The John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum in Waterloo, Iowa opened its doors to the public December 2 with a focus on engaging visitors in the history of tractor and engine design and manufacturing at John Deere, especially in Iowa's Cedar Valley.
Located in downtown Waterloo on the original site of the Waterloo Tractor Works, the museum exhibits highlight the rich history and dynamic growth of the tractor business at John Deere, which today is the world's largest provider of agricultural equipment. The company is 177 years old, and is Iowa's largest manufacturing employer. It had a revenue of nearly $9 billion in the most recent quarter. A list on the museum wall shows visitors just how global Deere's business has become, as it sells farm machinery worldwide, with 12% of its tractors going to China alone.
With this new museum, Deere has found a new way to tell the story of the company and Midwest agriculture. The corporate story is told at the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois and the story of the founder of the company is told at the Deere homestead in Grand Detour, Illinois. Now the museum in Waterloo tells about the relationship between John Deere tractors and the city where they are built.
New Deere museum in Waterloo tells the "rest of the story"
The first thing you see when entering the 15,000 square foot museum is not a tractor. It's a replica of the 1837 walking plow invented by John Deere himself—the man—not the company he eventually founded. John Deere was born in Vermont, moved to Grand Detour, Illinois and became a blacksmith at age 18. Deere was 82 when he died in 1886 in Moline, Illinois—without ever having built a single tractor.
It was the company's purchase of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company for $2.25 million dollars (about $35 million in today's dollars) in 1918 that got the John Deere company into the tractor business.
Deere officials say this December launch of the museum will be followed by a grand opening celebration to be held in spring 2015.
Nearly four years in the making, new museum is indeed engaging
"Tractors and engines have been and continue to be important to John Deere's success," says Dawn Hendershot, project manager of the museum, which has been in the planning and assembling stage for the last four years. "We are pleased to share the history of these products as part of our overall story as a technology leader and quality manufacturer."
"Throughout its history, John Deere has remained focused on the success of customers whose work is linked to the land," Hendershot says. "For 177 years, Deere has endured various economic cycles and this museum is a tribute to the resilience of John Deere employees and customers to weather both the good times and the bad."
A lot of the John Deere story in Waterloo had never been told. People knew bits and pieces but now it is put together. The historic building that now houses the museum was built in 1941. During your visit, notice the original floors, beams and brick walls. They stand as a lasting tribute to the work of past and present Deere employees.
This is much more than a collection of restored tractors
The collection of restored tractors displayed in the museum is made up of tractors on loan from various collectors. The collection starts with a classic 1914 Waterloo Boy. Besides looking at the tractors, give yourself plenty of time to spend with the interactive exhibits, and to listen and watch the videos.
The Product Spotlight is where you'll hear personal stories of John Deere owners from around the world. Making A Tractor lets you follow the production of a historic tractor from design to assembly. The Employee Break Room, The Dealership and Into The World are other exhibits. Changing the Field, Drive to Thrive, The Factory Site and Why Waterloo?—also help tell the story. Working the Land shows the evolution of work from people power to early tractors and engines. Start your visit in the theater with an introductory film that plays every 15 minutes.
Guided tours are available, but must schedule in advance
The John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum is open to visitors Tuesdays thru Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults ages 13-61 and $4 for seniors, active duty military, Deere employees and retirees. Children ages 12 and under accompanied by an adult can enjoy the museum for free. Guided tours are available for an additional $2 per visitor. Schedule your tour in advance because space is limited.
The Museum Store has a large selection of apparel, toys and collectibles. The store is open during regular museum hours. For information about tours and the museum send an email to WaterlooTractor&[email protected] or call 319-292-6126. The website is www.JohnDeere.com/TractorandEngineMuseum.