Friday, August 3, 2012

Great collection of vintage farm vehicles at the Agricultural Hall of Fame and Museum in Bonner Springs

The other day I went to a car show at the Agricultural Hall of Fame and Museum in Bonner Springs, and I did something I’ve never done before—I actually went inside the Ag Hall of Fame. I’ve only lived in the Kansas City area for 26 years; you’d think I would have been in there by now. But honestly, I never gave it much thought. As it turns out, I had been missing out on a great collection of vintage farm vehicles and equipment.

The Hall of Fame vows to “educate society on the historical and present value of American agriculture.” They do that with a surprisingly impressive collection of vintage farm toys and memorabilia, tractors, trucks, and combines, and educational interactive displays.

Even if there wasn’t a museum, the field where the car show was held is interesting all by itself. Surrounding the large field are buildings that take you back to the late-1800s. Known as “Farm Town U.S.A.,” the area features a general store, a blacksmith shop with working blacksmiths, and even an old one-room schoolhouse that is run by a strict, prim school teacher. They also recreated a period farmhouse, and filled it with the actual furniture and personal items from a well-to-do farm family.

My favorite building was called the Museum of Farming. This 20,400 sq/ft storage area housed all the motorized (and sometimes horse-drawn) equipment. Most of them, as you can imagine, were tractors. For example, they had a 1940 Allis Chalmers RC that had a great Art Deco, almost motorcycle tank appearance.

Or take the 1908 International Harvester Type B. This was one big son of a gun. I mean, its size, combined with all those exposed gears, and the steel tire treads and everything made this piece of equipment seem downright intimidating. I wouldn’t want to meet up with it in a dark alley, although with only 20-hp, I could probably outrun it.

By the way, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what those tractors were if I hadn’t read the placards. But there were a few things in there that I was a bit more familiar with. As the owner of a former vintage farm truck, I can appreciate those types of vehicles. My choice in this collection was a nice ’50 GMC pickup that looked like it had been restored sometime in its life.

They also had a pretty original looking ’50 Plymouth sedan. This car looked like it had been sitting in the same place for a very long time. And even though I don’t normally get too excited about ’50 Plymouths, this one was a nice time capsule.

The actual main Hall of Fame Building houses all kinds of great old tractor toys, as well as some banks, pot metal vehicles, and other miniature fun. They also have a 1903 Dart Truck, which features a 27-hp, two-cylinder engine. There is even a display of old telephones. And I must say, when the old rotary phones that you remember using for the first half of your life end up in a museum, you start to notice your age a bit.

The Ag Hall of Fame hosts all kinds of public and private events throughout the year, which gives kids several opportunities to try out the narrow gauge railroad. A mini-Union Pacific passenger train takes off from a 100-year-old train depot, and shuttles people around the perimeter of the grounds.

The Agricultural Hall of Fame and Museum is one of those places that you might not think about going to, but you’ll be glad you did when you do. I know I was surprised by how neat it was. Check it out if you get the chance.

In the meantime, take a look at the slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.

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