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Marvin the Minneapolis-Moline is her ‘one and only’

My Favorite Tractor: Lauren Castle takes her 1952 Minneapolis-Moline U to pulls and shows.

Harlen Persinger

May 3, 2024

3 Min Read
Lauren Castle with her favorite tractor, a 1952 Minneapolis-Moline U
MEET MARVIN: Lauren Castle, Sussex, Wis., says this 1952 Minneapolis-Moline U, named Marvin, is her favorite tractor because it’s cute and unique.HARLEN PERSINGER

In 2015, Lauren Castle of Sussex, Wis., was traveling on vacation to Eagle River, Wis., with her boyfriend, Brent Riemer, who is now her husband. The couple spotted an abandoned 1952 Minneapolis-Moline U tractor. That trip sparked an interest and a goal to find another one.

“His family has tractors, mainly Farmalls and Allis-Chalmers, but I wanted something different,” Castle says. “Some friends had a similar machine and were willing to part with it, so I purchased the U for $500. It had been previously used as a hobby tractor for handling tillage chores and was sitting outside under a tarp. Some of the parts from the tractor were in boxes because the previous owners were planning to restore it.”

The history of this tractor line began in 1929 when the Moline Implement Co., Moline Plow Co., and Minneapolis Steel and Manufacturing Co. merged to form the Minneapolis-Moline Co. The U was a standard-tread tractor, and only 2,404 units came off the assembly line at the manufacturing plant in Hopkins, Minn., between 1952 and 1956. In all, there were 11 different models, ranging from the UTU row crop tricycle to the UTIL military row wide or single format.

Features included manual steering, open operator station, five-speed gear transmission and one reverse, hand clutch, starter button, and 81-inch wheelbase. It had a 40-hp rating on the drawbar; 4-by-2 two-wheel-drive chassis; and a Minneapolis-Moline 4.6-liter, four-cylinder, liquid-cooled diesel engine.

When Castle bought the U, it had not been started for eight years and needed major repairs. There were layers of beehives in the motor, which was frozen. Someone had tried to pull the tractor but broke the cam and oil pump shaft. All tires had deteriorated.

Up and running

Riemer and his uncle Kevin were confident they could get the tractor back together and running again. The U needed a hood, muffler, tires, rims, seat assembly, seals and spark plugs. Items were purchased online and at local salvage yards, and by removing pieces from other machines. After spending $700 to $800 on parts and a month to finish all the repairs, the U was operational.

Castle has entered tractor pulling contests and does some plowing with the U, plus it powers the buzz saw.

She takes it to the Dodge County Tractor Show, Richfield Historical Society Plow Day and Sussex Antique Power Association parade. It has also been used at Basse’s Taste of Country Market in Colgate, Wis., as a people mover during the annual pumpkin harvest.

“Today, the U operates about 30 hours per year. I need to find some extra time and hopefully it will get repainted,” Castle adds. “This is truly my only and favorite tractor, named Marvin the Minneapolis-Moline, because it’s a cute little machine, unique for this area, and I enjoy going on rides in the country with my husband.”

Persinger writes from Milwaukee. To have your favorite tractor featured, email or send in a photo of yourself with your tractor, along with a 300-word write-up about the tractor, to: [email protected] or Wisconsin Agriculturist, P.O. Box 236, Brandon, WI 53919.

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About the Author(s)

Harlen Persinger

Harlen Persinger is a photojournalist who lives in Milwaukee. Since 2004, he has freelanced for regional and national farm publications such as Wisconsin Agriculturist and Farm Industry News, plus many others.

Persinger grew up on a farm in Grundy County, Iowa. He received a degree in ag journalism from Iowa State University in 1972. He has traveled to more than 40 countries and has been a member of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 1976. In 2016, he was the first photojournalist/freelancer to receive the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, Persinger began providing college scholarships to 4-H’ers from his home county who have an interest in photography/journalism and agriculture. He was inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame in 2023.

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