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Truck on over to the state’s largest tractor museum
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Truck on over to the state’s largest tractor museum

Walk into Keystone Tractor Works in Colonial Heights, and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The 70,000-square-foot museum has 160 antique tractors in its main showroom, along with an antique tobacco exhibit, antique gas pumps and displays of vintage tools, toy trucks and soda bottles.

Off the main room are two smaller rooms—one filled with antique trucks and the other housing antique cars and a meeting space.

“There’s a little something for everyone,” said Alan “Bones” Stone, the museum’s curator. “The museum is a work in progress, and we’re always adding something so there’s always something new to see.”

The museum opened in October 2010. In addition to the exhibit space, it has a gift shop, and a restaurant opened this year.

Guests can take a self-guided tour of the museum, following informational signs at each tractor, truck or car. The rows of tractors are organized by make, model and year. Stone said all but four of the tractors were driven onto the showroom floor, and most of them run.

“We have a lot of unique tractors,” he said. “We have the first electric-start tractor, first front-wheel drive tractor and several sought-after tractors.” A bright orange-yellow 1938 Minneapolis-Moline UDLX Comfortractor sits near the front of one row. It’s a closed-cab farm tractor equipped with automotive features such as an electric starter, a dashboard with a speedometer, heat, windshield wipers, a cigarette lighter and a radio. Stone said people would take it out on the town at night after using it in the fields. “It cost nearly twice as much as other tractors of that time, so it didn’t sell well,” he said. There are only about 30 completely restored UDLX Comfortractors in existence today.

A 1917 Waterloo Boy also is included in the display. Deere & Company purchased Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in 1918 and after the sale would become known as the John Deere Tractor Co. The company continued to sell tractors under the Waterloo Boy name until 1923, when the John Deere Model D was introduced.
Truck company owner ‘just kind of got into collecting’ 

Keith “Keystone” Jones, CEO of Abilene Motor Express in Chesterfield County, owns the museum. The tractors and trucks are from his private collection. The museum is one of the five largest exhibits of its kind on the East Coast.

Stone said the first tractor Jones purchased was his uncle’s 1950 John Deere Model M. “Keith liked old tractors and was involved in tractor pulling for many years,” he said. “After he got his first tractor, he just kind of got into collecting and went from there.”

Keystone Tractor Works has hundreds of tractor-pulling trophies on display in its main showroom. The
museum hosts meetings and tour groups and also takes tractors to events like the State Fair of Virginia and Field Days of the Past in Goochland County.

“We really like to support local events,” Stone said. “We also attend the John Deere Expo in New York every other year.”

MUSEUM FACTS:

• Keystone Tractor Works considers machinery from 1959 or earlier to be antiques.
• Oldest tractor: 1917 Waterloo Boy 
• A black Cadillac in the collection was used in the 2014 movie Get On Up, which starred Chadwick Boseman as singer James Brown.
• A gas pump and tractor from the collection were used in the 2008 movie Lake City, which starred Sissy
Spacek and was filmed in Virginia.
• The museum is heated with used oil from Abilene Motor Express trucks.
• Abilene Motor Express participates in the annual Trucker’s Parade Against Cancer each October. The parade of vintage trucks travels through four towns in Charlotte County, each vehicle bearing a banner in memory or honor of a loved one who has fought cancer.

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