Bob Althaus drives his Oliver 77 out of the shed at his farm in rural Sublette, Ill. Althaus began collecting Olivers 15 years ago and now owns seven of the tractors, which still are used for farm work at the family’s grain and cow-calf operation. Some of the Althaus Oliver collection will be on display at the Sublette Farm Toy and Antique Tractor Show on March 16 and 17 in Sublette.
Bob Althaus drives his Oliver 77 out of the shed at his farm in rural Sublette, Ill. Althaus began collecting Olivers 15 years ago and now owns seven of the tractors, which still are used for farm work at the family’s grain and cow-calf operation. Some of the Althaus Oliver collection will be on display at the Sublette Farm Toy and Antique Tractor Show on March 16 and 17 in Sublette.

SUBLETTE, Ill. — When asked why he started collecting Oliver tractors, the “other” green tractor, Bob Althaus of Sublette has tradition on his side.

“My grandfather on my mother’s side, he had Olivers. When I was young, I used to go up and drive them around every once in a while,” Althaus said.

He’s now mostly retired from farming. Sons Bill, Don, Steve and Patrick are farming the family grain and registered Angus operation.

But 15 years ago, when Bob Althaus decided to start collecting tractors, he decided he wanted something different.

“Everybody around here has got red or green tractors, and I just wanted something a little different. I thought if I wanted something different, I would just get Oliver,” he said.

There is one more reason, and it’s the reason why there’s an Oliver 77, the first Oliver that Althaus bought, parked first in the machine shed on the farm where he and wife Ann live.

“Olivers start,” he said. “They’re generally the first ones parked in front of the door in the machine shed. Every time we want a John Deere to start in the wintertime, we have to pull it with an Oliver because the Oliver always starts.”

The Althaus Olivers aren’t just pretty green, red and yellow faces. Many of the tractors are used around the farm for various tasks. “We use them to haul hay and manure, for raking hay. We grind corn with the 77 and use them for hauling silage,” Althaus said.

Other Olivers are used on the tractor drives that Bob and Ann enjoy and for events including the Cornpicker Reunion, which he participated in this past fall in Walnut.

The latest addition to the Althaus Oliver collection is an 88 diesel that Althaus bought from state Rep. Jim Sacia of Freeport. He said he’d like to add a Super 99 to the collection.

For now, he contents himself with a toy model of a Super 99, one of many farm toys he’s collected over the years, including a toy tractor, made in 1920, that was his father’s.

His wife also knows Olivers.

“I knew about Olivers a long time ago. My dad had an Oliver and a John Deere when I was farming with him,” she said. “My dad didn’t have sons, so my sister and I helped with the farm when we were little.”

Tractors from the Althaus Oliver collection will be on display March 16 and 17 at the 31st Sublette Farm Toy and Antique Tractor Show in Sublette. John Deere is this year’s featured tractor.

Olivers will be in plentiful supply, as well, as the Midwest Oliver Club, which conducted its informal organizational meeting in Sublette in 1993, celebrates its 20th anniversary during the show.

The Althauses said one of the best parts about collecting vintage tractors is the conversation that their hobby generates.

“Everybody loves to come up and talk to you. We went to Florida, and he had his Oliver cap on and people would walk up and say, ‘Oh, you’ve got Olivers.’ It’s so interesting. People who have them or who have had them just come up and talk to you,” said Ann Althaus.

Bob Althaus makes it clear that while Olivers are nearest and dearest, he isn’t colorblind when it comes to vintage metal.

“I’m not a diehard. I’ve got some Internationals. I’ve got a Massey Harris, a Minneapolis Moline, a John Deere,” he said.

The show encompasses the entire town, with more than 300 vendors with antique farm toys and more than 200 full-size vintage tractors.

The show stretches from one side of town to the other and encompasses nine buildings in the village of 500 residents. Many Sublette residents are involved with the show in some way.

“Everybody just kicks in and helps out,” Althaus said.

The show gets everyone from local 4-H and FFA students, who will have food stands during the show, to the Sublette Fire Department, involved to make the show a success.

In addition to Bob Althaus’ Olivers, his son, Bill, will be bringing a different shade of green to the show — some of the vintage John Deeres in his collection.

He has a collection of some 25 to 30 tractors, most of them John Deere, but with an occasional McCormick and Minneapolis Moline thrown in for variety.

The tractors are not only a nod to agricultural tradition, but the farming traditions in the Sublette area. Many of the vintage tractors formerly were owned by neighbors and fellow farmers in the Sublette area.

In Bill Althaus’ workshop, he and helper and fellow tractor enthusiast Bill Eacott were working to get the John Deere 3010 utility tractor put back together, after being repainted and refurbished, in time for the show.

In the next room of the machine shed, more green waited for spring planting in the form of a John Deere 7520, a John Deere 7020, both with the unique yellow-topped cabs, and a lighter shade of green in a Steiger Panther ST 510.

An older cousin of the 3010, a 1918 Waterloo Boy, will be restored in time for its 100th birthday in a few years.

“It takes quite a bit of work,” said Althaus as he and Eacott went over what they needed to do and made sure that the parts needed, even down to the finest details of a chrome piece on the hood and a John Deere cap for the steering wheel, were ready to go.