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Illinois brothers’ hobby also aiding overseas orphanage
Wrenching Tales
Bob and Dick Chatterton have a business they call Chat’s Classic Tractors, for tractor restoration and sales, located three miles west of Ellisville, Ill., on County Road 17. Bob, a retired farm manager for Western Illinois University, lives in Macomb and Dick lives on the original Chatterton farmstead to farm the land that surrounds the restoration shop.

“The farm was established in 1838, and the house was built in 1870 and restored in 1973,” said Dick, who lives there with his wife, Mary Ellen.

The Chattertons have had more than a million people view their website at www.chatstractors.com since they uploaded it in 2001. On their homepage, Dick is posing with their latest project, which was just rolled out of the restoration shop: A Farmall 460 Diesel.
Besides the shop, the duo have a cool antiques museum filled with tractors that include their favorite brand, International Harvester. While Bob is a collector and is in on the buying and selling, he said the restoration process is his brother’s baby.

“I have been doing this for about 12 years,” Dick shared. “Lately, I have become really busy.”

 “I started collecting tractors in the 1990s,” Bob added. “I ran onto a guy with an M and a WD 45. I told Dick about them and we bought them and sold them. Dick is very fond of Allis and IH.”
In the last few years their tractor sales business has gone international, with the sale of tractors to Belgium. This past summer they became involved with a ministry group and helped locate farm equipment for an orphanage in Nigeria.

Bob explained, “Ron Surls is a schoolteacher and he has been the contact person for the Baptist church in Jamestown, Ohio, that supports this orphanage. I keep a record of things when they come to us.

“What is noteworthy is the King of Nigeria has given them land and the intent is for this church to become self-sufficient to feed themselves. They wanted a bulldozer to clear the ground and other pieces of equipment to prepare, till, plant and harvest crops. Ron Surls inquired whether we could provide equipment and the church had fundraisers to support this mission.”

Bob and Dick sold them the tractors. The equipment was then shipped overseas. “The intent is to own the (shipping) container and use it as a barn until it all gets moved to the orphanage. We feel good about helping this mission,” Bob said. “Dick is a Baptist and we belong to the Christian church and feel good about helping others.

“We are sending diesel IH 560 and ID diesel 460 because diesel is much more available than gasoline in Nigeria. We also sent a mounted IH plow, bush-hog, posthole digger and 440 JD dozer. We sent a new hipper, a three-point piece of equipment and a new planter. The church is buying a lot of equipment for this orphanage. We are doing this at a reduced price.”

Bob and his wife, Karen, both love not only tractors, but horses as well. Bob’s love of animals started when he was a kid: “I was the oldest, and Dad put us in the fields as kids. We fed livestock. When Dick was six, I was put on livestock; he loved tractors and is a great mechanic.

“Karen likes to trail ride. She rides Fox Trotters; it is a gaited trail horse,” Bob said. “I have been married for 48 years and show Quarter Horses and Paints.

“I have always been into it with tractors,” Dick added. Prior to going into this business on a full-time basis, he worked at the Butler Steel plant in Galesburg. After the plant shut down, in 2003 Dick decided to work at the restoration business.

Since 2002, he has constructed one building for his operation, then added another in 2006 and the museum building in 2007. In their office, the Chattertons keep a collage of the tractors they have owned and sold. The machines become like family members and it is nice to be able to look back and remember each one.

To contact the Chattertons about their museum or tractor restoration, buying or selling, call Bob at 309-833-5697 or Dick at 309-465-3364.

Readers with questions or comments or other correspondence for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication
1/9/2013