2023 - Volume #47, Issue #4, Page #40[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
World’s Largest Collection Of Articulated, 4-WD Tractors
“I’ve had the collecting disease since I was a teenager,” says Wathen. “I collected motorcycles and unstyled Farmall and McCormicks, pre-1939 stuff. I was wondering what to collect next, as I thought I had all the Farmall stuff I could get.”
Wathen was driving a Steiger 4-WD ST325 Panther at the time. “I thought, why not collect 4-WD articulated tractors?” recalls Wathen. “It quickly snowballed from there.”
His first buy was pure luck. He couldn’t find anything local, but he heard about a Steiger 2200 in Moosomin, Sask. He made the 1,800-mile drive, bought it, and brought it home.
“I didn’t even know what I had at the time,” says Wathen. “It was a wide fender model, one of only two that were hand built on the farm by the Steiger brothers in Red Lake Falls.”
Over the years, the collection has continued to grow. He specializes in component tractors, those (not including Versatile) where parts came from an auto parts store, salvage yard, or another piece of equipment.
While not all of his tractors can match the Steiger 2200 for history, a surprising number can come close, and some surpass it. He has several first or very low serial number tractors like the serial #1 IH 4366. Even more special is the Steiger 105 with serial #1. It was the first Steiger built for commercial sale. His oldest tractor is a 1956 Wagner TR6.
“Wagner tractors don’t get the glory they deserve,” says Wathen. “They were the granddaddy of all the big 4-WD tractors. They built for Deere, and Deere put them out of business. Wagners were the base that Steiger started their business from. Big Bud was built by former Wagner dealers. They were the true pioneers of 4-WD tractors.”
At this point, he has an 80 by 180-ft. shed packed full of tractors, with some stored in a neighbor’s barn and some smaller ones in another barn. Occasionally, they do come out to play for special events and tractor shows. Since 2016, they’ve all come out of storage for Wathen Farms Annual Farm Day. The exception was in 2020, and nothing is planned for this year.
“It was the kids’ idea,” says Wathen. “It’s been open to the public and a chance to get the tractors out, get them exercised, and their oil stirred up.”
Although they have to switch batteries around to do it, Wathen has 55 Big Buds, Steigers, Romes, Versatiles, and more in running condition. He also has a fair number of other, old 4-WDs that aren’t articulated and even some 2-WDs.
Even at 70 tractors, Wathen looks forward to his next buy. “My favorite tractor is the one I’m buying next,” he says with a laugh.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Chris Wathen, 3101 S. Green River Rd., Evansville, Ind. 47715 (ph 812-475-9391).
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