Texas A&M senior Carson Rose traveled to Waterloo, Iowa this week to see his restored antique tractor on display at the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum. He loaded it into a semi-trailer to be transported last week, at his cost, to the facility where it will be exhibited for the next two years.
Rose’s John Deere 50, which he restored as a FFA ag project his senior year at El Campo High School, is a family-owned tractor belonging to his maternal great-grandfather, Frank Kaliszewski of Damon. Purchased new in 1955, the tractor cost Kaliszewski $2,011.
“This tractor has been in our family ever since,” his mom Karen Rose said in a Facebook post. “I am so excited for Carson, what an opportunity to have our family tractor on display there. He put a lot of sweat, hard work and many sleepless nights into restoring this tractor into what it is today. Your grandfather and great-grandfather would be very proud of you as well.”
The photo his mom posted on Facebook of Carson and the restored JD tractor was taken on the family farm with oak trees in the background.
“This mott of oak trees, as one cousin put it, represents ‘home’ and just how deep our roots go,” Karen said in her post.
This same photo won first place in the National Delo tractor restoration competition in 2016 and has been featured in two calendars, the Delo calendar and Steiner Tractor Parts, an online parts store Rose used to purchase parts.
The Kaliszewski family had farmed primarily cotton and corn in Damon.
“When this thing came to the neighborhood, it was a big thing,” Rose said. The JD 50 replaced his great-grandfather’s first tractor, a steel-wheeled Farmall with a metal seat.
Then when newer and more up-to-date machinery came along, the family retired the JD 50 and parked it in the barn on the family farm until Rose took on the project a few years ago.
“The home place has a barn there just for that tractor,” he said. “It had been sitting there for 30 years, not running, but I got it running in one afternoon.”
Stored in the barn along with the tractor are all the implements, including planters, cultivators, plows and even the original manuals that came with the tractor.
When Rose decided to restore his great-grandfather’s tractor, he had already completed two other tractor restoration projects, one during his sophomore year and the second as a junior.
Rose said it takes roughly three months to get ready for the first major show, which in this instance was the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo.
With the John Deere 50, he entered the ag mechanics division at the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo where he placed fourth and then claimed the Grand Champion title at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. He also placed third at the National Delo tractor restoration contest and first place locally at the Wharton County Youth Fair.
“I’ve wanted to do this ever since I was in sixth grade,” he said of restoring the tractor that belonged to his family.
He completed his first two restorations with partner Matt Nelson.
“The first one (tractor) belonged to Mr. Zahn, our ag teacher,” Rose said. “He paid for everything.”
It was a 1954 Farmall Cub. The second tractor restoration was a 1941 John Deere LA.
When restoring an old tractor, Rose said the tractor is taken fully apart.
“Tear down is easy. Everything is completely torn down. The challenging part is finishing in a timely manner,” he said. “It’s a lot of work putting it back together. That’s part of the complexity part of it.”
During those approximately three months of restoration, Rose spends all his extra time on the project.
“If not at school, I was doing this,” he said.
There was no time for extracurricular activities or sports.
“There have been tough times and late nights,” he said. “And there’s a lot to look at with it laying there ... and I’m thinking ‘I’ve got a long way to go.’”
The engine did not require a lot to rebuild, because his uncle, Alan Kaliszewski, had overhauled it when he had been in high school.
The process also entails a lot of record-keeping, from photos to a written journal.
“You have to keep a record ... there’s lots of documentation and pictures taken throughout the process,” he said.
Each restoration costs about $7,000 to $8,000 to complete.
Tires were donated and Superior Motor Parts donated paint and offered parts at a discounted rate for his projects.
The other challenge is finding the parts that are needed, repairing the ones that can be salvaged and assembling it all back together.
“And when you put it back together, you don’t want to put all new parts,” he said. “That kind of defeats the process. We use whatever can be fixed and put back together.”
Rose, son of David and Karen Rose, is a business major with an ag economics and agribusiness rural entrepreneurship degrees at Texas A&M University.