NEW SHARON – A row of 12 restored Oliver tractors line the driveway of Mike and Kim Fairbanks.

The row represents 10 years of collecting tractors, hours spent working together and numerous trips out West to attend auctions and make purchases.

They bring the machines out of the barn at least once a year, and two or three will go to this weekend’s 14th annual Antique Tractor Festival being held June 26, 27 and 28 at the Farmington Fairgrounds.

There they’ll join others displayed by members of Maine Antique Tractor Club, who are dedicated to preserving the history of farm tractors and equipment.

“It’s the enjoyment and self-satisfaction of bringing a tractor back to as good as when it left the factory,” Mike Fairbanks said. With an interest in mechanical things since he was young, he makes his living as a mechanic for Central Maine Power Co. and uses his talents to save machinery from the past.

A tractor used on a farm in Farmington Falls by his great-grandfather and passed down sparked an interest in collecting and restoring tractors – one he has since shared with his wife and parents.

“Mike taught Kim about the mechanics (of restoring tractors) and now she’s almost just as good as he is. She works right along beside him,” said Judy Fairbanks, Mike’s mother.

He also bought his parents, who live in Industry, a membership in the club and sparked their interest. His father, Dale, had one tractor before getting into the club. Now he has three and takes an active role in the club, presently as a board member and as safety officer this year. He’s also a past president.

“It’s interesting and fun. We’ve had some good times together as a family,” he said. “It’s a nice group of people with the same interest … saving the heritage of tractors.”

Another son hasn’t developed an interest yet, but their grandson can’t wait till he’s old enough to drive them, he added.

For the younger Fairbanks, preserving tractors is a time-consuming but stress-relieving hobby. He developed an interest in Oliver tractors because they were something different and not as popular in this area.

“A lot of people collect John Deeres. I wasn’t interested in collecting something that everyone is collecting,” Mike Fairbanks said.

One 1948 model took 1,000 hours to restore and was done over a two-year period while he worked on other things, too. It can be a very expensive hobby, but with his wife’s support he’s always looking and adding on to his collection. He searches the Internet quite aggressively for tractor and farm sale auctions, he said, and vacations are tractor-related, as the couple and sometimes his parents accompany him out West to attend auctions.

The Oliver tractors were manufactured in Charles City, Iowa. Production ended in 1976, so there are more found in the West, he said. Most parts are readily available, with many salvaged from large farms in the West, plus reproduction parts are now being made, he said.

One of his latest acquisitions, found in Iowa last year, is something unique, he said. It’s not something you see in this area, a corn picker driven by an Oliver tractor.

Mike and another club member have planted a few corn acres in Vassalboro this year with the intention of trying out the corn picker-sheller.

The tractor festival in Farmington this weekend is the big annual event for the club, said Dale Fairbanks. The 500-member club, with only a few who are farmers, meets monthly and participates in a variety of events.

“We get together, talk and reminisce about what our ancestors had for tractors and what they did for farming. Everyone has the same interest – saving old equipment,” Mike Fairbanks said.


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