Bruce and Linda Olson have been collecting for more than 30 years
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Bruce and Linda Olson don’t have a unique hobby, but they have a hobby they have given their all to. They collect tractors. The Rice couple owns about 20 Case and John Deere tractors, they are not sure of the exact number. Seven of them have been fully restored, the rest are waiting their turn.
“I try to get to one each year,” said Bruce. “I get them to working condition then have them painted.”
Bruce has many of the old manuals for his tractors and is able to add the correct decals and logos in their proper places on each machine to keep their authenticity.
The Olsons use Gary Vouk in St. Stephen to do the painting, They said they are impressed with his meticulous work.
The most fun for Bruce is searching the country for parts.
“It’s a challenge,” he said about scouring tractor magazines and the Internet for parts. “I have bought parts from as far away as New York.”
Three of the Olsons’ tractors are from the 1950s and don’t need any work. They have all the original parts and the paint is still in good shape.
“Those have been kept inside and well cared for,” he said.
This passion with tractors started when Bruce began collecting toy replicas in the 1980s. He went to Albany’s flea market and there were several vendors with the toys for sale.
“I bought them, then kept purchasing more. Now I have way too many,” he said.
The Olsons have a curio cabinet in their office showing off some of their favorite toy tractors. There are maybe two dozen on display. But, in their basement they have a room with shelving on all four walls, floor to ceiling, filled with hundreds of toy tractors. Linda said she doesn’t think there are any duplicates.
Bruce, who grew up with Case tractors on his father’s many dairy farms (the family moved around a lot), then graduated to the real thing.
“I don’t do much fishing or hunting,” he said. “It’s a natural hobby for me.”
Bruce and his two sons, Tim and Brian, started restoring tractors with a John Deere 830. They tore it down to the bare black and restored every piece. They then painted it themselves.
“The paint job turned out OK,” he said. The family was at that time milking 70 cows which took up much of their time. It was then Bruce decided to hire the painting done.
“Brian and Tim live nearby,” said Bruce. “They still help me with restoration from time to time.”
More recently, Bruce restored the Case 800 he purchased used in 1970, when he and Linda began their farm operation.
Bruce said that on average, it may cost around $4,000 to restore a tractor. If one is adding tires to that restoration, the cost could be more.
“Tires could cost from $250 to $1,250 each,” he said.
Decals and the company logo is a must for his restored tractors. Bruce said a set of decals cost from $50 to $150. Each tractor has several which include the logo, cautionary and operating information.
Their Case tractors include an 800, a VAC14, a DC4, an SC and a 1200 four-wheel drive. Some of the John Deere tractors include an 830, 820, 80, R, 620-S, 720 and 70, all standards. He also has a John Deere 60 with a 227 picker. There are more.
Five of the Olsons’ collection are still being used in the operation of the dairy farm.
The garage that holds most of the tractors also includes four that were salvaged from a fire in September 2011. The shop at the farm burned to the ground due to gas fumes and six John Deere two-cylinder tractors were stored there, along with other farm machinery. The four salvaged ones are waiting to be restored.
“We were fortunate there was no wind that day, or there could have been more damage,” said Linda.
The Olsons help their daughter Missy and her husband Troy with the family business, O and S Partnership LLP, but Bruce said he is more the maintenance guy and field hand. He said he doesn’t do many of the daily chores.
“Bruce and I would rather drive tractor than milk cows,” said Linda. “We milked for about 40 years, that was enough.”
Bruce and Linda, who both grew up on dairy farms, belong to the Greater Minnesota Two Cylinder Club and show their tractors at the club’s Field Days and Swap meet annually. The next one is scheduled for Saturday, May 5, at the Morrison County Fairgrounds.
“Brian and Tim participate in the antique tractor pull and my grandchildren compete in the pedal pulls,” said Linda. The Olsons also another daughter Shelly.
Bruce and Linda also show their tractors each year during Rice Days and Albany Pioneer Days.
“If I die on a tractor, I’ll die happy,” said Bruce.