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3 tractor museums to visit during summer

One tractor museum in South Dakota and two in Nebraska should be on your travel schedule.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

June 28, 2024

4 Min Read
The South Dakota Tractor Museum
TRIP TO KIMBALL: The South Dakota Tractor Museum is located at Exit 284, just off Interstate 90 in Kimball, S.D.Curt Arens

Farmers love old tractors. That is not an opinion, but a fact. Just ask hundreds of farm spouses who know, if they can’t find their spouse working in the fields, they might find them in the shop, tinkering with their antique tractors.

For those farmers who can’t kick the old tractor bug, there are a few field trips for you to make this summer and fall.

There are two interesting tractor museums in Nebraska and one in South Dakota that are “must-see” stops for antique tractor lovers.

South Dakota Tractor Museum

For 23 years, this museum, located just off Interstate 90 at Exit 284 in Kimball, S.D., has drawn thousands of tractor enthusiasts from 20 countries and most states in the U.S.

In addition to tractors, the collection located in 11 structures includes antique farm machinery, combines, buggies and antique cars, a gift shop, a country schoolhouse, and a blacksmith shop.

The museum is staffed by 26 volunteers from Kimball, Pukwana and surrounding communities, from Memorial Day weekend to late September. They host school tours and bus groups, and often provide a guided tour of the tractors and the museum complex.

Learn more about the museum by visiting its Facebook page, or read "A museum for the love of old tractors."

Larson Tractor Test and Power Museum

Related:Virtual tour: Legacy of the Plains Museum

Thanks to the bad luck of Wilmot Crozier, an Osceola farmer who bought some poorly built tractors in 1916 and 1917, the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory at 35th and Fair streets on the University of Nebraska East Campus in Lincoln was founded.

As a farmer and state legislator, Crozier wanted farmers to be able to count on tractors performing as the manufacturers were advertising. So, the Tractor Test Bill, which was passed into law in 1919, established NTTL to test models of every tractor that was sold in the state to make sure they performed as advertised. Since then, 2,000 models have been tested at NTTL.

Farm Progress - The Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum

A new NTTL facility was built in 1980, and the old laboratory was retired and refurbished into a museum to chronicle the history of tractors and tractor-testing at UNL.

The museum was dedicated to Lester F. Larsen, who served as chief engineer at NTTL from 1946 to 1975. Along with several antique tractors, including a Waterloo Boy Model N, from the museum you can see tractors being tested on their test track at the current NTTL nearby.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, excluding specific UNL holidays. Admission is by donation, with $5 per adult suggested. Learn more at or by reading, "Tractor time at Lester Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum."

Marcus Cain exhibit

Some say that Marcus Cain was a farmer genius. No one argues that he was one of a kind. As an inventor, he holds only one patent — obtained in 1927 — but over the course of his farming career, he designed and built dozens of new, unpatented farm tractors and implements to make the job easier.

He farmed up to 4,000 acres of potatoes and wheat in Dawes County, on tableland just south of Chadron, Neb.

Curt Arens - The Marcus Cain exhibit

Cain passed away in 1971, but much of his farm machinery has been donated to the Dawes County Historical Society Museum, where a special building and exhibit houses such inventions as a 200-hp tractor that Cain built from a World War II tank retriever.

The exhibit also includes a 20-foot self-propelled stubble chopper and a 24-foot combination self-propelled tiller, drill and packer with track drive and three engines.

See all of these unique implements and more at the museum, located at 341 Country Club Road, south of Chadron. Learn more about these exhibits by reading, "Virtual tour: Marcus Cain exhibit in Dawes County."

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About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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