Just imagine. A young boy who lives in Cass, watching the train come in day after day with new items, big and small, being shipped in from all over the country. One day, this big, bright red tractor arrives on the train and that young boy is mesmerized – his life is changed for good.
That young boy was Artie Barkley, an Arbovale man who has created quite a collection of old Farmall tractors.
“Back when the [National Radio Astronomy Observatory] first came here in the fifties, they brought a tractor in on the railroad,” Barkley recalled. “I looked at that thing and I said, ‘I’m going to have me one of those tractors one of these days.’ My dad [Clifford] worked for the Mower Lumber Company down here on the company farm going into Cass. The big farm that Albert Wilfong owns – that was the company farm. They had two Farmall tractors. After the lumber company shut down, my dad worked at the observatory and he ran that tractor for a long time.
That’s what got me into the Farmalls,” he continued. “I often thought, ‘my dreams still came true, I got a W9.’ I tried to trace that tractor used at the observatory. I asked Mr. [Mike] Holstine if he knew where it went or anything. I’d like to know where it went on account that Daddy ran it.”
It took awhile, but Barkley finally got his own Farmall, although once you get one, its hard not to get more. Before long, Barkley’s collection filled his front yard and spilled over into an adjacent parking lot.
“I’ve got about sixteen, I reckon,” he said. “I bought three or four just for parts off of them. They have engine problems, but you can use your parts out of them. That’s what a lot of people do with these tractors now.”
Barkley began his collection in 2006, after he retired from Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.
“I fired for about four or five years when I first went there and then I was engineer all the time I was there,” he said of Cass. “The last seven years I was shop foreman, but I ran the engine, too. That’s what I always wanted to do when I was in school. I got to know the engineer that ran the log engine – Clyde Galford. He sat out on the porch in the evening, and I got to going up there and talking to him, and got steam in my blood.”
All of the tractors in Barkley’s collection were built in the 40s and 50s. They were created for flatter states, so Barkley had to search the Internet to find what he was looking for.
“I’ve got some of them from Oklahoma, Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin,” he said. “These tractors here, there weren’t any like them around here. These were built for the flat country out there. It’s interesting talking to the guys [I buy them from]. Most of them are about my age.”
Most of the tractors are in working conditions, while others are still in need of parts and TLC.
“I have some that have motor problems where they sat for so long,” Barkley said. “It’s interesting to talk to people to see what they use to get the motors loose. They’re simple – that’s the way they built things back then. They started building these tractors in 1940 and they built them the same clear through the W in 53 or 54. The parts are all interchangeable and you can’t tell one from another.”
Models in the collection include: W9, WD9, ID9, I9, I4 and a rare 650.
“The 650 gas I have is the rarest find and I had to pay the most for that one there, but I wanted a gas one,” Barkley said.
The majority of Farmall tractors use diesel with the exception of the 650 and another model that is started with gasoline, then switched over to diesel to operate.
Farmall had several manufacturing factories and the tractors reflect that to an extent.
“They put International on them and some of them have McCormick Derring, and some just have McCormick on them,” Barkley explained. “It was kind of a yearly thing. They’re all Farmall.”
Talking about the tractors, Barkley reflected on the summers he spent on farms around tractors similar to those in his collection.
“Growing up at Cass, I helped the farmers,” he said. “Harry Gum, up behind Cass, I’d help him make his hay. You didn’t ask what you were going to get paid. If someone wanted you to do something, you were ready for it because whatever you got was more than what you had. I worked down on the company farm when I was about ten-years-old.”
At the company farm, Barkley said the hay wasn’t baled, it was stacked loose in the barn. The barn had a pulley system with a hay fork that would drop down to pick up the hay. Once the hay was secure in the fork, a truck or horse on the opposite side of the barn would pull the rope and the hay would rise to the top of the barn and be dropped in stacks.
“The guy out in front of the barn, when it got hooked he’d holler,” Barkley said. “You’d stand in the back of the barn and you’d motion for the guy in the truck to back up. That was my job. The guy told me, ‘if you do that this summer, and help us, I’ll give you a brand new five dollar bill.’ That was back in the 50s.”
Barkley said Green Bank and Dunmore were nothing but farm land and everyone pitched in to help make hay or thresh oats.
“I remember, if you went to thresh your oats, you’d have Lee McLaughlin – from down below Dunmore, he had a threshing machine and he’d come up and stop down at Willie Sheets’,” Barkley said. “He [Sheets] always planted wheat and then the farmers would gather in and help haul the wheat in. The guys from the company farm would come up.
“One time down here just on the other side of the school, [Sheets] had wheat in that field,” Barkley continued. “He had a steel wheel wagon. He built a stack of wheat on that thing and you could track him all the way down through Green Bank, that old wagon made streaks in the road.”
For Barkley, the tractors are more than some toys to tinker around with – they are reminders of days gone by – for himself and others.
“There’s always people coming every day that take pictures of them,” Barkley said. “There was a guy here the other day from Connecticut and he collected tractors.
“I was kind of around tractors a whole lot up to when I got out of high school, and then I started working at Cass with those old engines over there,” he added. “I find them interesting.”