Eastern Oregon is one of the loveliest places I’ve been. The hills, the ranches, and yes, the antique iron! Some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve seen in a long time were found in Enterprise, Oregon at Erl McLaughlin’s Sunrise Iron. Enterprise is located in the heart of the Wallowas, which is considered one of the seven wonders of Oregon
I met Erl in Enterprise for lunch and the first thing I learned was that this antique tractor collector was grieving. “I’m a little rough around the edges,” Erl said, “I just lost my wife.”
After making sure he was up to a tour, Erl guided me to his farm and museum that he and the late Mary Ann put together. Erl said that the collection began when he found the winters were long when the snow starts flying. “I’m a grain farmer,” Erl said, “and winters are long at 4,000 feet. I don’t have livestock and I have to have something to do come November.”
Outside his museum is a lovely sign “Sunrise Iron” that Erl created and a friend developed. The sign rises above the outside collection and it was hard to decide where to look first. Erl took me to what he called his “ditch” where he had some amazing “yard art” setting out for visitors to view. Some of this so called yard art included a Rumley Oil Pull, a collection of sulkies and one-bottom riding plows plus Emerson and Moline mowers, and a Walter A. Wood piece made in Hoosier Fall, New York and more. These were all items Erl didn’t want to restore but deemed too good to junk and was he ever right!
Once inside the shed where the bulk of his restored collection is kept, visitors will be amazed. The shed, which he first built in 2,000 and later expanded in 2013, is full of mostly older antique tractors and equipment restored to pristine shape. Erl is an artist besides being a collector and this is clear in his restoration work. There are several seldom seen items like a 1915 Case gas Model 10-20 which is the most valuable tractor in Erl’s collection. He also has a 1915 Advance straw burner steam traction engine. “It was a 15 year negotiation to get that from a family,” Erl said.
The collection goes on and on with a 1927 Heider, a McCormick Deering 10-20,a Minneapolis Model B, a 1925 Spoker D, a Case water wagon from the early 1900’s, a 1928 John Deere D and much, much more.
Erl not only has tractors, he also has trucks and plows including three rare Gilpins. There are also amazing things like a huge coffee grinder, prints of beautiful lithographs, signs and items to keep the interest of those not that into antique tractors, but into antiques.
This is a collection that Erl and Mary Ann collected together. Since her loss, Erl said he wants to share the collection and honor that time the two shared together. They are happy memories for a man that met the girl of his dream working on an irrigation ditch. She was his neighbor and they tied the knot and had two beautiful children and created a life together.
Look for more details about Erl and his collection in an upcoming issue of Heritage Iron, in the museum coverage! If you are ever out Enterprise, Oregon way, contact Erl, he is glad to open up his collection if a collector will call ahead, at 541-263-0755. For more information, go online at http://www.sunriseironllc.com/about_us.htm.
For flatlanders like me, not only will you be amazed with Erl’s collection, but you will also be amazed by the beauty of the hills and valleys, take the time to stay a while and explore all that Eastern, Oregon and Baker County have to offer! Check out Eastern Oregon and Travel Oregon for more information or check out some of my latest blogs for details about other places to stop!