by Cindy Ladage
Belleville, Ill. – Tom Renner is a central Illinois farmer who started the Shiloh Valley Equipment farm dealership in 1969. “I bought out E.N. Pier and they had first started out as a blacksmith shop. I started out as a Deutch dealer, then in 1973 became a John Deere dealer.”
Tom, his son Jake, and grandson Jonathon work together with him at the dealership and collect classic and antique farm equipment. While Jake works side-by-side with Tom, he is not his only child. Tom and his late wife Linda also had three girls.
Antique tractors are not the family’s only farm-related interest. “I’ve been interested in things through the ages like horse drawn equipment,” Tom Renner said about their vast collection.
This makes sense because they own horses as well as the two largest mules in the world. The mules each weigh a whopping 1,900 pounds. In his office he has a picture of himself with the mules on the cover of Rural Heritage magazine.
Not only do the Renners collect, but they also do their own restoration. “We’ll bring it in and make it look original. I’ve got a shop at the farm for reconditioning antiques” Tom added.
All three Renners – Tom, Jake and now Jonathon - have mechanical education experience. “I went to Wabash Ag mechanics, my son went to Lake Land John Deere school and Jonathon is going to Mechanical Engineering at SIU Edwardsville,” Tom said.
The Renners like to share their collection and in 2020, the Renners had a huge event planned on their farm, 100 Years of Horsepower. However, the event had to be canceled due to restrictions from COVID-19. The event had an amazing lineup with a sawmill, steam threshing of wheat, combining, corn shucking, chain saw carving and much more. The event has been rescheduled for the 3rd weekend in August 2022. There are several sponsors, but most importantly the proceeds are going to 4-H, FFA or farmer charities.
“We have planting as well as harvesting equipment. We grew corn on 40 acres, and we had a lot of pickers ready to go,” Tom said. Since the corn was already planted, Tom’s 9-year-old granddaughter caught grain as they harvested it on the go in their John Deere 105 combine. Jonathon caught it all on video with their drone. Jonathon has his own popular YouTube channel Renner Stock Farms.
Antique tractor collecting has been a longtime hobby for Tom Renner. He has been collecting since he was a boy. “I bought my first tractor when I was 14. It was a John Deere A, unstyled that belonged to a neighbor. It had been sitting in a shed. It is what started the whole thing!”
The last item purchased for the collection was a rollover plow that a friend from Kansas picked up for him. It was just added to the amazing agricultural museum that the Renner family opens by appointment or during their show. The Renner collection includes horse drawn items, tractors and farm related antiques as well as a cool collection of grey granite cookware or anything related to the farm.
With so many tractors it is hard to imagine choosing a favorite, but Tom said he thinks his favorite may be his John Deere 4230 low profile power shift tractor. “It is very convenient to drive,” he said. “It had a limited production.”
Another favorite is his 1978 ST450 Steiger with the Allison transmission. “It was pretty rough when we got it,” Tom said. This beauty is on YouTube on the Renner Stock Farm channel filmed on one of their plow days.
This cool machine was a big hit at the last Half Century of Progress, a huge tractor event held at the Rantoul Airport in conjunction with the Farm Progress Show. The Renners like muscle tractors and in their collection they have a John Deere 4520 with an 871 engine, a 4230, 4240, and even a very cool Big Bud HN250 tractor that is co-owned by Jake and Tom.
The collection includes a WA-14, and a WA-17 that pulls two six bottom plows. The Renner collection combines several brands in their muscle tractors including a Versatile tractor that came from Oklahoma, a John Deere 8850, and Jake’s 1468 Farmall. The family 8020 John Deere diesel pulls an eight-bottom fully mounted plow. The Farmall 4586 was just recently finished Tom said. This cool IH tractor was built by Steiger.
Speaking of Steiger Tom added, “I just got this Steiger Ford FW-30 done. It has got the 903 Cummins in it.”
John Deere tractors have a soft spot in the collection. There is a JD 4040, 4455 with FW assist, and a 4030 gas which Tom said, “You don’t see often. We try to use everything on the farm a bit to keep them in working condition. A 4430 is the first tractor I sold when I started in business. The man that built my building bought this. I sold it three times and it’s never leaving again. It’s got 7-8000 hours on it. It made it to the west side of Missouri and it was even in a fire once.”
One really cool tractor called the Double D was once owned by Daryl Fischer. It was built originally by the Steiger Brothers neighbor and is said to be their inspiration to build their tractors. Built in 1956, it is two JD D tractors put together. Jake’s favorite tractor is his grandfather’s 420 that he restored. “It was the roughest tractor I ever worked on. The sheet metal was all but gone.”
There are so many highlights in this collection, Jake’s 4010 pulling tractor to Hi-Crop John Deere tractors beautifully restored, many with less than 100 produced. The Hi-Crops and museum quality tractors include a 730 Argentine tractor and a 60-orchard propane as well.
Then there is Tom’s farm museum. This museum includes plows, manure spreaders, wagons planters and so many early pieces of equipment it is a standalone display. Several of the wagon companies are local Belleville companies. This museum is an agricultural history lesson with each piece of equipment beautifully displayed. The storeroom in the museum has been recently redone and a lot of credit goes to Tom’s fiancé A.J. Bourbon.
Keep the 3rd week of August in mind for the upcoming 2022, 100 years of Horsepower because this is an event that no collector will want to miss.