Russ' Vintage Iron

Vintage Tractor Brings in Harvest for 55 Years

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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The fall harvest in most locations of the Corn Belt has wrapped up for another year. Those of us located in the western end of the Corn Belt saw yields that were fairly high, thanks to plenty of moisture this growing season.

On our own farm, harvest was a good one with relatively few issues and pretty decent-yielding crops. After watching Mother Nature destroy some of our crops with a massive, wind-driven hailstorm last year, I tend to notice and appreciate her blessings even more this year.

The good and bad years are all part of farming and sometimes these years just happen to be in back-to-back years. I thought about this as we filled the grain bin full this year. Last year, it wasn't full.

I also thought (obviously I had too much time to think while standing there waiting for the corn to be augered into the bin) about the tractor running the auger and all the different kind of years it has seen on our farm. Like it has for my entire life, our 1957 John Deere 620 was on an auger during harvest time.

My grandpa bought the tractor slightly used in 1960, so this tractor has been around for 55 harvests on our farm, 14 more harvests than I have been around for. The 620 joined the Farmall M and a John Deere A as the farm's horsepower for most of the 1960s.

During these early years, the 620 would have a corn picker mounted each fall. My dad likes to tell me the story of how long it took to mount a corn picker on a tractor (usually a good part of a day) since I never got to take part in this chore.

My dad and uncle bought their first combine in the mid-1970s and at this point the 620 fall workload changed dramatically. While the tractor started the decade as the main machine in the field for picking corn, it finished the decade with a much different job.

What I have always known that tractor to do during harvest time was run either an elevator or auger.

We had a corn crib and a narrow elevator that were set up together during harvest and we also had a grain bin with the auger used in that. We only had three tractors at the time, so the 620 had run the elevator/auger during harvest, because one of the other tractors (JD 4010) was on the auger wagon in the field and the other one (JD 4020 and a loader) had to feed cattle hay.

The 620 had to run the narrow elevator in the corn crib for another reason as well -- that elevator still had the belt-driven pulley system used to run it.

At some point during my childhood, they converted the elevator over to a PTO shaft and it was probably because of that one fall that the 620 had mechanical issues. They had to borrow the neighbor's John Deere 60 to run the elevator, as the other "newer" tractors were of no use.

In recent years, the 620 has continued to run an auger, albeit on a different farm. We have a few more tractors today, so it does not run the auger completely by itself; sometimes other vintage tractors (a JD 60 and a JD 520) will get their shot at running the auger.

And this is not even the tractor our family has owned the longest. This title belongs to our 1935 John Deere D, which was bought new by my grandpa and his brother. However, this tractor didn't run from the 1960s through the late 1990s before we finally restored it, so there is a healthy gap of time it didn't do anything on the farm.

But for 55 consecutive harvests, the 620 has helped us bring in the harvest, both big and small and many somewhere in between. There is a bond for farmers with a family "legacy" tractor.

I am sure others reading this column also have a tractor or maybe tractors which their families have owned for generations. Let me know about them.

Russ Quinn can be reached at