were five large prairie tractors and dozens of engines, all packed in their respective places. When Jerry showed up we discussed our game plan and decided to begin the interview at an additional outbuilding on the Wheat Heritage Engine & Threshing Co. show grounds, where he and Leann are actively involved in the Goessel, Kan., Threshing Days each year.

In this building were four more of their tractors running right down the center, surrounded by fellow club members' tractors also stored there. These four tractors include a 1914 30 HP (drawbar) Big Four made by the Gas Traction Co., a 1915 Flour City 40-70, a 1916 Russell Giant 30-60, of which only seven survive, and a 1915 Reeves 40, originally sold at the 1915 Wichita (Kan.) Thresher's Convention.