Let’s Talk Rusty Iron: Tractor rides are gaining popularity in the USA


I think I’ve written before about the tractor rides that the British tractor enthusiasts have been keen on for a good number of years and, at least once, have wondered why such events weren’t more common on this side of “the pond,” as the Atlantic Ocean is sometimes referred to by we “colonials.”

Tractor rides

The Brits routinely start out from some rural village, traverse a number of back roads, and fetch up at a quaint country pub for tiffin before starting the return journey.

The route usually includes, besides narrow, winding country lanes, at least one long, fairly steep hill where the “stack music” of the tractors, especially the large bore one cylinder machines, such as the Field Marshals, can be heard to good advantage as the throttles are opened wide to ascend the grade.

Another almost obligatory feature on most English tractor road runs is a water crossing where the road leads into a creek and the tractors splash across the stream through a foot or two of water.

Increasing in popularity

However, in the years since (but not because) I lamented the fact that such road runs were few and far between in the U.S., they have become increasingly common over here.

Just last September, for instance, the fifth annual Mackinac Bridge Crossing took place, with 921 tractors (1973 and earlier) from 38 clubs crossing the five mile long four-lane bridge that carries Interstate 75 from Michigan’s lower to its upper peninsula.

Sponsored by Owosso Tractor Parts, and taking nearly four hours for all the tractors to cross, it must have been an impressive sight and is, I believe, the only time a farm tractor is permitted to travel on an interstate highway.

For obvious reasons, tractor road runs are mapped out ahead of time to take advantage of secondary and rural roads to disrupt automobile traffic as little as possible.


For a good number of years now, The Great Iowa Tractor Ride, a three-day event (four, if you count the Sunday which is assembly and registration day) has been held. Tractors are grouped according to top speed, while the total number (537 for 2013) is strictly controlled and usually reached a couple of months before the June date.

The 2013 ride will start each day at the Appanoose County Fairgrounds in Centerville, Iowa, and make a big circle in a different direction, before returning to the fairgrounds for the night.

Moraine Area Tractor Cruisers

Over in western Pennsylvania, the Moraine Area Tractor Cruisers have held a two-day tractor ride, or “cruise,” every June for several years.
The drivers start from the Portersville Show Grounds or the Butler County Fairgrounds and go some 40 miles or so, camp overnight, and then return by a different route the next day. There is food and often evening entertainment along the way.

I’ve been invited to the Moraine cruise a couple of times, but never wanted to take on a two day event – just seems like too much of a good thing.

Carroll County Antique Collectors Club

A couple of years ago, the Carroll County Antique Collectors Club, of which I’m a member, began to hold one-day tractor drives and this year I was finally able to take part.

I wanted to take my freshly refurbished 1946 Minneapolis-Moline ZTS, but I’m not yet sure of its dependability, so the 1956 John Deere 420W got the nod instead.
Participants gathered at the Carroll County Fairgrounds around nine in the morning of a lovely Saturday morning in early May and, led by Carroll County Sheriff Dale Williams, set out about ten.


The lead pickup truck carried a large sign reading: “Caution – Tractors Ahead,” then were the 13 participating tractors and, bringing up the rear, another pickup in case of breakdowns or some other problem. One tractor pulled a people mover full of passengers, while another had a trailer with several riders. All followed the sheriff out of Carrollton and on to Bacon Road northwest of town.

From here, we wound and twisted our way some 15 miles until we crossed a neck of water (on a bridge – no splashing here!) at the east end of Atwood Lake, turned south on State Route 542 and crossed another bridge into Dellroy.

By now it was noon, so we parked our tractors at Dellroy Park across from the school and had a catered spaghetti lunch in one of the pavilions.

Beautiful sights

The return journey began shortly after one by a partly different route, and by three in the afternoon everyone was back at the fairground.
It was a good day, no mishaps or breakdowns, and I saw parts of Carroll County I’d never seen before. There were many beautiful sights along the way, as well as friendly folks waving from their front yards as we passed.

About that squeal…

The only fly in my ointment on the first leg of the drive was a mysterious squealing noise that came intermittently from the front of my tractor.

Strangely, it seemed to occur mostly while we were passing people in their yards and I couldn’t figure out was wrong, having visions of a bearing going bad in the governor or generator.

What a relief!

Then, when we stopped for lunch and after I’d shut down my engine, I heard it again! At last, it dawned on me that the Worthington tractor that was just ahead of me had some kind of squeaky little horn and the driver had been blowing it as we passed people along the way!

So, to my relief, no bad bearing after all; I was behind a different tractor on the return trip and heard no strange noises.

The Carrollton Club plans to have another ride in the fall and, if nothing else interferes and the weather is decent, I’ll probably participate.


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Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules.



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