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Tractor collection sets Pa. man apart

October 21, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WATERFALL, Pa. - Some people put pink flamingos on their front lawns, others let polyester sheep graze in the grass, but when it comes to the daddy of lawn ornaments, it would be hard to beat Raleigh Barnett's choice.

The yard in front of Barnett's Waterfall ranch house on Pa. 655, 20 miles north of McConnellsburg, is lined with 51 Ford 8N farm tractors.

There are rows of gray and red machinery in what Ford Motor Co. spokesman Jim Bright said may be the biggest single collection of the once-popular farm implements by an individual in the country.

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Barnett, 74, bought his 8N in 1952, the last year Ford Motor Co. made that model of the four-speed, four-cylinder tractor.

The company turned out 524,076 of the tractors between 1947 and 1952, according to a label inside an 8N hat that a Ford representative gave to Barnett several years ago.

Barnett, a retired owner of a strip-coal company, bought his first 8N complete with two plows in 1952 for $1,250. He wanted the tractor for use on his family's 100-acre farm. That farm has since been sold, but he still uses a couple of his tractors on two small farms he owns.

All of Barnett's tractors are in top condition, ready to roll out and do a day's work, he said.

He said he used to buy about 20 new batteries a year, but they ran down from lack of use. Now he uses a battery charger to crank up his tractors, he said.

All the tractors have been repaired, renovated and repainted by Barnett and his son, Richard, 49.

"Whatever they needed they got," Barnett said.

The two men work in one of two big steel sheds Barnett built to house the tractors.

Many 8Ns in the country remain in working order. A tractor in the condition of Barnett's equipment goes for between $3,000 and $4,000, he said.

The predecessor to the 8N was the 9N, built by Ford from 1939 to 1946. The exception was 1943, in the midst of World War II, when rubber was scarce for civilian use. Ford substituted steel wheels for rubber tires that year, Barnett said.

He bought his second tractor more than 20 years later. After that, he said, he couldn't stop buying them. If he saw one advertised for sale in nearby areas of Pennsylvania, Maryland or West Virginia, he'd check it out, he said.

He offers a simple explanation for his collection.

"I just really like 8N Fords. I was going to stop at 50, but then somebody came by with one in May and it was in pretty good shape," he said.

"I guess I'll buy some more, but I have to watch out now. I don't want to build another shed to keep them in."

Barnett rolls out his tractors once a year during the annual Fulton Fall Festival in the third week of October.

It's a family affair involving his son and daughters, who help drag the tractors out of the storage barns, wash each one, start them up and line them up on the front lawn.

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