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He Built His Own Farm Museum
When Ben Winter, Altamont, Ill., retired in 1979, he wanted to do something meaningful with his time. So he started collecting antique farm machines of various kinds. Now, 21 years later, he has some items in his collection that would make even the Smithsonian Institute envious.
  For example, he has 15 steam-traction engines the kind used in the old days to power threshing machines along with various kinds of gas tractors. Some of the steam-powered tractors are 26 ft. long, 11 ft. high, and weigh 18 tons, and it takes up to 1,000 lbs. of coal and 150 gal. of water just to fire them. The machines date back as far as 1906. Most of them are in working condition.
  Perhaps the most unusual item in Winter's collection is a 100-ton electric power plant that was used for some 50 years by Pet Milk Co. at its plant in Greenville, Ill. Ben didn't want to see the power plant destroyed so he spent about $8,000 to move it to his place. The steam-powered engine has a 24-in. bore and a 42-in. stroke and has an armature flywheel that's 16 ft. in diameter.
  Ben has collected and preserved other antiques, too. There's a phonograph, manufactured by Victor in the late 1800s, which used cylinder-shaped records. There's also a model scale version of one of the first cars ever made; a piece of coal that was dug up 1,100 ft. below the earth's surface; manual typewriters; wringer-washing machines; and silage shredders. There's also a 4,600-piece pencil collection, dating from 1938 to 1998. Some of the most unique pencils include one that has an eraser on both ends and one with two erasers on the end of it making a "T" shape.
  One of his most unique non-farm items is a pipe organ with 222 wooden pipes and 222 metal pipes. It came from the Lutheran church he and his wife Elsie attend.
  The 50-acre site also hosts a 3/4-mile miniature railway track, along with miniature steam railroad trains that really work.
  During the summer months Ben pilots a 12-ft. steam engine and cars, giving rides to children who come to visit.
  Ben and Elsie's museum is open year around by appointment only.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ben Winter, Rt. 1, Altamont, Ill. 62411 (ph 618 483-6665).


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2000 - Volume #24, Issue #4