What makes a great museum? Is it the size of the museum or the grandeur of it that attracts you the most? Obviously having an interest in the exhibits or the theme of the museum is important, one would think. Having said that I am not particularly interested in tractors and don’t give them a great deal of thought on a day to day basis, but when given the opportunity to visit a local tractor museum, I thought why not, let’s take a look.
From the minute that you walk through the door you realise that this is something different. With a small Reception area you pay your entrance fee and walk into the hall. What you see will take your breath away. With a collection that dates back to the 1800’s these mechanical workhorses have contributed so much to agriculture and the feeding of nations.
There are tractors from the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany and the rest of Europe. The word tractor is taken from the latin word trahere which means “to pull”.
The first versions of a kind of tractor in the 19thcentury were steam engines that were used to power static farm machinery via a flexible belt. Richard Trevithick was a British inventor and mining engineer from Cornwall designed the first semi portable steam engine for agricultural use in 1812 which was nick named as a “barn machine” and used for threshing corn. In 1893 another British Inventor called William Tuxford of Boston, Lincolnshire made the first portable engine. The first real traction engine followed in 1859 designed by British engineer Thomas Aveline.
In Britain Mann’s and Garrett developed steam tractors for direct ploughing, but the heavy, wet soil of England meant that horses were still more economical. This was not the case in the USA where steam powered agricultural engines were used with more success.
Dan Albone, a British inventor produced the first real gasoline powered tractor in 1902. He filed a patent and then formed the Ivel Agricultural Motor Company. The first successful American tractor was built by Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr in 1903. By 1908 the Saunderson Tractor of Bedford became Britain’s largest tractor manufacturer. Later Henry Ford would produce light weight mass produced tractors in the USA which would lead to Fordson being produced in 1917 and licensed builds overseas in Ireland, England and Russia. By the 1920’s gasoline powered tractors were commonplace.
Further developments followed and other countries produced their own brands of tractors. The Tractor museum in Gallipoli has many of the most famous brands ever manufactured.
What many people might not realise is that tractors used to have large metal rims with metal bucket scoops welded around the rim so that they could dig into the soil and propel themselves along. It wasn’t until 1931 that the first rubber tractor tyres became available when they were created by the tyre company Goodrich.
The museum has examples of Türk Traktör, a company that is based in Ankara which manufactured tractors in a joint venture with the American tractor company Minneapolis-Moline.
There is such a diverse collection here and the magnificent custom build hall lends itself to the display of these magnificent machines. When we visited we got quite carried away and spent nearly three hours here. There is a hall on the second floor too with additional tractors and there is a small shop where you can purchase souvenirs.
Earlier on I said that from the moment you walk through the door this museum will take your breath away. Why? Well, you only have to take a close look at all the tractors before you ask the question – Are these all new? Surely they must be? They all have brand new tyres, no rust, the dials are all new and unused and the paintwork is flawless.
Well, surprisingly they have all been restored. Not only have they been restored to their original condition as if they had just rolled off the production line but every single one is working and can be started. They are all in working order. This really is amazing.
The love and passion that is normally reserved for classic cars restoration can be seen here in the level of detail and expertise devoted to these tractors. I wonder if there is another tractor museum anywhere in the world that would restore tractors to this standard. All the replacement parts needed to restore the tractors were sourced from the original manufacturers.
We were lucky enough to speak to the owner, a Mr Dursun Keskin, a mechanical engineer by trade who realised that there was a need for such a museum in Turkey. Every detail has been thought about. The museum hall with its wooden ceiling and spacious display area is world class. The tractors are renovated in Istanbul by a dedicated team of mechanics and then brought to the museum. It is clear that they too share the enthusiasm of the owner and Emrullah Turkoglu who was kind enough to show us around.
I would strongly urge everyone to take a look at this museum if you ever find yourself in or around Gallipoli. In a country like Turkey with such a rich agricultural heritage this museum should be on everyone’s visit list.
Details on how to get here and opening times can be found on the website at www.traktormuzesi.com.tr