Profile: Alberta’s Don Ellingson and his impressive collection of vintage tractors

Springbank, Alberta’s Don Ellingson speaks about his 1940 – Massey Harris with pride, rattling off stats about the machine, which has been his for 20 years, with no effort at all.

“Back in 1940 you could buy this tractor for about $2,600 and to buy a comparable tractor, which is 36-horse power now would cost you $50,000 – $60,000.”

Ellingson has never called himself a farmer, however you wouldn’t know it, given that he owns about 100 vintage tractors.  So how did a man who never worked the land for a living get to be such a vintage tractor enthusiast?

“My grandfather was very involved with farming and my grandfather started collecting tractors when I was a teenager and so I started collecting when I was in my 20’s and I have quite a large collection now.”

Ellingson says it’s not enough just to own these great machines… you have to share them with everyone.

“I have some at my home in Springbank, but I have a big large quonset at the museum called Pioneer Acres at Irricana (Alberta), and I have a building with most of my Massey tractors on display out there for everybody to come see.”

He says tractor collecting isn’t just in his blood, it’s in his whole family’s!

“I have a brother who pulls, two brothers who pull actually, one brother who is on the Farm Equipment Committee with us, my nephew pulls, so quite a few Ellingsons involved.”

You know the old saying… “they don’t make them like they used to..”  well according to Ellingson that pretty much sums up  vintage tractors.

“No computer on this tractor for sure, in reference to his 1940 Massey Harris, it has a very basic ignition and fuel system and it was made for back in the day so the farmer could fix it himself. It’s very easy to maintain.  Basically now, I just have to put gas in it and go.”

Ellingson says there is quite the tractor pulling and collecting community in Alberta.

“It’s actually a fairly large community because we start with tractor pulls from one end of the province to the other and they start with tractor pulls in May and they go pretty much every weekend through to October.”

The biggest event of the year of course is the Calgary Stampede, an event that Ellingson helps organize. He says it’s a big deal to compete here.

“It’s very exciting and it’s an invitational pull, so all pullers have to be on the invitation list and we have a lot of people who want to come so we can only allow 24 to 26 every year.”

As for the reward that goes into this sport…..

We don’t pull for big prize money, it’s more for pride.”