Inside the Secret Tractor Room

Mar 13, 2023

Sara Clausen
Director of Communications & Member Relations

NOT MANY PEOPLE can say they have a “secret room” in their home. The phrase makes you think of a movie where the flip of a lever or the press of a button opens an entirely new space. You feel a rush of wonder—there’s something mysterious behind that door! Well, you may not find a magical kingdom, a time-traveling tunnel or something out of an Indiana Jones film in Grinnell farmer and Key Cooperative member Ben Louden’s secret room … but you will find thousands of treasures! What are these treasures? Toy tractors that stretch as far as the eye can see—all of different sizes, colors, shapes and ages. 

Ben has been building his collection since he was just 10 years old. “Though my dad farmed, he was not a collector,” said Ben. “But he did support my interest in tractors and built me shelves from floor to ceiling in our basement when I was young.” Today, Ben’s tractors rest on shelves built by a cabinetmaker out of Newton. Nearly every square inch of the room is used for display and storage. In fact, Ben requested that the light switches be installed outside the room so they would not take up prime wall space. 

“In the 1980s, I began buying whatever I liked or was a bargain,” shared Ben. “I’ve picked up tractors at a few auc-tions and purchased new ones at farm supply stores. I really enjoy the hunt at thrift stores!” According to Ben, his collection of toy tractors is just a fraction of what other “serious” collectors can boast. Nevertheless, it became apparent that he himself was a collector when his kids needed to help him inventory his tractors on legal paper. 

An especially eye-catching piece of Ben’s collection is his wall of mini tractors. “When the mini tractors came out by state, my mom bought me the first four,” explained Ben. “So then I thought that I couldn’t have just four—I needed all the states!” What Ben’s mom started years ago has become a cache of more than 100 mini tractors in both green and red, all hanging on pegboards in the secret room.

Ben farms with “red equipment,” and while he does have a very high percentage of red tractors in his collection, he truly collects anything … literally anything. “Over the years, I realized anything International was free game,” said Ben. “I have equipment manuals, jackets, parts bags, wrenches and posters. I even have an IH fire extinguisher.” His favorite tractors are always red, and some are quite rare. Among his most prized possessions are his Farmall 1206 Precision Series, his International 3588 2+2 and his Black Stripe IH 1066 (only made in 1976). 

Ben’s intent is not to buy tractors at a discount to later resell them and make money, nor will he drive very far to acquire more. His collection is merely for him and for fun. “I would leave my collection to my children someday, but I don’t think they enjoy the tractors as much as I do,” Ben laughed. 

Ben collects toy tractors of all sizes, colors, shapes and ages. 
Ben's mini tractor collection is extensive. 

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