He likes to tinker with toy tractors

November 28, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

He likes to tinker with toy tractors

WILLIAMSPORT - George Hammond traces his fascination with farm machinery to his childhood.

When he was a boy, he stood on a 5-gallon bucket to reach the crank on his father's Oliver Row Crop 66 tractor. The Williamsport native rigged his tricycle with a cardboard box to simulate the pedal tractor he said he always wanted but could never afford.

Hammond, 60, now has nearly 40 restored original and factory reproduced pedal tractors. He also owns more than 100 antique and reproduction toy tractors.

"I guess he's the biggest collector around here," said Ted Morgan, chairman of the annual June Jubilee at War Memorial Park in Martinsburg, W.Va.


Morgan invited Hammond to display his pedal tractor collection at the June show. Photographs of Hammond's tractors at the Jubilee were published in the September edition of Wheel Goods Trader, a national magazine for pedal toy collectors.

Earlier this month, he displayed his pedal and toy tractor collection during the Hagerstown Farm Toy Show at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center south of Hagerstown.

"I enjoy fooling with 'em," said Hammond, who is a member of the Washington County Antique Tractor Club and the Western Maryland Farm and Toy Club.

"I enjoy a hobby. It takes your mind off other things. And it's a piece of nostalgia that you can look at and cherish."

The owner of Hammond's Auto Exchange on Falling Waters Road has spent the last four years scouring flea markets, auto shows, scrap yards and antique shops for original pedal and toy tractors.

He's spent hundreds of hours welding, sandblasting, painting and outfitting his finds with new tires, chains, sprockets, pedals and decals.

It's not as hard as it used to be to find replacement parts for his toys because a New York man deals exclusively in pedal tractor parts, Hammond said.

In the last five years, the interest in pedal tractors has boomed because people such as Hammond are revisiting their childhoods and buying reproductions for their own children and grandchildren, Morgan said.

As pedal tractor collecting continues to grow in popularity, the antique toys become more difficult to find and more expensive to purchase, Hammond said. Older pedal tractors with metal gear shifts, steering wheels and seats are the most valuable, he added.

One of Hammond's pedal tractors - a hard-to-find 1955 Case 400 - is worth about $2,000, he said.

But it's not about the money.

"I just enjoy foolin' with 'em," said Hammond, who also collects and refurbishes classic cars and vintage bicycles.

He still has the Massey Harris combine and tractor that he bought for $2.95 at Poole's Store in Halfway in 1950. The toys are now worth about $450, Hammond said.

He has carefully restored tiny manure spreaders, discs and bottom plows that entertained him for hours as a child.

"It's a little piece of history that you've saved," he said.

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