A trainload of green and red combines

I’ll admit it. I did not grow up on the farm. But green and red combines are a vibrant memory. I grew up in East Moline, Illinois, in one of the Quad Cities. In the big city I thought, with a population approaching thirty thousand. Yet, the farm was all around us. I remember train cars of red and green combines, together, and lined up as far as the eye could see. My dad assembled the red combines in East Moline. So did my grandfather.  As they are today, the green ones were built less than a mile away in a factory first built in 1912 (though technically not until later—the first Deere combine debuted in 1927, and the green and yellow combine did not appear until later).

Over time I grew incredibly proud of those train cars. I knew about the decades of fierce competition between the red and the green. But there was something very pure, very Midwest about the two colors together on an endless train for destinations unknown.

Then one day the red ones were gone. They weren’t really gone, just that the reds once were relocated. That’s the way of things over time as companies face their daily struggle for survival. When I think about the origins of the farm tractor, is it strange that I think first about combines from the 1980s and 1990s?

About Admin

Neil Dahlstrom Posted on

John Deere archivist and historian. Author of The John Deere Story, Lincoln's Wrath, and the upcoming book on the birth of the farm tractor.